Parents found to be just as effective as teachers in tutoring young readers, according to Oakland study

A recent study indicates that a parent-led tutoring initiative in Oakland achieved similar reading gains for young students as classroom teachers, suggesting that this approach could be replicated in other school districts. The report, conducted by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at Arizona State University, recognizes community members as untapped resources in enhancing student achievement.

Susana Aguilar, one of the literacy liberators from The Oakland REACH, emphasized the importance of building trust with students for effective teaching.

Oakland Unified’s tutoring model has broader implications for improving basic reading and math skills in schools. Traditionally, one teacher is responsible for modifying lessons for numerous students, making it challenging to meet individual learning needs. The pandemic has further highlighted the limitations of this model.

According to the Center on Reinventing Public Education, students who received tutoring saw similar gains compared to those who didn’t. (Center on Reinventing Public Education)

Lakisha Young, CEO of The Oakland REACH, expressed satisfaction with the impressive progress seen in students. The organization initially focused on improving literacy instruction before the pandemic and collaborated with the local NAACP to advocate for a research-based reading program. When remote learning quality during COVID was questioned, The Oakland REACH launched its own structured reading skills program, which proved successful.

The Oakland REACH founder, Lakisha Young, understands the challenges parents faced during remote learning. (The Oakland REACH)

The Oakland REACH expanded its services to students during the school year and received a significant $3 million donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. The organization collaborated with the district to bring about positive change.

The Oakland REACH played a significant role in bridging the gap between the district and the predominantly Black and Hispanic community it serves. The organization recruited a diverse mix of tutors, including retired educators, former security guards, and stay-at-home moms, reflecting the student population they serve.

Tutors underwent an eight-week fellowship provided by FluentSeeds to learn how to implement the district’s phonics-based early reading curriculum. The fellowship also facilitated discussions about tutors’ own literacy experiences and struggles.

The report indicated the effectiveness of the tutoring effort, particularly in kindergarten. Tutored students demonstrated almost a year’s worth of progress compared to non-tutored students on the iReady assessment. However, the impact diminished in the first and second grades.

Addressing the challenges of recruiting and retaining tutors, especially related to low pay rates, remains a priority for The Oakland REACH and the district. Budget constraints pose an ongoing challenge, but the recent positive results serve as proof of the tutoring model’s effectiveness.

Oakland should prioritize funding for successful tutoring approaches and reconsider support for less effective methods based on the study’s findings.

This article originally appeared in The Oakland REACH and The 74.

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