DPS tutoring program ensures students are making progress

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DENVER — Denver Public Schools is spending part of the more than $200 million the district received in federal pandemic relief funding on extra tutoring, and they’re making sure the money is well spent.

For the first time ever, DPS is holding tutoring contractors accountable for improving student performance, otherwise the contractors don’t receive their full reimbursement.

“Sixty percent of what a vendor would typically get is their base payment just for delivering services, but then the other forty percent that they would typically just get for delivering services is based on outcomes that students achieve,” said Brittany Miller, senior director of expanded academic learning for DPS.

The tutors are providing additional reading support for K-3rd graders, and math for 4th grades and older students. Miller said they are focused on “high impact tutoring” which can help students gain 15 months of progress by participating in 25 to 36 hours per week of tutoring.

The tutoring is optional, and schools are helping identify students who would benefit. At Place Bridge Academy, all students are participating. Fifth grade teacher Meg Cypress said the pandemic led to significant gaps.

“I was so impressed with our parents supporting their students (during remote learning) but there is a significant loss,” she said

Elementary students weren’t the only ones impacted. Northfield High School freshman Isabel Kubler was referred to tutoring after taking the PSAT earlier this school year. She says the tutoring is beneficial because it’s allowing her to go at her own pace.

“I could be in this class for all of high school, I wouldn’t mind having the extra help,” Kubler said.

Miller said the tutoring isn’t replacing any other critical academic or social/emotional development time in the school day. Most schools are offering the tutoring either during a free period or small group time, though some have offered after school sessions as well.

She said while tutors are being held accountable, tutoring is only one piece of the pandemic recovery puzzle.

“This is part of a larger strategy, which is great, to have teachers in front of students every day delivering great and exciting instruction to kids,” Miller said.