How Some States are Using Tutoring to Close the COVID Gap

States around the country are deepening and expanding targeted tutoring programs to address pandemic learning loss. Here’s how they’re doing it.

School districts around the country experienced extensive learning loss resulting from the the COVID-19 pandemic — and Maryland students were not spared. In fact, recent statewide testing data show that only one-third of Maryland fifth and eighth graders passed the state’s first statewide science examine given since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic started. Education leaders have warned about pandemic learning loss, also known as the “COVID gap,” for over a year now, but this new data reveals it may be worse than previously imagined.

In March, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) launched the Maryland Leads grant program to help local education agencies (LEAs) address learning loss:

Maryland Leads is a new grant initiative designed to support Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in utilizing federal funds to overcome the learning loss resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerate student learning to narrow opportunity and achievement gaps, and provide more targeted support for historically underserved students and their communities. Maryland Leads also supports LEAs in addressing short and long-term challenges related to the current labor shortage and attends to the longstanding need to establish and strengthen teacher pipelines and development.

One key priority target of Maryland Leads is to help LEAs provide “high-quality school day tutoring.”

The grant program is funded with federal money via the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER). LEAs could apply to Maryland Lead’s grants this Spring and implementation of programs utilizing the funding began in Summer. Programs are set to continue through the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years.

How other states have used tutoring to address learning loss

Maryland is not unique in implementing targeted tutoring to help address the COVID-gap. States around the country are putting resources, money, and great effort into such programming in an attempt to catch kids up.

Here’s how some are doing so:

  • Indiana is empowering parents: A new $15 million tutoring program called “Indiana Learns” is putting parents in charge of their children’s learning recovery, giving families up to $1,000 in funding to use for academic support for eligible fourth and fifth graders. The program is aimed at “students who scored below proficiency in math and English on last year’s ILearn state test and qualify for free and reduced-price school lunch. Participants can come from private, charter or district schools, and each will receive a guaranteed $500 from the state to pay for tutoring outside regular school hours to recover learning lost during the pandemic.”
  • New Hampshire is providing tutoring stipends: The state is now on its second year managing its Yes, Every Student scholarship program, which uses a digital wallet to provide $1,000 for private tutoring to “any young person whose education was negatively impacted by the pandemic.” The funding is available to all students, regardless of socioeconomic status.
  • Tennessee is investing $200M in tutoring for 150K kids: Tennessee is starting a three-year tutoring project called Tennessee Accelerating Literacy and Learning Corps (TN ALL Corps), to tutor approximately 150,000 students in either math or English language arts. The program will use “high-dosage/ low ratio” that prioritizes small groups with regular, frequent tutoring sessions.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more on learning loss and best practices to close the COVID gap.

Learn more about the Maryland Leads Program.