With math test scores on a downward spiral in Maryland schools, the state education department is launching a grant program that gives millions to school systems to hire hundreds of math tutors.
The Maryland State Department of Education announced the new Maryland Tutoring Corps program Thursday afternoon. Its launch comes after President Joe Biden called for more tutors, according to a news release, and after math test scores were abysmal around the country, including in Maryland.
The percentage of proficient Maryland fourth graders in math dropped eight points from the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress results to 31% in 2022. Out of the 196 schools in the Baltimore region — including a handful in high-performing districts such as Howard and Carroll counties — less than 5% of students passed the Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program math test in at least one grade in spring 2022.
The new tutoring initiative is a direct response to the need for academic recovery, according to the state. Federal COVID-relief funding will pay for a “high-quality, school-day tutoring for secondary math that will mitigate long-term learning loss resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the news release stated. The program targets middle school students, algebra students of any grade level and historically underserved populations such as Black students, students from low-income families, English learners and students with special needs.
The grant program is a collaboration of the state education department and the National Partnership for Student Success, an organization that provides academic tutors, mentors and coaches to students. School systems can apply for a grant of up to $10 million to create a permanent tutoring program that can “sustainably recruit, train, deploy, and support tutors to work directly with students who are not proficient in math.” That’s amid a teacher shortage that’s left school systems with hundreds of educator vacancies.
On a press call, State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury said existing teachers aren’t the only option for tutors. The jobs could go to college students or retired educators, for instance. He also said schools will have to “re-imagine the school day” when implementing the program. It doesn’t have to be at the end of the school day or an after-school program.
The state suggests school systems partner with their local governments, higher education institutions, nonprofits or the governor’s Maryland Corps program. Grant funding could reach $30 million with a two-to-one match from other parties like private philanthropy, businesses or community organizations.
“By joining forces with experienced organizations and passionate individuals, Maryland will foster a transformative educational environment that empowers students to overcome challenges, excel academically and thrive in the future,” Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat, said in a news release.
Choudhury said in the same release that math was trending downward before the pandemic. He called the program a “strategic investment” for “evidence-based math intervention.”
The grant application closes Aug. 15, giving districts less than two months to put a plan in place. More information on the grant program can be found on the state education department’s website.