Local school boards are seeing varying degrees of success with tutoring efforts but every step forward is a positive one in addressing learning gaps exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
After two years of “broken education,” struggling students are even further behind according to Peterborough, Victoria, Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board superintendent of education Sheila Piggott.
“We certainly know that our students are in need of support,” said Piggott. “We have always received money from the province for tutoring, but it’s only been in the neighborhood of about $ 50,000. It’s never enough but we’ve done the best we can. “
In order to make up the academic ground, the province invested more than $ 26.6 billion in February to support learning recovery and mental health supports for students to help them return to a more normal school year in September. School boards were required to develop and launch individuals programming by April 1.
“We created five different programs but we didn’t know how popular they would be,” said Piggott, noting the response was overwhelming. “Roughly one-third of our students (close to 5,000) are participating.”
It’s unknown how many more need help but have not accessed opportunities.
Close to 90 teachers, who had initially signed on to work with up to five students this spring, have taken on extra tutoring. Roughly 50 retired teachers not already on the board’s occasional list have come back to tutor, and there are university students in every school and 2,000 students are working with the online, structured literacy program, LEXIA.
The Catholic board is also covering the costs for tutoring via 15 private companies involving 900 elementary and 120 secondary students.
While the Trillium Lakelands District School Board currently has close to 600 students accessing tutoring supports each week – roughly 30 per cent of students – offering support from private companies has been difficult.
“We have reached out to several of our community partners. At this point in time, our partners haven’t had the staffing numbers to support our tutoring program, but we are open to these partnerships moving forward, ”said superintendent of learning Jay MacJanet.
The board plans to offer five weeks of tutoring support in the summer in addition to the traditional summer school programming where there are currently 333 students signed up for reading and math support. Those not reached through this program will be offered alternative access.
While MacJanet noted, at this point, it’s “difficult to quantify” any gains, “conversions have been positive about the impact of having tutors in the classroom supporting reading, mathematics, and foundational skills.”
Also, after-school tutoring has allowed educators to further support small groups of students beyond the classroom.
Piggott concurred, citing “only positive comments” have been made so far by staff, parents and tutoring companies. Pre- and post-testing data will provide a better picture in the fall.
Local boards have also developed plans for the fall to help make further impacts.
The Catholic board will continue to access retired teachers for additional tutoring and will fully utilize its seven reading coaches; each working with 24 kindergarten to Grade 2 classes weekly.
It is anticipated that Trillium Lakelands will continue with in-school and after-school tutoring this coming fall.