Is tutoring enough to combat post-pandemic learning loss? 

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Capital News Service

LANSING – Michigan’s children are still falling behind in school from the pandemic, according to teachers and parents. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she believes that investing in tutoring is the solution. She recently introduced a plan to invest $280 million into tutoring and other personalized instruction in K-12 schools. 

That’s not enough, say some skeptics.

Among them is Frances Vicioso, a Kalamazoo parent of a child who was in 10th grade when the pandemic first shut down schools. 

The pandemic caused a significant setback for many students on foundational aspects of their education, said Vicioso, who is a member of the Detroit-based Michigan Education Justice Coalition. That is causing them to fall further behind as they learn more advanced material. 

That means they are learning basic and advanced material at the same time, Vicioso said. 

“The unfortunate truth is that you have tutoring occurring alongside learning more advanced things,” Vicioso said. “So unfortunately, a child that was in fourth grade during the pandemic, they’ll now be around sixth grade. They will still have some foundational pieces that are missing, all the while they are learning fifth-grade things.” 

Vicioso said that there needs to be a change in the way that teaching is structured in order for students to fully recover from post-pandemic learning loss. 

“The school curriculum really needs to shift for awhile and make some real changes to support the growth and learning of students knowing that there will be the larger learning gap,” Vicioso said. 

Some teachers agree that more than tutoring is needed. 

Teacher Linda Bradlin, who has been teaching high school freshman and sophomore students at Detroit Public Schools’ Virtual Schools forSchool for about a year, said that her students have seen the effects of post-pandemic learning loss. 

“They’re just not keeping up,” Bradlin said. 

The greatest effect of the pandemic is related to student mental health, which harms their learning, she said 

“More of the effects were related to mental health,”Bradlin said. “I’ve been noticing a lot more students are having mental health difficulties, depression, anxiety – a lot of anxiety.” 

Bradlin said that having more counselors available and expanding access to mental health resources in and out of the classroom will relieve this problem. 

Virtual learning contributes to this learning decline. The majority of the students that she teaches aren’t “self-directed learners,” making virtual learning difficult, she said. 

“I teach this virtual high school, and I think a lot of students really should be in person,” Bradlin said. “I don’t think a lot of them are self-directed learners.”

Trina Tocco, director of the Michigan Education Justice Coalition, said that tutoring is needed to combat post-pandemic learning loss, but that it is not the solution alone. 

“It’s not that tutoring is not needed. It’s about how lots of things are needed,” Tocco said. “I also think that if it’s just tutoring that is like the one thing that’s offered, it’s just not sufficient for the majority.”

Vicioso said that another is the lack of culturally responsive education with the tutors that are often provided from government-based programs, as well as a lack of diversity among the tutors themselves. 

“I will also say that not only are they just not people of color, but they’re not even training, culturally responsive education. Fortunately, teachers are getting more and more options to engage in culturally responsive training, I think that that’s not always that’s not offered to tutors. So that can be very difficult.”

Vicioso said that action needs to be taken for children who have experienced this learning loss- and soon. 

“So the learning loss is done and I hope that we’ve learned some things to prevent something like this from happening in the future. But what are we going to do for these kids right now?”

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