“Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!”
It’s perhaps the classic scene from the classic ‘90s sitcom: In an episode of the eponymous ‘90s series Friends, Ross, Rachel, and Chandler attempt to take a couch up to Ross’ apartment. Upon reaching the tight turn in the stairwell, an increasingly flustered Ross yells “Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!” Alas, they fail to make the turn and are forced to put the couch down, where it promptly becomes stuck, leaving Chandler nearly crushed against the wall and the audience in stitches.
In the future, districts will need to pivot - there will be an increase in annualized federal government spending on children, more transparency in schools, and the budgeting process will be rebalanced by community engagement over politics.
How will districts navigate this new playing field of increased funding combined with increased stakeholder involvement? How can they identify the most effective use of funding in this new environment and pivot successfully without becoming stuck?
Positive Alternatives For The Effective Use Of Increased Funding
The good news is that many districts have discovered many more effective ways to use increased funding targeted directly toward getting kids to school, improving their learning environment at school, or - and this is the key to the whole shebang - closing learning gaps, combating learning loss, and just increasing student learning in general. Some examples are as follows:
- Transporting students despite the challenge of severe driver shortages.
- Indoor air quality (IAQ) improvements - with the caveat that in addition to learning environment improvements, schools use the savings driven by HVAC upgrades to funnel back into direct academic outcomes.
- Create virtual course offerings and counseling sessions where needed.
- Tutoring and summer programming
There have been recent setbacks in terms of the funding districts were hoping might be available as we continue to struggle to emerge from the pandemic. The “Build Back Better” initiative would have potentially provided a much-needed influx of billions of dollars toward child care, preschool programs, child nutrition, and other programs directly benefitting school-age children over the next decade. With partisan gridlock jeopardizing legislation, some additional funding initiatives remain in limbo and the overall political environment remains uncertain - but 90 percent of the existing funding still hasn’t been spent yet and can still be used to help students get back on track and thrive if you are willing to take advantage of the opportunity.
The Most For Your Money: District-Managed High-Dosage Tutoring
We know that the elements of a high-quality, high-dosage, district-managed tutoring program (as opposed to one conducted with volunteers outside of school hours) are factors that positively impact student achievement. As we continue to fight through and emerge from the COVID crisis, get the most for your money with a relentless focus on student learning outcomes via tutoring.
Experts recommend a data-based approach to determine the size, fit, and power of a high-dosage, district-managed tutoring program. In the process of doing so, you will address several key questions:
- Size: Who needs the extra support? How many people are needed to adequately staff the tutoring support teams to get the best results?
- Fit: Like medicine, how much tutoring (time, subjects, etc.) is needed to achieve the intended results? What approach is best for each student? How does the tutoring program itself fit the spectrum of services being provided, and how are communication loops systemically built-in for teachers, tutors, parent(s)/guardian(s), and students?
- Power: What tools will you need to monitor and evaluate the impact of the high-dosage, district-managed tutoring program? The academic and social-emotional (SEL) outcomes should be clear and convincing if implemented and monitored with fidelity.
High-dosage tutoring gives us a data-driven pathway to provide students with the time and attention required for personalized instruction geared toward their individual learning needs. That way, you can start to make the shift from identifying and closing learning gaps and providing district-managed tutoring for the purposes of remediation to the more productive, inspiring, and future-oriented approach of using your district-managed tutoring program to create opportunities for acceleration. Using their available funding, schools can invest in designing, implementing, and monitoring a high-dosage tutoring program that will generate real results.
Don’t Get Stuck - Pivot Your District Into The Best Possible Position
The field of education is slowly shifting away from the politics and other perils of high-stakes assessments in reading and math, the enduring and disastrous legacy of the accountability movement, toward a world where communities work together to determine, implement, support, and celebrate processes to increase student learning. Combined with a new funding climate, now is the time to seize the initiative and to be purposeful and strategic in your response to these changes. Make the pivot. Direct your funding toward programming that works: high-dosage, high-impact, district-managed tutoring programs.