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D.C. expands tutoring services as schools weather academic declines

The city is issuing $7 million in grants to tutor 3,600 students through September 2024.

High school students leave a homecoming pep rally at Cardozo Education Campus in Northwest. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
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D.C. is releasing $7 million in grants to expand tutoring programs, a continuation of a years-long effort to help students recover from the academic setbacks spurred by the pandemic, officials said Thursday.

The grants are being issued to nine community organizations that will provide math and reading help in D.C. schools through next school year. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser previously said her administration would commit $39 million in federal recovery dollars to “high-impact tutoring” after test data last year revealed students had fallen dramatically behind in those subjects.

High-impact tutoring involves individual or small group sessions.

“In some schools, you’ll see tutoring occur before school or after school, some schools will have it interwoven in their instructional day,” said Christina Grant, D.C.'s state superintendent of education. “We were very clear that coming back from the pandemic was going to involve and require a new approach to learning, to make sure that our children were in school safe and on this journey of recovering from a global pandemic.”

D.C. math, reading test scores fall to lowest levels in more than 5 years

Students in 59 schools this academic year are getting these services from teachers, school staff and academic organizations such as Math Matters at George Washington University and CityTutor, officials said. This latest wave of funding will extend services to 3,600 additional children, with the goal of tutoring 10,000 students by September 2024 — when federal funding provided to schools to help them recover from the pandemic is set to expire. D.C. has reported spending roughly $228 million, or 42 percent, of its $540 million allotment for schools.

Federal data collected in June showed that 56 percent of schools across the country reported using high-impact — also called “high-dosage” — tutoring and 36 percent of schools reported using other forms.

Similar to most parts of the country, math and reading scores in D.C. plummeted when students returned to classrooms. Less than one-third of students citywide were reading at or above grade level and just 19 percent passed the math exam in 2022, results of D.C.'s standardized test, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — widely known as PARCC — showed.

Schools got $122 billion to reopen last year. Most has not been used.

But more recent assessments, including one that tests early literacy skills, are showing signs of progress, said Lewis D. Ferebee, chancellor of D.C’s traditional public school system. Schools are constantly monitoring test scores and other data to determine who needs extra services, he said.

The nine groups that will get funding through the end of next school year are: American University; Dance Makers; Great Oaks Foundation; Horton’s Kids; Lana Learn; Multicultural Career Intern Program; Saga Education; The House; and Tutor Partners.