OPINION: Fixing Virginia’s Learning Loss with Tutors: Looking into Governor Youngkin’s “ALL IN VA” Plan

December 18, 2023
 |
Governor Glenn Youngkin

By Brenda Cardona-Hernandez, graduate of Accomack County Public Schools and William & Mary student

Fixing Virginia’s Learning Loss with Tutors: Looking into Governor Youngkin’s “ALL IN VA” Plan

   Because of the pandemic, students experienced learning loss (Barshay, 2023). In Virginia, the issue predominantly affected students of Hispanic/Latino, Black, and low-income backgrounds, and they missed semesters’ worth of lessons in reading and math, Virginia’s highest-achieving subjects (Min et al., 2022). For instance, Richmond Public Schools, a division composed of low-income minority students, lost almost two years of reading and math instruction, and their scores decreased in Virginia’s standardized tests, the Standards of Learning (SOLs) (Min et al., 2022). On September 7, 2023, the Governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, introduced the “ALL IN VA” plan to mend the learning loss affecting school districts in his state (Elwood, 2023; VDOE, 2023). 

Essentially, “ALL IN VA” applies the budget of 418 million dollars into separate funds to provide “high dosage” tutoring, expand Virginia’s Literacy Act, and create a truancy team to reduce absences (Elwood, 2023). I will touch on the tutoring portion of the plan.

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“High dosage” tutoring involves one-on-one or small group (1 to 10 students) instruction with a consistent tutor, meeting three to five times a week for 30 to 60 minutes (Elwood, 2023; VDOE, 2023). This version of tutoring is deemed “effective, yet expensive” (Sawchuk & Herold, 2020). Tutors are, without a doubt, a significant component of this plan; however, they are costly and inaccessible for many districts. Hiring, training, and paying tutors costs about four thousand dollars annually (Barshay, 2023). Issuing an extra 268 million dollars in the 2024 fiscal year will address the financial issues and support “high dosage” tutoring in school divisions, which is in addition to the funds provided by the “ALL IN VA” plan (Cline, 2023). (Cline, 2023). But with this, why should tutors put in time to work with children? 

As the VDOE (2023) says, “We are ALL In to help our students across the Commonwealth.” Schools cannot rely simply on tutors to advance student learning. Teachers, staff, and others have to be part of helping students succeed. When teachers provide tutoring, not only are they granted slightly more pay, but they also show commitment to fixing learning loss. Becoming a tutor involves training, oversight, meeting regulations, and willingness to give time. Although there are various steps, the work is worth it because children’s safety comes first (VDOE, 2023). Also, providing tutors with the curriculum they are in charge of and expected to use makes their job easier (Sawchuk & Herold, 2020). 

Because I attended elementary through high school in Accomack County Public Schools, it became a personal matter after reading the Accomack County Public Schools (ACPS) plan to distribute the provided funds. Implementing the “ALL IN VA” plan occurred using Saturday school, or “Success Academy,” and teachers provided after-school tutoring instead of hiring tutors in ACPS. Saturday school was optional and only directed to some students; additionally, the school day lengthened by an extra thirty minutes. Some improvement occurred during the 2022-2023 school year, so the schedule returned to regular time for the current academic session. 

There is no denying the plan has criticism, including the difficulty of finding staff willing to give time to tutor students and whether there is enough time, logistically, to find tutors and start students advancing academically (Elwood, 2023). James J. Fedderman, the President of the Virginia Education Association, says, “For the second year in a row, rather than take accountability for his administration’s failures, Governor Youngkin continues to blame languishing SOL scores on anyone but himself. The governor came into office promising to transform public education, but after two years all he has to show is a string of bungled proposals, administrative scandals, a proposed budget with cuts to K-12 spending in the second year, and stagnating test results” (Elwood, 2023). Although President Fedderman’s criticism was directed at the governor rather than at the “ALL IN VA” plan, it is crucial to highlight why school officials are not fond of the governor’s proposals. Dr. Fedderman’s opposition has validity due to the governor’s past failures in transforming the education system. Nonetheless, I cannot deny implementing the “ALL IN VA” plan worked in the school system I was part of for the 2022-2023 school year.  

Despite the various views, one does not have to choose a side to realize students have been academically deprived due to the pandemic. For teachers, staff, and potential tutors: the “ALL IN VA” plan is effective and can improve the learning loss. Become agents of change and give your time in tutoring positions. Students who need educational assistance during these trying times deserve a support system. 

References

Barshay, J. (2023, February 13). High-dosage tutoring is the best known strategy for learning loss recovery. Is it actually happening? KQED. Retrieved December 12, 2023, from https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/61007/high-dosage-tutoring-is-the-best-known-strategy-for-learning-loss-recovery-is-it-actually-happening

Cline, N. (2023, March 9). Youngkin announces new slate of efforts to address learning loss in Virginia. Virginia Mercury. Retrieved December 13, 2023, from 

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https://www.virginiamercury.com/2023/03/09/youngkin-announces-new-slate-of-efforts-to-address-learning-loss-in-virginia/

Elwood, K. (2023, September 7). Youngkin aims to lift student test scores, reduce absenteeism. Washington Post. Retrieved December 12, 2023, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2023/09/07/youngkin-virginia-test-scores-absenteeism/

Elwood, K. (2023, October 22). Virginia school districts slowly roll out expanded tutoring. The Washington Post. Retrieved December 12, 2023, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2023/10/22/virginia-school-tutoring-program-expansion/

Min, D. S., Bryson, A., & McGoey, S. (2022, October 28). Virginia’s Black and Latino students hit hardest by pandemic learning loss. Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved December 12, 2023, from 

https://richmond.com/news/local/education/virginia-s-black-and-latino-students-hit-hardest-by-pandemic-learning-loss/article_e7334916-7cf1-56ee-b343-04d837bca9b3.html

Sawchuk, S., & Herold, B. (2020, August 19). High-Dosage Tutoring Is Effective, But Expensive. Ideas for Making It Work. Education Week. Retrieved December 12, 2023, from https://www.edweek.org/leadership/high-dosage-tutoring-is-effective-but-expensive-ideas-for-making-it-work/2020/08

VDOE. (2023, September 8). ALL In Tutoring | Virginia Department of Education. Virginia Department of Education. Retrieved December 12, 2023, from

https://www.doe.virginia.gov/teaching-learning-assessment/all-in-tutoring

VDOE. (2023, November 2). All In Tutoring Virginia (Part 1) Tutoring Introduction. YouTube. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_cPaTrcsHk&t=168s

VDOE. (2023, November 2). ALL In Tutoring Virginia (Part 3) What Does Effective Tutoring Look Like? YouTube. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from https://youtu.be/N_u0S5ir864?si=o1veZtCcAGKopmVo 

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