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 to academic recovery in the wake of pandemic schooling disruptions.
It’s the president’s latest effort to combat the learning gaps highlighted and widened by COVID-19’s impact on the nation’s schools. The administration plans to increase coordination among districts and education organizations as they use existing COVID-19 relief funds to supply tutors and support recovery efforts.
The U.S. Department of Education will work with AmeriCorps and a group of education organizations to supply “tutors, mentors, student success coaches, integrated student support coordinators, and postsecondary education transition coaches” into schools, according to a fact sheet about the new initiative.
At the same time, the president called on school districts to use American Rescue Plan 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.
Building a pipeline of support
The new partnership brings together 75 education nonprofits and organizations, including professional associations like the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, the American School Counselor Association, and service organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and Boys and Girls Clubs, to create a pipeline of volunteer support staff, including tutors, mentors, mental health professionals, and counselors, in schools.
AmeriCorps is tasked with leading the partnership by using $20 million in American Rescue Plan volunteer-related funds to assist the nonprofits with recruiting and managing 250,000 additional volunteers. The partnership already launched a website where interested volunteers can sign up to participate and school districts can fill out forms to receive help.
“AmeriCorps members have shown that they can help school districts address the impacts of the pandemic, whether it’s providing tutoring and mentoring or leading after-school programs and helping students apply for college or financial aid,” AmeriCorps CEO Michael Smith said in a statement.
Tutoring as an academic recovery strategy is already widely used in districts. In a May survey of 1,287 districts, 87 percent told the Education Week Research Center that they offer tutoring to students.
However, the presence of tutors doesn’t always mean students are receiving intensive academic support, and schools often struggle to recruit and retain high-quality tutors. On average, districts reported 17 percent of their students were currently receiving tutoring in the Education Week survey. But 43 percent of students on average could benefit from tutoring, districts said.
The partnership could be a pipeline of support for districts struggling with staffing by bringing in volunteers that will offer academic tutoring, support student mental health, help students develop a pathway to graduation, and provide guidance for postsecondary education.
“As more Americans gain experience working in our schools, more will seek out 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 academic support.
The White House highlighted high-quality tutoring, summer learning and enrichment, and after-school programs as three priority areas for American Rescue Plan funds, $122 billion of which are directed towards education.
A June 7 Georgetown University study found that schools plan to spend about 25 percent of the money on academic recovery.
The White House fact sheet specifically cites the value of high-quality tutoring, summer learning, and enrichment in academic recovery.
To support such efforts, the Education Department will track schools’ use of summer learning programs through monthly surveys published by the Institute for Education 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 the federal funds. The map goes hand in hand with the department’s new National Parents and Families Engagement Council, an effort to promote parent voices 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.