Northampton schools will spend $659K to combat COVID-19 learning losses

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BY STEFANIE JACKSON, Eastern Shore Post —

Northampton County Public Schools will spend more than $659,000 in state funding over the next three fiscal years on intensive tutoring to help students recover learning losses that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had a large group … over 90% of our students, according to the guidelines, who would have qualified for some type of tutoring,” said Associate Superintendent Sandy Drummond on Thursday, Dec. 14.

The intensive tutoring program is part of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s ALL In Virginia initiative, which targets students in grades 3 to 8 who are “not proficient” or “at risk” academically.

Students are not proficient if they failed the Virginia Standards of Learning or SOL test for reading or math in spring 2023. The minimum passing score for an SOL test is 400.

Students are at risk if they passed but scored low on the SOL test for reading or math in spring 2023. The low range varies among subjects but could be, for example, between 400 and 447, Drummond said.

Because Virginia students do not take their first SOL tests until grade 3 in the spring semester, fall 2023 growth assessments were used to measure the proficiency of this school year’s third graders.

The state recommended how the $659,000 should be allocated: 70% for tutoring students in grades 3 to 8, 20% to implement the Virginia Literacy Act, and 10% to address chronic absenteeism.

The Virginia General Assembly unanimously passed the Virginia Literacy Act in 2022 to ensure evidence-based reading instruction is implemented in all classrooms in kindergarten through grade 3.

Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission, or JLARC, found that in the 2021-2022 school year, chronic absenteeism – missing 10% or more of school days – had nearly doubled since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drummond noted that Northampton schools have “ample time” available during their reading and math schedule blocks, so much of the tutoring can be done during the regular school day.

Some of the tutoring will be done using digital platforms that were approved by the Virginia Department of Education and are provided for free.

Many tutoring activities will be administered in person by reading specialists, instructional assistants, and members of Shore Mentors, a local volunteer group.

Additional tutoring resources include www.tutoring.com, a website that Northampton students can access from home.

The school-day tutoring programs will begin Jan. 8, 2024, and after-school tutoring will be offered starting Jan. 22, 2024.

After-school tutoring will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Transportation and snacks will be provided.

Middle school students will be transported by the regular activity bus. Elementary school students will have two buses with predetermined stops.

“We have a lot of small-group tutoring going on, a lot of volunteers in the building. … I’m excited to see it roll out,” Drummond said.

“When spring comes, we’ll have a long stretch until our next SOL test cycle … I think we’ll be able to get some real impact from our tutoring during the day as well as after school,” she said.

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