A report published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirms that the pandemic greatly impacted students’ academic progress across all grade levels and instructional models.
Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) has leveraged pandemic relief funds to invest in additional resources for our district community. In addition to enhancing our summer school program, we are helping teachers support their students—and close learning gaps—by providing access to online, high-impact tutoring services.
While we originally implemented online tutoring for our virtual school only, we were so impressed by the results that we decided to scale the service across our district. Now, every student has unlimited access to high-quality tutors—regardless of their grade level or academic standing.
Here’s how high-impact tutoring benefits students, families, and educators.
Identifying the need
Throughout the pandemic, OKCPS has focused on maintaining communication with students, families, and teachers to ensure they have the tools they need to be successful.
In March 2020, one of our first priorities was to roll out a one-to-one device program and implement a new learning management system (LMS). While these initiatives can take two years or more to fully scale, our district’s program was up and running by August—just in time for the 2020–2021 school year.
Instructionally, we pulled in a variety of tools to help our teachers—including TutorMe, an online tutoring platform. While this has been a valuable resource for all students, it has been especially valuable for families who may not have had the money for tutors and related services. It’s not just about closing learning gaps—it’s about equitable opportunities for academic advancement.
Supplementing instruction with online tutoring
In a poll conducted by the National Education Association (NEA), 55 percent of educators indicated they are ready to leave the profession. The NEA has termed this situation as “an unprecedented [school] staffing crisis across every job category.” The well-being of teachers directly affects the quality of their teaching, and online tutoring can reduce some of their workload. And, for educators who are teaching across several grade levels within one classroom, tutoring alleviates much of the work that must be done to differentiate instruction for individual students.
Having a tutoring structure in place has been especially helpful for our newer teachers. They appreciate that they can direct students to tutors for additional support—especially in specific subject areas—and that the tutors are equipped to meet the needs of English learners.
This structure has also helped our district streamline teachers’ standard review process. With support from our tutoring partner, OKCPS launched a Writing Lab—saving teachers time (and red ink). Through the Writing Lab, students drop off their papers and essays for asynchronous review, and academic writing tutors provides feedback within a few hours.
Measuring success and closing the gap
One of our current priorities at OKCPS is setting usage targets that will measure the success of providing online tutoring in our schools. For example, we are tracking the percentage of students who are using our online tutoring platform during the school year, and when students are interacting with tutors. We are also tracking how many students are using the platform at each school.
In addition, we are tracking interim benchmarks, beginning-, middle- and end-of-the-year growth measurements and state assessment comparisons across school years to ensure we are on track to reach our goals and milestones. This also ensures we are able to justify continued investment in online tutoring beyond pandemic-related funding.
At OKCPS, we recognize our responsibility to eliminate past, present and predictable barriers to student success by ensuring that all students have access to the resources—people, time and money—they need to engage in high-quality learning. Through online tutoring, we are equipping teachers (and students) with the resources they need to be successful.
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