Global Nonprofit Launches High Dosage Tutoring Program in North Chicago to Combat COVID-19

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Innovations for Learning, a global education nonprofit, and North Chicago School District 187 have launched a high dosage tutoring program to catch up students who have fallen behind in beginning reading due to COVID-19 school closures.

“IFL is proud to be partnering with North Chicago to combat the effects of COVID-19”, said Seth Weinberger, founder of IFL. “Learning to read is a civil right. Across America, young students are being deprived of the right to a quality education when they are not taught to read proficiently."

Innovations for Learning, a global education nonprofit, and North Chicago School District 187 have launched a high dosage tutoring program to catch up students who have fallen behind in beginning reading due to COVID-19 school closures. The program features trained interventionists who work intensively with students 1:1 on beginning reading proficiency. The program started this Fall by reaching out to students at home, will continue through a summer program in 2021, and will proceed with intensive 1:1 in-class instruction throughout the 2021-22 school year. The goal of the program is to have all of the district’s K-2 students at grade level reading by June, 2022.

COVID-19 has impacted education across the country, and the impairment of instruction is particularly acute for the youngest students in low-income communities. According to Dr. John Price, Superintendent of D187, “What we are seeing from our students is that the pandemic, and remote learning, are hurting our youngest and most vulnerable students - our non-readers - the most. They are least able to work and learn independently, and most in need of direct, side by side support that they can't get right now. We will need to invest time in our non-readers as soon as possible in order to help them get back on track.”

The IFL-D187 high dosage tutoring program is on the leading edge of a nationwide movement to provide high intensity tutoring for students impacted by COVID-19. Dr. Robert Slavin, Director of the Center for Research and Reform at John Hopkins University, has called for a national deployment of high dosage tutors to address the impact of COVID-19: “What we and many other researchers have found is that the most effective strategy for struggling students, especially in elementary schools, is one-to-one or one-to-small group tutoring. Structured tutoring programs can make a large difference in a short time, exactly what is needed to help students quickly catch up with grade level expectations. Effective tutoring is likely to enable these children to advance to the point where they can profit from ordinary grade-level instruction. We fear that without this assistance, millions of children will never catch up, and will show the negative effects of the school closures throughout their time in school and beyond.”

High dosage tutoring is now being deployed to help students learn a range of subjects from math to science. The tutoring is “high dosage” if it is conducted 1:1 or in a small group, with trained, paid tutors, at least three times per week. SAGA Education serves high school students in multiple cities in the U.S. with 1:1 math instruction. Match Education provides students in Boston with 1:1 high dosage tutoring in various subjects. In addition to North Chicago, IFL conducts high dosage tutoring in schools in and around Seattle, Indianapolis, and Columbus. IFL’s largest high dosage tutoring implementation is in Broward Country Florida, the nation’s sixth largest school district.

In the IFL-North Chicago program, IFL has recruited college graduates to work 1:1 with over 500 struggling K-2 students for 3-5 days per week. The instruction provided by these interventionists is focused on building a beginning phonics foundation, sight words acquisition and reading fluency with comprehension.    

In addition to providing high dosage tutoring to struggling students, IFL will also provide volunteer tutors to work with students who have mastered a phonics foundation but may still need support to become fluent readers. These tutors will be recruited from IFL corporate partners in the community and will tutor students once per week for 30 minutes on fluency and comprehension. Abbvie, headquartered in North Chicago, is supporting the program both with funding and with volunteer tutors from their local workforce.

The impact of the program will be evaluated by Dr. Karen Kortecamp, associate professor of curriculum and pedagogy at George Washington University, using D187’s reading assessments conducted at the beginning, middle and end of each school year. The evaluation will be part of research that has been conducted on the IFL program at North Chicago since the start of the 2019-20 school year. At the time school was closed in March, 2020, nearly 85% of kindergarten and first grade students were on track for grade level reading. This progress is consistent with results of IFL’s high dosage tutoring in other school districts.

The results of IFL’s high dosage tutoring programs are documented in research available on its website. Nearly 80% of first grade students have reached grade level reading after receiving high dosage tutoring, compared to approximately 50% of students in prior years.

Studies by other organizations have demonstrated that not only is high dosage tutoring for struggling early readers effective, but it is just as effective as intensive programs conducted by experienced teachers. See, Neitzel, A., Lake, C., Pellegrini, M., & Slavin, R. (2020). A synthesis of quantitative research on programs for struggling readers in elementary schools.

About Innovations for Learning

IFL has been focused on beginning reading instruction for over 25 years. IFL serves 25 school districts in the US, as well as districts in the United Kingdom and Canada. IFL partners with over 200 global corporations who collectively provide over 6000 volunteers annually for its TutorMate program.

The high dosage tutoring model of instruction is in its third year of implementation in school districts IFL serves. The model draws upon IFL’s 25 years of experience designing instructional tools and methods for both independent student use and for 1:1 instruction by classroom teachers.    

“IFL is proud to be partnering with North Chicago to combat the effects of COVID-19,” said Seth Weinberger, founder of IFL. “Learning to read is a civil right. Across America, young students are being deprived of the right to a quality education when they are not taught to read proficiently. This country has the resources to correct this injustice if we fight for it as hard as we fight for freedom itself.”

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