Mary Ann Koruth
A new proposal to fund high-dosage tutoring from the Biden administration and sponsored by Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-11th District, would make some New Jersey school districts eligible for an additional tranche of federal funding to address learning loss from the pandemic, after one-time COVID relief funds expire.
The proposed law would provide grant funding to support programming in K-12 school districts for intensive, high-dosage tutoring for students, and develop a nationwide tutoring workforce.
This would provide “that added impact to fill those gaps where too many of our children have fallen,” said Sherrill, speaking at Bloomfield High School, where she unveiled the legislation Tuesday.
Ensuring that the next generation does not fall behind is a bipartisan goal, she said. “This bill follows the evidence,” she noted, saying that the need for high dosage, evidence-based tutoring is supported by research that indicates tutoring should be provided by the same person for a credible amount of time and during the school day.
The bill is co-sponsored by South Carolina Republican Rep. Nancy Mace.
The timing of the funding is critical, since it would be available shortly after one-time COVID relief for the state’s 600 school districts from the American Rescue Plan expires. Those funds must be obligated by Sept. 30 and spent by Oct. 13, 2024.
The “Expanding Access to High-Impact Tutoring Act” would create a new grant program within the Department of Education “to fund the creation and administration of tutoring programs in K-12 schools, with the goal of improving the academic achievement and recovery of students,” Sherrill’s office said.
High-dosage tutoring programs would have a student-to-tutor ratio of no more than 3-to-1 for a minimum of 30 minutes per day, at least three days a week, during the school day and following a set timetable and with the same tutor each week. Flexibility and support for students’ needs and school scheduling constraints would be built into the proposal.
Outsized impact on test scores
High dosage tutoring has an outsized impact on test scores, according to research published in 2020 by the National Bureau of Economic Research and shared by Sherrill’s office.
The New Jersey Student Learning Assessments standardized tests conducted in spring 2022
showed a drop to the lowest scores in five years
, according to the state. In response, the Department of Education announced its own, multi-pronged program called the New Jersey Partnership for Student Success that focuses on high-dosage tutoring, youth mental health, expanding preschool access, and a volunteer program geared towards mentoring students in schools that are struggling the most.
The state has already set aside $17 million in federal funding from the Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund for its tutoring program, available to schools through grants with pre-approved vendors.
Declines in math proficiency
New Jersey eighth graders had one of the highest declines in math proficiency nationally compared to 2019, before the pandemic hit, while remaining about the same in reading skills, according to results released in October by the
National Assessment of Educational Progress
The results were not all doom and gloom; reading skills for eighth graders in New Jersey bucked a trend and improved by two points compared to the national average, even after the pandemic caused classes to go remote.
The pandemic was the reason for the declines, but it was not clear how much school closures and remote learning contributed, because declines existed even in states where schools remained open during the national emergency.
You look at some of these states that have been open in person, but theyre still seeing big declines,” said Phyllis Jordan, associate director of FutureEd, discussing the NAEP results in 2022. “It doesnt seem to be as clear a picture as people expected. I think we expected to see those states that were in person longer to fare a little bit better, but that wasnt necessarily what the data showed.
Leaders of the state teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association and the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association Sherrill’s press conference and spoke in support of the bill.
Also supporting the bill are The National Education Association, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, and tutoring service providers Saga Education, ProvenTutoring, and Accelerate.