July 4, 2022

IPS students improve performance in math, English after new tutoring program

The Indianapolis Public Schools' central office located near downtown Indianapolis.  - Eric Weddle/WFYI

The Indianapolis Public Schools' central office located near downtown Indianapolis.

Eric Weddle/WFYI

The Indianapolis Public Schools district spring tutoring pilot program increased performance in math and English Language Arts for students of color and those from low income backgrounds. 

Some students who participated in an online tutoring program attended emerging schools – some of IPS’ lowest-performing schools, which typically serve students of color and those from low-income households. IPS district’s deputy chief of staff Sarah Chin said those schools, as well as kids who started the program with lower proficiency, typically saw the biggest learning gains. 

“The further behind a student was in school, the more impactful that tutoring was,” she said.

While most IPS students in the tutoring pilot had increased academic performance in both core subjects, students saw more improvement in math than ELA. 

Other data findings: 

  • Kindergarteners had the highest ELA performance increase of 9 percent, while third graders had the lowest increase of four percent. 
  • Students who grew by at least 5 percent in ELA attended at least 70 percent of possible tutoring sessions.
  • Fifth graders had a 26 percent gain in math, while seventh graders had a 12 percent gain. 

Using tutoring to combat pandemic learning loss

Schools across the country are working to implement tutoring programs to help students combat learning loss in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. IPS has $213 million in federal pandemic relief funds to use on in-district schools – roughly double the district's annual federal funding. These funds must be used by September 2024, according to federal law. IPS innovation charter schools receive their own federal funding to provide tutoring options. 

The pilot program launched in spring 2022 across 24 schools and tested multiple models of in-person and online tutoring. The schools were chosen based on principals who were interested. Families had the ability to opt into the after-school program that took place online at their school or at home.

In March, 12 of the schools used the online tutoring program Tutored by Teachers, which served 830 students in kindergarten through 11th grade. A report was released Thursday at the IPS board of commissioners meeting and only includes partial data.

The need for more data 

IPS’ data mostly comes from the 12 schools that participated in the Tutored by Teachers program. That’s only half the schools that participated in a tutoring program. Some of the district’s data only assess roughly 38-148 students out of the 830 who participated in the program. 

Eight schools partnered with staff at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Marion University, and four schools paid their own staff for after-school tutoring services. In April, the district embedded some of the tutoring into the school day.

There are multiple reasons for the district’s lack of data. Chin said if a student didn’t attend on days when students were issued assessments at the beginning and end of the program, they were unable to measure a student’s performance. But the district hopes to collect more data next school year, and IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said the district will have a clearer picture once ILEARN and other testing data is released. 

“There's a way for us to still look at, ‘Did this make an impact,’” Johnson said. “We would not be able to do, however, isolated [data] to the tutoring effort, for example. So I don't want it to sound like we just can't know at all, but it would be a different data set that we'd be using.”

ILEARN data is expected to be released July 13 

During the IPS board of commissioners meeting Thursday, commissioner Diane Arnold questioned the short time period the tutoring took place, since she said many students begin to check-out by the end of the school year. Johnson agreed with the critique, but also said the short pilot program helps inform how the district thinks about longer-term planning. 

“We took this sort-of go slow to go fast approach,” Johnson said. “So that we could do these pilots, get some lessons learned before we then invest many millions of dollars of resources into something that then we scale across the board and it's not working.”

This fall, the district plans to implement more tutoring programs, including virtual Tutored by Teachers tutoring to all K-12 in-district students. Families will be able to sign up for ELA and math tutoring in a few weeks. The program will start Sept. 12.

Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at egabriel@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.

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