PLEASANT VIEW, Tn. — Dana Wallace believes in the power of her profession.
"Whether there had been a pandemic or not, teachers are rock stars and we're gonna take them from where they are to where they need to be," she said.
She’s been an elementary teacher for close to two decades, but for this school year, she’s taking on a new challenge: tutoring to combat covid-era learning loss.
"It definitely affected their academics but affected them socially too, and I look at my position as the cherry on top—that I just get to love on these kids and give them one more person to be their cheerleader," said Wallace.
This kind of tutoring isn’t the afterschool tutoring we might have endured years ago; this is high-dosage or high-impact tutoring as part of her state’s strategy to help kids bounce back. For 45 minutes, in small groups during the school day, she helps 42 kids throughout the week bridge gaps in their understanding of their classroom curriculum.
Last week, the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP, released numbers that showed just how much students’ skills suffered since 2019. Math scores dropped 5 and 8 points in fourth and eighth grade respectively, the lowest since the early 2000s. Reading scores dropped by 3 points.
Kevin Huffman is the former education commissioner for the state of Tennessee and the current CEO of Accelerate, a new national initiative to help school districts across America integrate high-impact tutoring in their lesson plans through grants and research.
"A lot of districts are saying, 'We want to do tutoring. We know that it works. We've read the research.' But the challenge of finding the people to deliver," said Huffman.
While there’s no hard data yet to see how intensive tutoring has helped students post-COVID learning loss, years of studies on the positive impact tutoring has on student success has led to some states—like Tennessee Colorado, Texas, Lousiana and New Mexico— using some of their portion of the billions allocated through ARPA funding to invest in tutoring efforts.
Dana Wallace’s state of Tennessee, for example, is matching funds for school districts that decide to integrate tutoring. Tutoring works— the challenge is figuring out how to make it happen on a larger scale to fit the need.
"All districts across the country have federal stimulus money, and so they've got resources right now to deliver tutoring. price is not the barrier right now," he said. "So, we have a window right now to experiment, learn, try to figure out how to do this in a way that is more cost-effective, but hopefully still delivers results."
While the national scores are alarming, those working on helping students say that parents should have confidence in the people behind the efforts to help their kids get back on track.
"Every person is working our tails off for these students, not because of that score that came out, just because that's our heart and that's what we want to do is help them do their very best," said Wallace.