‘High-dosage tutoring’ being considered for New Jersey schools
As it's written right now, a proposed law being considered in Trenton would provide funding to schools and districts that have plans in place to deliver extra lessons to underperforming students multiple times per week.
The "high-dosage tutoring" legislation is also meant to address an ongoing teacher shortage, according to primary sponsor Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth.
The Senate Education Committee, which Gopal chairs, received testimony on the proposal on Thursday. The bill was up for discussion only, not a vote.
"This bill is far from perfect, it's just a start," Gopal said.
Under the bill, the High Efficiency Accelerated Learning Grant Program would award grants on a matching basis to public or private districts that apply with adequate plans to implement high-impact tutoring programs. At a minimum, these plans must include the subjects of math and English, and include all grades being served by the district.
The tutoring could occur during or outside of school hours, the bill notes. With the funding, districts can employ tutors, from teachers and paraprofessionals, to community providers of tutoring services.
"Tutoring is so, so valuable. It certainly addresses academic concerns — we know that — but it also builds relationships between students and trusted adults," said Paula White, executive director of the education advocacy organization JerseyCAN.
Research suggests in-school tutoring is the most robust version of high-dosage tutoring, White added.
"Optimal efficacy of high-dosage tutoring depends on the integration of such with the core curriculum in school and the NJSLA state standards that should govern this curriculum," White said.
The bill's language mentions that the coronavirus pandemic impacted learning for students and is likely to have long-term educational and economic impacts on current students of all ages. But bill sponsor Gopal notes that his measure is meant to serve as a long-lasting, sustainable method for providing accelerated learning, and perhaps a solid tutor-to-teacher pipeline.
"It is the sponsor’s belief that tutoring programs that are embedded in the classroom and partner with teacher preparation programs can both reduce teachers’ workload burdens and increase a teaching candidate’s preparedness for being in the classroom, and consequently these programs are an invaluable workforce development tool," the bill states.
Addressing lawmakers, Francine Pfeffer with the New Jersey Education Association said the bill is well intended but has language that is too rigid. For example, a district's plans would have to include tutoring that occurs at least three times per week, and no more than five students would be allowed per session.
"My colleagues and I ... think that's a little overly prescriptive," Pfeffer said.
Gopal's bill creates a Tutoring Advisory Commission, which would establish, implement and evaluate the proposed grant program.
To fund the program, the commission would be able to utilize federal or state funds allocated for COVID learning loss, as well as funds devoted to accelerated learning or workforce development programs. The commission could also accept gifts, grants and donations to add to its pot of funds, the bill says.