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Annenberg Learner and Step up Tutoring Partner to Recruit Volunteer Tutors for Los Angeles Elementary Students

Author: Roberto Lewis

During the month of April, Annenberg Learner and Step Up Tutoring will conduct the Annenberg Learner Spring Challenge, a recruitment drive organized by the Annenberg Foundation to pair educated and committed volunteer tutors with 3rd-6th grade students in the Los Angeles Unified School District for one-to-one, free online tutoring.

Volunteer tutors will provide sorely-needed guidance and mentorship to children who have suffered dramatic learning losses and isolation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Twice a week, for an hour per session, volunteers will help students with their homework, encourage them in their studies, and help them feel more connected to their school communities. 

Last year Step Up Tutoring matched over 700 LAUSD students with volunteer tutors. These volunteers completed over 10,000 hours of tutoring and received high levels of approval from teachers, parents, and students. 95 percent of parents rated their level of satisfaction with the program at a seven or higher, on a scale from one to ten. Since the beginning of the LAUSD program, over 1,400 volunteers have applied to be tutors.

The goal of the Annenberg Learner Spring Challenge is to increase the scope, reach and impact of Step Up Tutoring’s effort by bringing the number of students receiving free tutoring services to 1,000 by the end of the 2020-2021 school year. To help reach this goal, AnnenbergTech and PledgeLA, a collective of tech companies focused on diversity, equity, and community engagement, are also providing support, helping to secure commitments for over 100 volunteers from LA-based tech companies SNAP, FabFitFun, Bird, Soylent, HopSkipDrive, CAA, and more.

LAUSD schools gradually reopened beginning Monday, April 12th, after more than a year of online-only instruction. The district is following a hybrid schedule. Students can choose to either return to school, where they would receive in-person instruction for half of the day and then work independently online, or they can continue to log into class from home. Our goal is to recruit, vet and train 500 volunteer tutors and match them with students before the end of May.  In order to do that, we’ll need your help.

“Many kids struggle with distance learning – especially the quiet and shy ones – and shut down,” said Irma Navarro, a 4th-grade teacher at Walnut Park Elementary School. “They are really happy to get the one-on-one help and I already see improvement in turning in assignments. I was really worried about one of my students because she was really shutting down, but now she can’t stop raving about her tutor. She really connected with her.”

A 2021 report by Great Public Schools Now titled “Educational Recovery Now” found that while daily engagement increased between the spring and fall of 2020, a third of LAUSD students were not actively engaged (“actively engaged” students are defined by LAUSD as “students who participated asynchronously that day by submitting an assignment, assessment, or posted to a discussion board”) and that large gaps across race, income and student need persist. Report findings show that more than 13,000 middle and high school students consistently disengaged in fall 2020 and an additional 56,000 did not actively participate on a daily basis. Two in three students are falling behind in literacy and math, with Black and Latino elementary school students falling the furthest behind.

Small-group and one-on-one tutoring have been shown to help students who have fallen behind in their studies. Research suggests that a large-scale initiative to make tutoring an integral part of public education would go a long way toward recovering the ground lost as a result of the pandemic. For the most part, however, one-on-one tutoring has been available only to those households with significant financial reserves. As the school closures dragged on, the demand for supplementary schooling grew, and the prices for private tutors rose out of reach of most public school parents. 

“We can’t allow this pandemic to widen our educational divides even more,” said Wallis Annenberg, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation. “That’s why this new partnership with Step Up is so important. Individual tutoring is one of the most powerful educational tools we have — a proven and effective way to engage our children, to lift up those who are being left out. We need to make it as available and accessible as possible. And we need to come out of this pandemic with all our children learning and achieving.”  

Help spread the word! Prospective tutors may apply online through the Step Up Tutoring website, at stepuptutoring.org/annenberg. To be eligible, volunteers must be at least 18 years old, have completed or begun working toward an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, have reliable internet access, and reside in California. 

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer tutor (or know someone else who is):

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