Educational leaders weigh in on tutoring program for pandemic-related learning loss

Arizona's new, free tutoring program for kids is set to start in two weeks and educational leaders are weighing in on the plan.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 9:20 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Arizona was ranked 45th out of 50 states in overall quality education by U.S. News and World Report just a few months ago. But a new state program hopes to move the state up on the list. The Arizona Department of Education launched a website for the Achievement Tutoring Program, and it’s expected to start Oct. 2. The Department of Education is still deciding if this program will serve first through eighth graders or third through eighth graders. “Studies show that tutoring is the most efficient way to improve students’ proficiency in reading and math,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said.

With two-thirds of Arizona students not passing the math portion of the most recent statewide exam and nearly 60% of students not passing the reading portion, Horne’s set aside about $40 million of federal money for tutoring specifically related to pandemic-related learning loss. “At $40 million, it would be one million three hundred thousand hours of tutoring, which I think it’ll make a significant difference in the student’s academic performance,” Horne said.

The federal money is only available for one year through September 2024. This program is free to parents and students. Horne says teachers can make $35 an hour, plus an additional $200 stipend for each student they tutor who shows improvement over a six-month span. “If you put it all together, we figure it could increase teacher’s pay by about $8,000,” Horne said. “And they need that. They need to be better paid than they are.”

Arizona School Boards Association director of governmental relations Chris Kotterman agrees that teachers need to be paid more, just like he agrees that tutoring is a good way to boost student performance. “Sitting down with someone one-on-one is the most effective way to teach them something,” he said.

Kotterman isn’t a fan of the funding coming at the expense of other educational programs being cut. “Just because certain programs weren’t doing things that the superintendent liked at the time doesn’t mean they weren’t doing something that was effective,” he said.

Horne says as long as a program has had a positive educational impact and there’s money available, it’ll continue to get funding moving forward. “Not just the tutoring program, we have improvement teams that are going out to help the schools,” Horne said. “I have one obsession and that’s to improve the academic performance of our students.”

Arizona’s Family reached out to the Department of Education for a list of programs no longer receiving funding. A department spokesman says they’re still working with a lot of the groups and won’t have one until later.

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