(The Center Square) – High impact tutors are available to help school children in Illinois play catch up after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Christy Borders, executive director of the Illinois Tutoring Initiative, said math and reading test scores across the state are still well below pre-pandemic levels. Under-resourced schools are particularly hard hit. Some children are 3 to 5 years behind where they should be if the pandemic had not kept them out of in-person classrooms.
“Think about third graders. They were in kindergarten when the schools shut down,” Borders said.
Those children missed months of in-person kindergarten and first-grade learning, Borders said.
Every child in Illinois could benefit from extra one-on-one attention from a caring adult tutor, Borders said. The state is prioritizing children with the highest needs for the high impact Illinois Tutoring Initiative.
COVID-19 relief tax funds will be used to hire high-impact tutors in 46 school districts in the 2023-24 school year. Chicago Public Schools has its own separate tutoring initiative. Many other Illinois districts have created tutoring programs, using COVID-19 relief tax dollars that went to their schools. Almost $8 billion in federal pandemic relief funds have been given to Illinois schools.
High-impact tutors are community members with a high school degree or higher who can devote more than four hours a week to work in the program. Each tutor undergoes five hours of training and works three days a week. Tutors are paid $50 an hour.
“This is not homework help,” Borders said. “We don’t give them sheets of drills to work through.”
Tutors work with up to three students in a session. The goal is to have an interactive setting with games and fun exercises that give the children a chance to develop a relationship with the tutor. The children gain the social and emotional skills that they need in order to succeed in school, Borders said.
“We want kids to gain confidence. We want them to believe that they can be successful,” she said.
Classroom teachers tell Borders that they are seeing improvements in the kids who get tutoring.
“There are students who start out spending a lot of time staring at their shoes because they don’t feel comfortable taking part in the classroom,” she said.
Tutoring gives those children the self-confidence to raise their hands and participate.
One of Borders’ favorite success stories is about a third grade boy at a small rural school in Southern Illinois. The boy’s father is away on active duty in the military. His mother has a new baby. A man on the school’s janitorial staff was given permission to clock out for one hour, three times a week, to tutor the child in math and reading.
“His classroom teacher told me that he watches the clock and runs to the door for his special hour with his tutor,” Borders said.
A tutor in a school district outside of Peoria told Borders that kids stop her in the hall and ask her if they can go to tutoring because the child she tutors likes it so much.
Many districts are still hiring tutors for the upcoming school year.
Go online to IllinoisTutoringInitiative.org to find out how to apply.