For Pittsburgh K-12 students in under-resourced communities whose academic achievement has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, high-dosage tutoring is increasingly becoming a reality, thanks to two individual grants of $150,000 and $75,000 made to ASSET Inc. by The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation, respectively.
The tutoring initiative these grants are funding is called Partnerships to Advance Learning in STEM (PALS), a unique model for teacher professional learning and coaching which simultaneously supports K-12 students and pre-service teachers.
PALS puts ASSET Inc. once again at the forefront of education innovation and positions Pittsburgh as a national leader in devising novel approaches to addressing pandemic-related learning loss, which has been called catastrophic by education experts.
According to the nonprofit testing company NWEA, the median student in third through eighth grade returned to school in Fall 2021 nine to 11 percentile points behind in math and three to seven percentile points behind in reading, with Black, brown and low-income students acutely affected. If allowed to stand, the expected lifetime earning loss among today’s roughly 50 million K-12 public school students would be more than $2 trillion.
But learning loss is not limited to K-12 students. The next generation of teachers currently in college studying to become educators have also been deprived a key piece of their training – field experiences in the classroom. This further threatens a fragile U.S. education workforce which is seeing record teacher retirements, coupled with plummeting enrollment in educator preparation programs at colleges and universities across the country.
These two new grants address both aspects of learning loss. They also specifically target students in under-resourced communities for high-dosage tutoring – a tool long employed by more affluent families – while enabling teachers-in-training to gain experience in the remote teaching and learning environment, a likely reality for the foreseeable future. Through an innovative partnership with Carlow University, ASSET’s PALS is being integrated into four courses in the Carlow School of Education, enabling the deployment of roughly 100 pre-service teachers to support approximately 150 Pittsburgh learners via remote tutoring this year.
The PALS initiative provides remote tutoring to grade 3-12 learners in Out of School Time (OST) programs at Pittsburgh’s Northside, Lincoln-Larimer, and Sheraden neighborhoods. Mobile learning labs, consisting of laptops, headsets, and Wi-Fi hotspots have been provided to two of the organizations to facilitate access. The PALS program also supports a small group of Northside families whose children participate virtually from home. This marks a significant expansion of a pilot tutoring project begun in Spring 2021in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Learning Collaborative, A+ Schools and Duquesne University.
“Neither the country nor this region can afford losing the intellectual potential of an entire generation of students,” said Sarah Toulouse, Executive Director, ASSET Inc. “ASSET has always been rooted in teacher training and preparation in the name of student academic achievement. Today, we’ve pivoted to meet the moment. While our mission is still about teacher support and training, our focus now is also on delivering the kind of tutoring to students in underserved communities that will get them back on track and accelerate learning.”
Dr. Keely Baronak, Chair of Carlow University Education Department, said, “Preparing the teachers of tomorrow to meet the learning loss needs of all students, particularly those who do not have the means to access remedies such as ASSET’s PALS, dovetails with Carlow’s long-standing commitment to social justice and transforming lives for generations.”
Mounting research shows that high-dosage tutoring is an effective way to reverse learning loss and get students back to grade level. High-dosage tutoring is defined as one-on-one tutoring or tutoring in very small groups at least three times a week delivered by professionals and paraprofessionals.
A recent meta-analysis published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that, on average, tutoring increased learning the equivalent of students attending an additional three to 15 months of school. In January, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona called for a reset in U.S. education to overcome pandemic learning loss and advance equity, pointing to high-dosage tutoring as an important strategy in these efforts.
“As K-12 students found themselves relegated to remote learning during the pandemic, many students of color and those living in economically-challenged neighborhoods did not have access to the monitoring and academic support that in-person education allows,” said Stanley Thompson, senior program director of Education at The Heinz Endowments and executive director of the Pittsburgh Readiness Institute. “This collaboration between ASSET and Carlow University provided one-on-one connections between students and educators that helped curb learning loss during the trying times of the past two years and gave teachers-in-training invaluable workforce experience.”
About ASSET Inc.
Founded in 1994, ASSET, Inc. is headquartered in Pennsylvania and provides rigorous professional learning services for educators nationally. Originally established to drive science literacy and science education reform first in the Pittsburgh region and then throughout Pennsylvania, ASSET provides teacher training, coaching and project-based learning that translates into student academic achievement. ASSET’s specialized approach has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and other leading STEM organizations as a model for achieving student success through excellence in teaching. For more information visit, www.assetinc.org.
About The Heinz Endowments
The Heinz Endowments is devoted to the mission of helping our region prosper as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, and social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Core to its work is the vision of a just community where all are included and where everyone who calls southwestern Pennsylvania home has a real and meaningful opportunity to thrive.
About The Pittsburgh Foundation
The Pittsburgh Foundation, established in 1945, works to improve the quality of life in the Pittsburgh region by evaluating and addressing community issues, promoting responsible philanthropy and connecting donors to the critical needs of the community.