The Biden administration is positioning its new initiative to bring 250,000 tutors and mentors to American schools over the next three years as a way to help propel students back to school in the wake of pandemic school disruptions.
This is the President’s latest effort to address the learning gaps highlighted and widened by the impact of COVID-19 on schools nationwide. The administration plans to increase coordination between districts and educational organizations as they use existing COVID-19 relief funds to provide tutors and support recovery efforts.
The U.S. Department of Education will work with AmeriCorps and a group of educational organizations to provide “tutors, mentors, student success coaches, integrated student support coordinators, and postsecondary education transition coaches.” in schools, according to a fact sheet on the new initiative.
At the same time, the president called on school districts to use US bailout dollars to provide high-quality tutoring, after-school programs, and summer learning and enrichment opportunities.
Here’s what educators need to know about the administration’s latest tutoring initiative, the National Partnership for Student Success, and other recent efforts.
Build a support pipeline
The new partnership brings together 75 education organizations and nonprofits, including professional associations such as the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, AASA, School Superintendents Association, American School Counselor Association and service organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and Boys and Girls Clubs, to create a pool of volunteer support staff, including tutors, mentors, mental health professionals and counselors, in schools.
AmeriCorps is responsible for leading the partnership in using $20 million in volunteer-related funds from the US Rescue Plan to help nonprofits recruit and manage an additional 250,000 volunteers. The partnership has already launched a website where interested volunteers can sign up to participate and school districts can fill out forms to receive assistance.
“AmeriCorps members have shown they can help school districts deal with the impacts of the pandemic, from providing tutoring and mentoring to leading after-school programs and supporting students. to seek academic or financial aid,” AmeriCorps CEO Michael Smith said in a statement.
Tutoring as a school recovery strategy is already widely used in the districts. In a May survey of 1,287 districts, 87% told the Education Week Research Center that they offer tutoring to students.
However, the presence of tutors does not always mean that students receive intensive academic support, and schools often struggle to recruit and retain high-quality tutors. On average, districts reported that 17% of their students were currently receiving tutoring in the Education Week survey. But an average of 43% of students could benefit from tutoring, the districts said.
The partnership could be a support pipeline for districts struggling with staff by bringing in volunteers who will offer academic tutoring, support student mental health, help students develop a pathway to graduation, and provide advice for post-secondary education.
“As more Americans gain experience working in our schools, more will seek roles as teachers and student support professionals,” the White House fact sheet says.
Biden’s call to action
The Biden administration also used Tuesday’s announcement of the partnership to call on schools and school districts to direct federal funds toward school support.
The White House has highlighted high-quality tutoring, summer learning and enrichment, and after-school programs as three priority areas for US bailout funds, of which $122 billion is earmarked for education .
A Georgetown University study from June 7 found that schools plan to spend about 25% of the money on school recovery.
The White House fact sheet specifically cites the value of high-quality tutoring, summer learning and enrichment in academic recovery.
To support these efforts, the Department of Education will track schools’ use of summer learning programs through monthly surveys published by the Institute of Educational Sciences. The White House also released a new toolkit for cities, counties and state agencies with information on how they can use federal funds to support tutoring, after-school and summer learning programs in their communities.
The department has also created an interactive map so families can track how their schools are using federal funds. The map goes hand-in-hand with the department’s new National Parent and Family Engagement Council, an effort to promote parent voice in education.
The department also announced its new Best Practices Clearinghouse on Tuesday, a campaign to highlight states and schools that are using federal funds to support learning recovery and student mental health, according to the fact sheet.