This summer, CYC sat down with students who left school early to listen and learn from their experiences. Their insights were invaluable as we as an organization—and, going wider, as the educational sector—begin the work of rebuilding after COVID-19.
Colorado Youth for a Change (CYC) and Serve Colorado have received funding from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief program and AmeriCorps to expand a tutoring and student support program in the wake of the educational turmoil created by COVID-19.
The Colorado Tutoring Corps Initiative will address COVID-19 learning impacts and help to close persistent, historical opportunity gaps in communities of color and students living in poverty. This initiative will place 470 AmeriCorps members in communities across the state to provide evidence-based math and reading tutoring interventions to pre-K through 8th grade students, and provide student and family engagement interventions to high school students.
As part of the expansion, CYC will scale its preexisting programs, Reading Corps and Corps for a Change, as well as launch a new program called Math Corps, a replication of a Minnesota program serving students in grades 4-8 who are behind grade level in math. Research shows that development of reading proficiency by 3rd grade and algebra proficiency by 8th grade is key to preventing disengagement and boosting graduation rates. Reading Corps and Math Corps aim to foster those proficiencies, while Corps for a Change offers one-on-one support for students identified as chronically absent and supports in-school attendance and engagement initiatives. The program expects to serve 10,000 students in over 26 school districts in the 2021-2022 school year.
“This pandemic has forced our educators, students, and families to respond to unique challenges,” said Governor Polis. “The Colorado Tutoring Corps Initiative will help students meet these challenges by providing additional educators and tutoring to close learning gaps and build back even stronger.”
“Helping the next generation of Coloradans recover from the effects of the pandemic is critical to our efforts to Build Back Stronger,” added Lieutenant Governor Dianna Primavera. “The extra support that AmeriCorps volunteers will give to students around Colorado through the Tutoring Corps Initiative, will set our students, and our state, on a path to long-term success.”
“We are thrilled to announce this expansion of our work because it will increase the number of students we are able to serve,” added Mary Zanotti, Executive Director of Colorado Youth for a Change. “Our team saw higher levels of disengagement as a result of COVID-19, and we believe that bringing additional resources to schools—like one-on-one tutoring and caring relationships with adults–will increase engagement while building supportive paths toward graduation.”
CYC, which last year served 5,820 students in 17 Colorado school districts, stressed the immediate need for this initiative, citing research that the COVID-19 pandemic could exacerbate existing achievement gaps by as much as 20 percent and dropout rates by up to 9 percent nationwide. The expansion has also necessitated a massive recruitment effort of AmeriCorps members to serve in newly created roles. These members are key to solving Colorado’s critical teacher shortage; the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) annual Educator Shortage Survey found that there were 235 open teaching positions during the 2020-2021 school year, and nearly 900 open positions were filled with emergency methods. Tutoring Corps Initiative will reduce barriers and boost incentives for those who choose to teach and will provide AmeriCorps members hands-on experiences in real classrooms.
This pandemic has forced our educators, students, and families to respond to unique challenges. The Colorado Tutoring Corps Initiative will help students meet these challenges by providing additional educators and tutoring to close learning gaps and build back even stronger.Governor Jared Polis
With official state enrollment data not available until the late fall, it will be difficult to determine the full extent of the COVID-19 pandemic on Colorado dropout rates, which have tended to decrease every year over the past three decades. However, this trend is expected to reverse in light of the additional hurdles created by the pandemic.
Additionally, students facing the most severe impacts of the pandemic are also those for whom high-dosage, high-quality tutoring is inaccessible. School engagement among low-income students was 30 percent lower than high-income students in spring of 2020. The predicted average learning loss of seven months is likely to double that for low-income students—meaning that these students will have effectively missed more than a year of schooling.
Mitigating the effects of COVID-19 will require a whole-of-society approach. The Colorado Tutoring Corp Initiative seeks to provide at-risk students what they need. Serve Colorado, the Governor’s Commission on Community Service, administers the AmeriCorps program in Colorado and promotes community service throughout the state to build a culture of citizenship, service, and individual responsibility. AmeriCorps, a federal agency, brings people together to tackle the country’s most pressing challenges, through national service and volunteering. The Colorado Tutoring Corps Initiative is also supported by United Way of Weld County and United Way of Larimer County. For more information on the initiative or to inquire about serving for AmeriCorps please visit youthforachange.org.