Illinois schools prepare to tutor way out of learning loss

Illinois schools prepare to tutor way out of learning loss

URBANA — Illinois schools are signing up for a new state tutoring initiative to help the students who struggled most in remote school.

By this summer, the state plans to send tutors out three times a week to 48 school districts across Illinois. School districts in Danville, Decatur, Rantoul and Urbana are among those eligible for the program.

“High-impact tutoring is one of the only research-based interventions that has shown positive impact for both math and reading scores across multiple grade levels,” says Illinois Tutoring Initiative Director Christy Borders.

Borders is also an education professor at Illinois State University.

A few key characteristics define the type of tutoring the program will provide. The tutors get formal training, and they meet with the same students over time to develop trust. Students spend at least three sessions a week with the tutors, on content that aligns with their classes.

Tutoring programs that have these characteristics make the greatest difference, according to research from the National Student Support Accelerator at Brown University.

The tutors in Illinois will be teachers, education students and other community members. All will be paid at least $20 an hour and all will be trained online through Illinois State University.

Illinois is paying for the program with money from the second bucket of school-focused, federal COVID-19 relief, known as Elementary and Secondary Education Relief (ESSER) II, made possible by passage of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act in late 2020.

Districts start signing up

Borders says the Illinois Tutoring Initiative is picking up speed.

“We went from having one or two districts [interested] to 20-some districts,” Borders says.

Borders says two districts — Bloomington District 87 and Pontiac District 429 — have signed official commitments to participate.

Seven universities, including Illinois State University, are working through agreements with districts in six different regions. The universities will hire and send out tutors to the districts. The schools will select which third through eighth graders most need the tutoring.

Each region of the state has slots for a total of 15 school districts that want to participate. The state hopes to launch the initiative with 48 districts by this summer and 90 districts by this fall.

The state has narrowed down which districts can participate through certain criteria, like being underfunded according to state calculations and teaching remotely during the pandemic.

In central Illinois, the eligible districts include Danville District 118, Decatur District 61, Rantoul City School District 137 and Urbana District 116, among others. Champaign Unit 4 did not make the list.

Emily Hays is a reporter for Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter @amihatt.

TAGS: Christy Borders, COVID-19, high-dosage tutoring, high-impact tutoring, Illinois State University, Illinois Tutoring Initiative, learning loss, tutoring

Emily Hays started at WILL in October 2021 after three-plus years in local newsrooms in Virginia and Connecticut. She has won state awards for her housing coverage at Charlottesville Tomorrow and her education reporting at the New Haven Independent. Emily graduated from Yale University where she majored in History and South Asian Studies.