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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Chicago invests in small-group tutors, while LA shifts to classroom teachers

Chicago Public Schools are relying on "academic interventionists" to help students catch up in reading and math, reports Mila Koumpilova for Chalkbeat. Most are classroom teachers who are now working one-on-one or in small groups with struggling students.

In the bid to speed up students’ academic recovery, Chicago leaders have bet on an arsenal of strategies. They’ve expanded after-school programs, started an in-house tutor corps, and poured millions in teacher training and a new in-house lesson bank called Skyline. They also tapped some 250 educators to serve as new academic coaches. There are more counselors, social workers, and other support staff.

At Sadlowski Elementary, "most of the school’s 620 students were flagged as needing intensive help at the start of the year," writes Koumpilova. Emily Gasca is working with 38 students. Some are third and fourth graders reading at kindergarten level.

Teresa Przybyslawski is an interventionist at Chicago's Brunson Elementary. Photo: Christian K. Lee/Chalkbeat

Districtwide, students in the early grades are improving, she reports. But there's a long way to go. For example, a quarter of second graders are "two grade levels below in both math and reading."

Los Angeles public schools are dismantling a tutoring program that had been "portrayed as a major success," reports Howard Blume in the Los Angeles Times. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says Primary Promise, which provides small-group instruction in K-3, is too costly and not very effective.

Instead, he plans to "add reading instructors at about two dozen middle schools and create jobs for about 200 coaches to help regular classroom instructors teach English learners more effectively," writes Blume. In March 2022, district officials said Primary Promise students "improved at a faster rate than students whose reading and math skills started off stronger," he reports. However, "there was no comparison with past years to assess the extent to which students who are behind typically make greater gains because their regular classroom teachers concentrate on catching them up.""

About 60% of Los Angeles Unified students test below state standards in English-language arts, and about 70% test below state standards in math. In an August interview with the Times, Carvalho "faulted the district for moving top-notch classroom teachers into Primary Promise and replacing them, in some cases, with under-qualified substitutes who were assigned to regular classrooms for as long as a year," writes Blume. "Under his revamped plan, no newly hired interventionists can begin until their former classroom is backfilled with a credentialed teacher, and the specialists in teaching English learners will focus primarily on training classroom teachers, rather than on working directly with students."


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