Stalled Funding for High-Dosage Tutoring Wreaks Havoc for New Jersey Students

Funding for the $52 million tutoring program will likely stretch into the new year — concerning superintendents and advocates across the state.

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Updated Nov. 3

The New Jersey Department of Education today announced district funding for its high dosage tutoring initiative “Learning Acceleration Program: High-Impact Tutoring.” The department, which initially said funding would be announced Oct. 11, said earlier this week that funding would not be announced until December pushing implementation into the new year.

New Jersey’s $52 million high-dosage tutoring program is months behind schedule — leaving thousands of students without urgently-needed academic help until after the new year.

Announced in February 2023, the “Learning Acceleration Program: High-Impact Tutoring” offered 570 of the state’s 665 districts up to $768,000 each to provide third and fourth grade students tutoring at least twice a week.

Originally set to begin October 11, districts will only just be finding out in December if they’ve been funded, causing frustration among New Jersey superintendents unaware of when they can either pay staff to offer the help or contract with tutoring companies.

If funding isn’t finalized until December, superintendents say they won’t be able to begin any tutoring initiatives until after the holidays, according to NJ Advance Media.

“The sad reality is that for months there’s been millions and millions of dollars allocated to tutoring and they’ve just been sitting there meanwhile we have children in classrooms who need additional support,” Paula White, executive director of JerseyCAN, told Maybach Media.

The delays come as New Jersey’s spring 2022 student learning assessments show a decline in math and English language arts scores — particularly among third and fourth grade students who are targeted for the program.

Russell Rogers, superintendent of Vernon Township School District, said he is uncertain of when his district will get funding after applying for $150,000 to hire a tutoring company.

Despite choosing a tutoring company from the state’s approved list, Rogers said his district is now being required to fill out more paperwork.

“It's a whole drawn out process,” Rogers told Maybach Media. “I don't think anyone's going to be able to start by the time they thought they would.”

Vernon Township School District is one of many districts that remain confused about what to do after the New Jersey Department of Education issued further guidance on October 11 for those seeking to hire a tutoring company.

Like Rogers, Paterson Public Schools spokesman Daniel Juan told Maybach Media his district is still in limbo whether they’ve been approved for funding.

New Jersey Department of Education spokeswoman Laura Frederick told Maybach Media funding amounts per district will be announced “shortly” but did not specify an exact date.

As districts wait for updates, advocates who attended the late October New Jersey School Boards Association Workshop told Maybach Media acting state department of education commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan confirmed funding will begin in December.

“I know that many of you are very concerned about [high-impact tutoring],” Allen-McMillan said at the workshop. “We thank you for your patience and know that we are working to advance this as quickly as possible.”

Educators and advocates were skeptical.

“We don’t have a lot of faith in what is being said…[and] I don’t know if December is going to happen,” one advocate who attended the workshop told Maybach Media anonymously to protect their identity.

White added how tutoring funds likely starting in December raises “huge flags.”

“We will essentially have lost the better part of the school year,” White said. “There's no question that we have compromised the ability to optimize our students’ learning by delaying this program.”

Shennell McCloud, chief executive officer of Project Ready and parent to three young children, said the delays have been detrimental for students across New Jersey — particularly those in urban districts with mostly Black and brown students.

“It’s devastating to me that we have not received any confirmation on tutoring programs,” McCloud told Maybach Media.

“Having access to a tutoring program that offers extended learning to even my own children would be beneficial to help get ahead of the learning loss they may be experiencing that I'm not even completely clear about,” she added.

In spring 2022, less than half of third and fourth grade students passed math and English language arts.

For third graders, 45.4% passed math and 42.4% passed ELA — a drop of 9.7% and 7.8% respectively compared to 2019.

For fourth graders, 39.4% passed math and 49.4% passed ELA — a drop of 11.6% and 8% respectively compared to 2019.

“No matter what is happening and no matter why we’re delayed, we need to get this programming to our communities that need it most,” McCloud said.

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