By Paula White
Committee Chair and Committee Members:
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Paula White, and I am the Executive Director of JerseyCAN, a bi-partisan education research and advocacy organization founded in 2013. JerseyCAN is committed to ensuring that all students across the State have access to high quality education options, with a particular focus on those students for whom such access is not yet a sustained reality.
Having been in this role since August 2022, I am well aware of JerseyCAN’s engagement on the issue of high-dosage tutoring and the work that preceded me in moving forward this important initiative. As such, I would like to begin today by thanking Senator Vin Gopal both for this bill, and for your leadership in securing $1M in the current state budget for the New Jersey Tutoring Corps. The value of this allocation, which has provided tutoring to over 2,500 children in New Jersey cannot be overstated, especially in light of the recent data on learning loss from the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP – the nation’s report card. In this moment in time, what we know for sure is that time is of the essence in recovering learning for our children, and thus our energy and resources must be funneled to interventions and initiatives that work. This is why we are thankful for the work that has already been done, and why we are here today to support this bill, because the evidence shows that high-dosage tutoring works.
For this current bill, JerseyCAN commends the comprehensive and diverse membership of the Tutoring Advisory Commission (TAC), which includes education leaders from several sectors, including business leaders and a parent representative. We further commend the placement of this program at the New Jersey Department of Labor, given the overlay of tutoring not only providing students with support, but also providing a workforce development pathway for tutors who may ultimately use this experience as a springboard for a teaching career. We are also elated to know – and as a traditionally trained teacher myself I am especially glad – that preference will be given to programs that partner with certified educator preparation programs in the state to use teaching candidates as tutors.
Tutoring is so, so valuable. It certainly addresses academic concerns, but it also builds relationships between students and trusted adults. This is highly valuable for students’ mental health and sense of belonging in the school and in the larger community where they live.
Another reason that this bill has our ardent support is because it encompasses tutoring that occurs during school hours, as well as tutoring that may occur outside of school hours, whether before or after school or during the summer months.
Here are three salient factors that we want to elevate today regarding tutoring:
- In-school tutoring that occurs during the regular school day is the most robust version of high-dosage tutoring, according to current research. This must be given due consideration since the bill does recognize this tutoring as an option.
- Tutoring should not be siloed. Optimal efficacy of high-dosage tutoring depends on the integration of such with the core curriculum in school and the NJSLA state standards that should govern this curriculum.
- Tutoring augments great schools and instruction but it cannot replace a strong curricular infrastructure and teachers delivering this curriculum with the pedagogical knowledge that they possess.
As this bill moves forward, we would also like to note important areas for modification:
- First, clarification is needed on section 4d. We want to clarify that tutoring programs for after-school and summer should be allowed at community-based organizations. This has been the delivery model and it is an efficient one that we should maintain.
- Second, the language in section 4.3(7) states, “…tutoring shall be data-driven and this program shall include interim assessments to monitor students’ progress.” We recommend stronger language here to place parameters around assessment such that they include both diagnostic, or baseline assessments aligned to NJSLA. This speaks to the issue of standard alignment that I mentioned above. It is really important to ensure that efforts to support our students are not disjointed but connected to the standards set forth by our state.
- Last, as an advocacy organization, we would be remiss not to insist that every effort be exhausted to locate funding for this broadened tutoring initiative. Tennessee, for example, is spending $200 million on tutoring. With a clear strategy for fiscal investment, high-dosage tutoring in New Jersey will have the best chance for success.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. We are eager to work with the committee in any way that might prove useful for advancing this bill, and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.