Tutoring often is misunderstood as someone helping a student with their homework.
It’s much more than that, said Dorrell Green, superintendent of Red Clay Consolidated School District.
Effective tutoring involves concentrated instruction, hiring reading specialists and coaches and spending time in and out of the classroom to improve.
Red Clay’s Lewis Elementary School has been experimenting with high-dosage tutoring techniques to try to address low literacy and help students combat learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to a $1 million grant.
The money came from the States Leading Recovery Grant from Accelerate, a national nonprofit whose focus is making effective tutoring a standard feature of the American school day.
High-dosage – or high-impact tutoring – usually includes at least three sessions per week in one-to-one work or very small – two or three student – group work, sessions of at least 30 minutes, and is often utilized to help some of the lowest performing students.
Red Clay is not the only District to use tutoring to help students.
Christina School District used some of its COVID-19 dollars to pay for 600 students to access a virtual tutoring program designed to help them improve in math and reading proficiency.
The district said about 60% of those who started during the summer had moved from below grade level to at least early grade level in both language arts and math.
A Thursday panel of educators and state officials at Lewis Elementary talked about tutoring and literacy. The chat was light on actual statistics and outcomes.
The issue is important to many families and employers because Delaware’s standardized test scores are shockingly low, despite the billions of dollars being funneled to schools.
As the state grapples with that, it’s launching a reading curriculum based on the Science of Reading – the same program brought the state of Mississippi from low scores to high scores – and a new math curriculum.
Among other things, both give young students a lot more practice with new concepts.
“Reading has become this kind of arduous task that we’ve kind of put a stigma to…so I would really look at it from the lens of humanity and through an equity lens,” Green said. “Our democracy, our nation, our livelihood, our future, our communities depend on having literate community members.”
Beyond the importance of academic success, he said, students must be able to read for leisure and to function in the world, especially a world dominated by digital access that requires reading.
Schools need to know whether a child might be coming from a household of illiterate adults who might not have a lot of books in the house or encourage reading.
The average American reads at a sixth grade level, he said.
Especially because children consume so much media and information online, it’s important they be able to digest it through critical thinking, the panelists agree.
“We partner with districts and schools to work with students who are the most struggling readers, so students in the 20th to 25th percentile in reading proficiency are the students who really respond well to higher doses of tutoring or interventions,” O’Neal said.
“We partner with districts and schools to work with students who are the most struggling readers,” O’Neal said, “so students in the 20th to 25th percentile in reading proficiency are the students who really respond well to higher doses of tutoring or interventions.”
Tutoring interventions typically are for students in third grade or below.
One reason is, as educators and others relentlessly point out, children learn to read through third grade. By fourth grade, they read to learn.
This is why early intervention is critical – those who are illiterate past third grade statistically have a lower chance of gaining literacy skills than those in the early stages of learning development.
That will follow them throughout their lives and affect the jobs they are able to get, pay they are able to earn and quality of life for them and their families.
Over the past year, teachers have been receiving hours of training on the science of reading and how to structure their lesson plans around that foundation.
Reading Assist has tutors in nearly 40 schools across Delaware, serving more than 1,000 students.
O’Neal said Reading Assist’s efforts are especially important for schools that already struggle with retaining classroom teachers.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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