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Planning for Sustainability: Maintaining Tutoring Programs in a Post-ESSER World

With ESSER funding ending, learn how K-12 school districts plan to sustain and fund high-impact tutoring programs for underserved students.

The Center for Education Market Dynamics • June 30, 2023

How Districts Get Creative as Funding Cliffs Loom

For the past three years, K-12 school districts across the country have been using pandemic relief dollars and over $700 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to create and manage high-impact tutoring programs. In a national survey of 1,200 school leaders, almost half reported adopting one-on-one or small group tutoring programs during the 2020-21 school year, many of which were piloted in direct response to learning loss during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly amongst the nation’s most vulnerable students.

Armed with their own program data, along with research showing that such interventions can play a vital role in supporting student growth more broadly, many districts plan to continue their tutoring initiatives long-term. But with the pandemic in the rearview mirror and the funding that they relied upon drying up, a key question looms: How are they paying for it?

Planning Ahead to Make Tutoring Sustainable

With ESSER spending deadlines on the horizon, here are some strategies for districts looking to create new tutoring programs or sustain existing ones:

  • Explore an array of other funding options, including national service programs, the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program, grants from philanthropic organizations, and funding through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Funding allocated to districts and states for students with disabilities through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) can also be combined with other funding sources to support tutoring programs that include students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
  • Tap into mutually beneficial partnerships with external organizations to get cost-effective support for your district’s tutoring initiatives. New York City Public Schools (NYCPS), for example, has an ongoing partnership with the City University of New York (CUNY), which draws from its pre-service teaching students to provide tutors for the city’s early literacy tutoring program. Meanwhile, in Guilford County, district leaders plan to continue their longstanding partnerships with area high schools, colleges, and the North Carolina Education Corps, all of which provide tutors for the district’s 126 schools.
  • Revise your district budget to accommodate high-impact tutoring on an ongoing basis. In order to ensure they continue much-needed interventions for underserved students, Denver Public Schools (DPS) intends to do just that. As Angelin Thompson, Director of Extended Academic Learning at DPS, said, “If we determine over these three years that [tutoring] has been an effective strategy, it will not go away because federal funding goes away. We’ll find other funds, and we’ll keep the program.”

Want a deeper look into the challenges and opportunities of implementing high-impact tutoring? Be sure to check out Leading for Action: An Insight Report on K-12 Tutoring Programs, an extensive report by the Center for Education Market Dynamics (CEMD) highlighting districts across the nation that have established successful K-12 tutoring programs.

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