Ontario’s recovery action plan missing long-term vision
Ontario’s new Learning Recovery Action Plan includes a resumption of EQAO testing, and funding for tutoring, reading programs, mental health, and experiential learning. Unlike plans in some other provinces and territories (see People for Education’s pan-Canadian tracker: Education strategies in response to COVID-19), Ontario’s plan does not include a long-term vision for educational recovery and renewal. Instead, its stated goal is to get students “back on track.”
Time-limited tutoring program star of recovery plan
The largest component of the Recovery Action Plan will support nine months of tutoring programs managed by school boards.
The province has allocated $175 million in time-limited funding for tutoring for the period from April to December 2022. Boards must have programs in place by April 1st, and half of the funding must be spent by the end of August 2022. A further $1.4 million increase is also being provided for tutoring programs provided by TVO/TFO.
The funding is being allocated to boards on a per pupil basis, based on an average ratio of 5 students per staff, though the groups can be smaller (or larger).
Additional parameters for these programs include the following:
- The programs should prioritize math and literacy skills, as well as other “foundational learning skills” (not defined in the memo).
- The programs can take place during the school day, before- and after-school, on weekends, and/or during the summer.
- Delivery models should focus on providing tutoring in-person and could include things like tutors present in a classroom to work with sub-groups of students, students withdrawn from regular classes for targeted support, or drop-in programs.
- School-based tutoring programs could be delivered by occasional teachers, educational assistants, Student Success teachers, or staff such as graduation coaches.
- Boards are encouraged to work with community partners to deliver programs.
Few details on implementation and evaluation
In their responses to the 2021-22 Annual Ontario School Survey, Ontario’s principals point to two overarching challenges: a lack of sufficient staff and a lack of consultation or forewarning about changes that directly and immediately impact students, families, and educators. While it is true that many students are struggling as a result of the pandemic and intermittent school closures, there is a possibility that the quick introduction of new tutoring programs could both add to the strain and be difficult to implement effectively.
The province will require school boards to assess the effectiveness of the tutoring programs, and report on the results of the tutoring, but it is not yet clear how or when those assessments will take place. EQAO results alone may not be a helpful measure of success, but approaches such as student and teacher surveys and tracking the impact of tutoring programs on marks and credit accumulation could help boards, educators, and policymakers understand what works.
It is not yet clear if school boards can use a portion of the funding for administration, coordination, and evaluation of the programs. But it will be difficult to have all the components in place by April 1st.
Can large-scale tutoring support students and teachers in addressing lost instructional time? The short answer is yes, but only if we pay close attention to the details of implementation to avoid the mistakes of the past.
Adam K. Edgerton, Learning Policy Institute
Engagement, design, monitoring, and evaluation—these things take time
In response to a wave of new tutoring programs, the Learning Policy Institute in the United States, conducted a review of the research on tutoring by examining the results from 96 large scale randomized control trials.
The research led to four overall conclusions about the necessary ingredients to ensure tutoring programs are effective:
- They employ certified classroom teachers, paraprofessional staff, teacher candidates enrolled in preparation programs, or well-trained and paid tutors.
- Tutoring is provided at least 3 days per week for at least 30 minutes, as part of the regular school day, in groups of 5 or fewer.
- Programs include capacity-building investments in training and ongoing support.
- Programs build relationships among students, tutors, and teachers through structured time and alignment with regular classroom curriculum.
The United Kingdom also introduced tutoring programs to offset the impact of the pandemic. An early evaluation by the Education Endowment Foundation pointed to five key lessons learned:
- Ensure that the objectives are clear and grounded in evidence.
- Consult stakeholders from the beginning of the process, throughout, and in the end.
- Consider the long-term impacts of every short-term decision.
- Don’t try to accomplish too much; keep expectations focused, realistic, and manageable.
- Identify key data points and plan for their robust collection.
Given the short time-frame for implementation of Ontario’s tutoring plan, it will be challenging, if not impossible, for the province, school boards, and schools to ensure that all of the proven criteria for success are in place.
Read more about Ontario’s education plans:
- Learning Recovery Action Plan
- 2022-23 Grants for Student Needs funding (GSN)
- Capital funding for the 2022-23 school year
- 2022-23 Priorities and Partnerships Funding (PPF)
- 2022-23 Priorities and Partnerships Funding allocations(includes board by board funding for tutoring programs)