Imagine telling students’ parents that they would receive $1,000 to spend on tutoring services or special education services for their kids. One could only anticipate the level of excitement.
So thought Frank Edelblut, education commissioner of New Hampshire. Using their COVID relief funds, the New Hampshire Department of Education had nearly $2.3 million to allocate for the scholarship under the CARES Act.
The “Yes, Every Student” initiative was first introduced for the 2021-22 school year. Initially, only students from low-income families were eligible. Due to a lack of initial signups, he says, the department of education expanded eligibility in April, allowing any school-age student, regardless of their family’s income.
“Although it has been two years since the start of the pandemic, some students may still feel that they are not meeting their desired academic performance,” said Edelblut in a statement. “These scholarships will be used to help children that may have experienced disrupted learning and provide them with individualized tutoring and support to target their unique educational needs.”
That’s what makes the lack of participation this year so puzzling. Only $724,000 of the nearly $2.3 million in eligibility has been awarded.
Edelblut says he’s unsure as to why families aren’t as quick to sign up as he predicted because the research is there… tutoring works. “I want families to take advantage of this,” he says. “I want our teachers to take advantage of it. But it could be that families don’t perceive the gap. We’ve done what we think is our best job to get the message out.”
Another core issue, he explains, is the number of available tutors. Families are having trouble matching their kids with a mentor.
According to a conversation he had with the President of NEA-New Hampshire Megan Tuttle regarding this issue, the main problem is teacher burnout. “Teachers are just burnt,” he quotes Tuttle as saying. “The added incentive of additional extra coin in their pocket may not be enough to incentivize them to spend the extra hours to help tutor some of these kiddos.”
To combat this, he says, they’re expanding the pool of eligible tutors to certified instructors outside the state as well. “We had this abundance of students that wanted tutoring and we had a lack of people who wanted to do the tutoring for those particular students.”
Despite low numbers in tutoring, the state is seeing profound interest in literacy instruction.
The education department recently launched a partnership with Lexia LETRS, a professional learning tool that gives educators and administrators the knowledge to become literacy and language experts in the science of reading. In less than a month, they’ve received more than 1,000 applications, which he says “way exceeded expectations.”
“We know how vitally important strong literacy skills are for our youth,” he said in a statement. “It is encouraging to see such high registration numbers for this professional learning program, and I am thrilled that so many New Hampshire residents, educators and administrators are taking advantage of this unique opportunity to empower children through reading.”