Umba proposes frequent in-school tutoring sessions to overcome Covid-19 learning loss

Umba proposes frequent in-school tutoring sessions to overcome Covid-19 learning loss

Brandon Umba

TRENTON, N.J. – Assemblyman Brandon Umba introduced a bill on Thursday to address Covid-19 learning loss with high-intensity, in-school tutoring sessions. The evidenced-based programming will help close academic gaps and complement existing curriculum, he said. 

“We know students are struggling and are grade levels behind where they should be, but little has been done to actually get these kids up to speed. For children who were in Kindergarten when Covid hit, this is their first normal school year – no two-week quarantines or face masks – and they are third graders,” Umba (R-Burlington) said. “An entire generation of children will never catch up if we don’t act now.”

According to the 2022 scores from National Assessment of Educational Progress, also referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, New Jersey students in fourth and eighth grade had significantly worse scores in math and reading compared to when the test was last administered in 2019. In fact, New Jersey’s fourth graders experienced greater learning loss in both subjects than the national average. The state’s eighth graders fared worse in math, with scores down 11 points, compared a national decline of 8 points.

“Children didn’t get the education they deserved during the pandemic. There were digital divides, child care issues and important concepts that just couldn’t be taught well remotely,” Umba said. “We need to make it up to these children with high-impact tutoring that they can access during the day so they can all get the support they need.”

Using federal pandemic money, Umba’s bill (A4843) would create a matching grant program in the Department of Education that would allow school districts to implement high-impact tutoring programs to address Covid-19 student learning loss. Districts receiving awards would need to match the amount by 25%.

High-impact tutoring is one-to-one or small-group support that supplements classroom learning and focuses on specific goals in response to individual students’ needs. Research has shown tutoring programs in math and reading yield consistent and substantial positive impacts on learning outcomes and even more so when it’s conducted during school hours. On average, tutoring increased learning the same as an additional 3-15 months of school.

“Unfortunately, forced school closures during the pandemic didn’t force the administration to put a plan in place to address the negative consequences of virtual learning and social isolation. The Democrat majority has followed suit, tabling my motion on the Assembly floor to fund learning loss intervention,” Umba added. “My bill makes that commitment to invest in our children’s academic achievement.”

To be eligible for a grant, the school must design a high-impact tutoring program that is offered to groups of four or fewer students, led by the same high-quality trained tutor throughout the year, provided no less than three times a week during the school day, aligns with academic standards and includes assessments to monitor progress. The education commissioner would report on the effectiveness of the program within three years.