Gwinnett schools lean on tutors to address pandemic learning loss

Alicia Posey teaches her students during the after-school tutoring program at Corners Outreach in Norcross on Feb. 16. To address pandemic learning loss, Gwinnett County Public Schools will partner with Corners Outreach and more than 30 other tutoring providers to work with students who need additional help with school coming back from virtual learning. (https://ajc.arcpublishing.com/composer/edit/3MXH5AWFURB4VHA4NREL26DN3M/ / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Alicia Posey teaches her students during the after-school tutoring program at Corners Outreach in Norcross on Feb. 16. To address pandemic learning loss, Gwinnett County Public Schools will partner with Corners Outreach and more than 30 other tutoring providers to work with students who need additional help with school coming back from virtual learning. (https://ajc.arcpublishing.com/composer/edit/3MXH5AWFURB4VHA4NREL26DN3M/ / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

It’s a major part of the plan to get students back up to speed

Valentina Euseda used to have inconsistent grades in math. Now, she’s occasionally ahead in the lessons.

“Sometimes, my teacher asks me, ‘Where are you learning this?’” said Valentina, a Gwinnett County fourth grader.

The difference, she said, has been the tutoring she’s received at Corners Outreach in Norcross. She goes most days after school, working in a small group to hone her skills and reinforce what she learned in class.

Gwinnett County Public Schools hopes to replicate that progress as it addresses learning loss students may have experienced during the pandemic.

When officials closed school buildings and shifted students to online classes, “we saw that it went well for some, but it did not go well for the majority of our students,” said Clay Hunter, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

In the next few weeks, more than 30 tutoring services will begin working with thousands of Gwinnett students who need help getting on track. The district plans to spend $12 million over three years on tutoring. The overall plan to address learning loss is expected to cost $29 million of the district’s federal pandemic relief funds.

Gwinnett is the state’s largest school district with about 180,000 students. District staff said they may need to support 10% of all students with tutoring.

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Hunter said many administrators thought the pandemic would force them to hold back students.

“That’s the approach we’ve used in education for years — you don’t do well, you stay back,” he said. Hunter and his staff decided that wasn’t the right approach during the pandemic.

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Andrea Castillo teaches her students during the after-school tutoring program at Corners Outreach in Norcross on Feb. 16. To address pandemic learning loss, Gwinnett County Public Schools will bring in Corners Outreach and more than 30 other tutoring providers to work with students who need additional help with school coming back from virtual learning. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Andrea Castillo teaches her students during the after-school tutoring program at Corners Outreach in Norcross on Feb. 16. To address pandemic learning loss, Gwinnett County Public Schools will bring in Corners Outreach and more than 30 other tutoring providers to work with students who need additional help with school coming back from virtual learning. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Andrea Castillo teaches her students during the after-school tutoring program at Corners Outreach in Norcross on Feb. 16. To address pandemic learning loss, Gwinnett County Public Schools will bring in Corners Outreach and more than 30 other tutoring providers to work with students who need additional help with school coming back from virtual learning. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Administrators have focused on accelerating learning and enhancing classroom time. Summer school shifted from remediation to previewing key lessons in the upcoming school year. Summer enrollment tripled in 2021 and is expected to grow again.

Schools are also establishing a support system to give students more time to work on skills or lessons that they haven’t properly learned.

First, Hunter said, teachers have used small group instruction to provide more individualized attention. Students who need additional help have access to digital tools between lessons that help with developing skills.

Students who need the most intensive support will receive tutoring. These students’ learning loss may amount to a year’s worth of content, according to the district.

Tutoring will occur in-person or online in small groups. Most tutoring will happen during the school day, but there will be options before and after school. Providers range from small, local organizations to national chains.

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Derek Higgs, a founder of Sapphire Youth Development Center in Lawrenceville, said the need for additional instruction is “becoming more urgent with each passing day.” He plans to bring in about 100 tutors to Gwinnett schools, some working with students in-person and some online.

Jaslyn Richardson teaches fifth grade during the day and tutors reading at Corners Outreach after school. In the school setting, she has less flexibility to work on individual problems because of the amount of students. Tutoring in the small groups, she gets to customize her approach and sees faster progress.

Valentina and her peers in the fourth grade tutoring group at Corners agreed that they liked the collaborative environment and having a teacher available to help with homework.

“We move fast in the classroom,” Richardson said. “Here, we get to step back and take our time.”