Expanded programming to mitigate COVID-19-related learning loss

Traci MurphyJuly 19, 2021

At Lead to Read KC, we’re deeply concerned about Kansas City students and the impacts of the pandemic on student learning. In response to national research showing the negative impact on young learners, we have broadened our programming to include a new program, Hoot Tutoring. And, we’ve expanded our summer school program.

While the full effect of the pandemic is still unknown, we know Kansas City students struggled with reading before the pandemic. 2019-2020 MAP scores showed just 25 percent of third graders within the KCPS boundaries reading on grade level. The state average is 49 percent*.  

A recent study by researchers at Stanford University reviewed reading assessments from 100 school districts in 22 states last spring and fall. They discovered a 30 percent decrease in oral reading fluency scores for students in second and third grades. While this learning loss may not be surprising, it should be concerning to everyone.

“A large body of prior research has identified literacy by the third grade as critical for students’ future academic and life success. If students are unable to regain this loss, they may experience delays in other reading-related skill-building, making it difficult to access future academic content and learning.” Policy Analysis for California Education, Stanford University

And, according to a 2020 study by McKinsey & Company, school shutdowns could not only cause disproportionate learning losses for students of Black and Hispanic heritage  — compounding existing achievement gaps — but also lead more of them to drop out.

Hoot Tutoring Program

Research looking at young learners (roughly preschool to second grade) shows they were the hardest hit by the pandemic and recommends several supports, including tutoring and having young students in summer programs. 

To meet that need, we’ve partnered with the team at Hoot to offer a new program, Hoot Tutoring. Two to four times a week, students receive online personalized instruction from an experienced, certified classroom teacher. The intensive tutoring program provides measurable results in just 15 one-to-one lessons. 

Summer School

To help students in the metro catch up with their reading skills this summer, Lead to Read KC is working with nearly 300 first, second, and third graders, tripling our summer capacity. You may remember we shifted to digital reading and mentoring sessions using the Hoot Reading program in 2020. (Check out a reading session in action.) So far this summer, we’ve used a blend of Hoot Reading and Lead to Read KC staff-led read-alouds in the classrooms. This combination lets students read with a mentor plus hear expressive, fluent reading, which helps build their foundational skills. And all of our summer school students received books to encourage reading at home. 

Relationships Matter

The social-emotional toll of the pandemic is something we can’t overlook. According to the Education Trust, strong relationships between students and adults in the classroom such as those formed in Lead to Read KC encourage student engagement, belonging and learning

We can’t wait to get back into the classrooms with our young readers this fall! Until then, our tutoring program and summer school strategy are helping students to catch up and keep up with their fundamental reading skills. 

How to Help

Lead to Read KC students need reading and mentoring now more than ever. And Lead to Read KC is receiving a tremendous number of requests for our services. To deliver on these requests, we need additional volunteers to read in the classrooms this fall. Learn more about becoming a Reading Mentor at leadtoreadkc.org/volunteer and invite your friends and colleagues to volunteer with you!

Questions about volunteering? Contact Lead to Read KC Volunteer Manager Hayley Rees at volunteer@leadtoreadkc.org

Questions about Hoot Tutoring? Contact Lead to Read KC Program Manager Bev Leonard at bev@leadtoreadkc.org

*Set the Schools Free, a Kansas City Public Education Blog

Lead to Read KC Site Coordinator reading to students