In the wake of the release of an online calculator by Georgetown University that estimates the number of weeks of COVID-related learning loss in reading and math and the estimated cost of direct tutoring to remedy the losses, three districts explain how they plan to address the problem. But seven districts contacted by the Sentinel did not respond.
The calculator also shows the extra federal funding for each district from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund III (ESSER III), which is more than the tutoring costs for most districts. Direct tutoring has been found to be one of the most effective ways to address educational gaps.
The Sentinel reached out to the Louisburg, Blue Valley, Olathe, Kansas City, Kansas, Wichita, Goddard, Ulysses, Columbus, Pittsburg, and Frontenac districts, asking:
- If the district was primarily in-person, hybrid, or remote during the pandemic?
- How the district is assessing deficits, particularly in the areas of reading and math?
- Is the district planning to use any of the district’s ESSER III funds to provide tutoring or other remedial actions to address these deficits? If so, please provide the amount and pertinent details.
Only Blue Valley, Goddard, and Wichita responded.
Goddard lost six weeks in math and two weeks in reading. Tutoring costs are estimated to be about $3.3 million, and the district received $3.5 million in funds.
Goddard Superintendent of Schools Justin Henry said the only time Goddard was completely locked down was March 20 through May of 2020 — when all schools were dismissed state-wide.
Henry said Goddard provided parents a choice between in-person or remote at all grade levels in the 2020-21 school year.
“We stuck with that model throughout that school year and last school year, so we haven’t had any time where we went fully remote except when it was statewide,” Henry said, adding that — while the district has not yet completed its application for the ESSER III funds — the majority of previous ESSER disbursements have been used to provide additional summer school for students rather than tutoring.
“That’ll be our approach into 2023 also,” he said. “I think that’s been a wise expenditure as far as whether it’s enrichment or trying to look at individual students or extended school year for special education students. That’s what we find has been our best opportunity to educate students whether it’s been the pandemic or not the pandemic.”
Henry noted that ESSER fund allotments are based on federal title allocations, which relate to the number of students considered low-income. He said his district’s allocation would be lower relative to other districts, and summer school has been the most cost-effective way to address gaps.
Wichita, which offered hybrid only for elementary students, had 15 weeks of loss in both reading and math, according to Georgetown. The estimated cost of tutoring is $95.9 million, and the district received $169.5 million in extra federal funds.
Wichita Deputy Superintendent Gil Alvarez said the district is doing some tutoring but did not provide a figure on how much of the ESSER III allocation would be used.
“We use Revolution Prep for online tutoring,” he said via email. “We use homework hotline (phone/TEAMs), we added Acceleration Academy for dropout students to get back on track for graduation, (and have a) robust summer school program to serve pre-k – 12.”
Blue Valley saw an estimated seven weeks of math loss and one week of reading loss. Tutoring costs are estimated at just under $12.5 million, and the district received just over $13 million in funds.
Blue Valley Communications Director Kaci Brutto said the district uses a variety of assessment tools to determine where students are educationally.
She also said the district is using ESSER III funds for tutoring but — like Wichita — did not provide figures.
“Blue Valley is utilizing ESSER III funding for increased certified staffing and tutoring stipends to address learning loss due to the pandemic,” Bruto said via email. “Specific funding is designated for before and after-school tutoring stipends, high school interventionists, stipends for teachers to learn about and practice new instructional strategies to offset learning loss in math, dyslexia consultant, and certified teaching positions to reduce pupil-to-teacher ratios to address learning loss experienced by all students.”