Chicago's High-Dosage Tutoring Tackles Pandemic Learning Loss: Can It Bridge the Gap?

Chicago's High-Dosage Tutoring Tackles Pandemic Learning Loss: Can It Bridge the Gap?Source: Chicago Public Schools
Damon R. Sheffield
Published on October 27, 2023

Amidst the ongoing pandemic, high-dosage tutoring is emerging as a vital tool for students' academic recovery from learning losses. Chicago-based nonprofit, Tutoring Chicago, have shown the positive impacts of this tutoring method, with tutored students witnessing marked improvements in their academic performance. This has led to an increased demand for such tutoring to assist a wider group of students affected by pandemic-related learning gaps, according to Chicago Tribune.

The significant attribute differentiating high-dosage tutoring from other methods is its frequency, involving sessions held at least three times weekly for no less than 30 minutes. Programs covering social-emotional learning, mathematics, reading, and technology are offered by Tutoring Chicago for students from first to tenth grades, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.

Recent data illustrates a rise in average Illinois Assessment of Readiness scores, indicating a degree of recovery from learning loss due to the pandemic. Despite this, disparities for low-income and students of color, in math and literacy persist, according to Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez.

Sonia Lal, founder of Ivy League Potential, believes high-dosage tutoring is effective in mitigating the pandemic's learning loss, but scaling up this approach proves challenging due to a deficiency of trained tutors and suitable facilities, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Tutor Corps program was launched by Chicago Public Schools in response to the pandemic, planning to hire and train 850 tutors using $25 million in federal pandemic relief funds. The objective was to help students catch up on early reading and middle to high school math skills

Despite an initial slow start in recruitment, the program now comprises over 600 tutors assisting 10,000 students across the district using high-dosage tutoring techniques.

The Tutor Corps program faces a funding challenge with the expiration of current federal COVID relief funds in September 2024 to continue providing tutoring services to students, as reported by Chalkbeat Chicago. Despite these challenges, various school principals are prepared to allocate parts of their budgets to sustain the Tutor Corps program, noting its significant role in aiding students' academic recovery from the pandemic.

While the long-term funding prospects of the Tutor Corps program remain uncertain, the evidence of high-dosage tutoring's success in addressing pandemic-induced learning loss underlines its essential role in academic recovery. Whether achieved through federal aid or local allocations, the search for effective and sustainable solutions for addressing learning loss will remain a critical component of broader educational recovery efforts post-pandemic.