School Zone: How some DC-area school systems are using tutoring to address learning loss

D.C. has announced a $20 million investment in what it calls high-impact tutoring to address learning loss during the pandemic. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/monkeybusinessimages)

Welcome to the School Zone, WTOP’s weekly feature about the latest topics and trends in education across the D.C. region.

How tutoring is being used to address learning loss across DC region

What it is: In an effort to help students catch up after the pandemic forced a pivot to virtual learning, D.C. announced a $20 million investment in what it calls high-impact tutoring.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said 12 community-based organizations received grants to provide the tutoring, including George Washington University’s Math Matters program. The initiative aims to serve more than 9,000 students in the next two academic years.

Bowser’s administration said the program is aimed to “address disrupted instruction” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

A study from Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research found that remote learning during the pandemic was a “primary driver” of worsening achievement gaps.

The research revealed that gaps in math achievement weren’t exacerbated in school districts that continued in-person instruction.

End-of-year assessments across the D.C. area will provide further insight into student progress.

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What it means: In D.C., the focus is on what the city describes as high-impact tutoring efforts.

The plans differ from from traditional tutoring efforts, because they call for programming for a minimum of 90 minutes per week in English language arts and/or math.

D.C. State Superintendent Christina Grant told WTOP that she’s proud of the progress city schools made before the pandemic, and that gaps in student performance could be expected after learning disruptions.

Big picture: Grant says the new tutoring plans are the “byproduct of a new reality” of what schools will need to do to assist students.

In the D.C. region, Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia recently provided students access to a virtual tutoring program using the website

As of May 9, more than 6,700 tutoring sessions have been held, a school system spokeswoman said. She said roughly 2,400 students used the platform, with nearly 94% suggesting they would recommend using the online tutoring services.

And Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland announced two new tutoring providers in February.

Talking points: Grant, in D.C., says the fluid nature of the pandemic has been top of mind.

“I know that we will be shifting from a pandemic stage, hopefully, to an endemic stage where COVID can be a part of our new normal. But the new normal will require us to approach teaching and learning in schools in new ways,” she said.

Loudoun Co. schools counsel provides update on AG subpoena request

This week, counsel for Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia told school officials that employees received subpoenas to provide records related to the investigation by the state attorney general’s office into the county’s handling of sexual assaults.

WTOP caught up with WTOP’s Mike Murillo for the latest. This conversation has been edited for length.

Q: What did school board members learn this week regarding subpoenas from Jason Miyares’ office?

A: They learned that members of the Loudoun County School system have begun receiving subpoenas as part of the state-led investigation into the school system. The school system lead attorney said the letters are going out to individual employees, and while the school system is recommending those employees bring the subpoena to the legal department before complying, the intimidation of receiving a document could have resulted in some complying before the school system’s lawyers had a chance to comb through the documents.

The board also learned there are some broad requests included in the subpoenas, which include providing documents, correspondence, etc. with keywords such as Title IX, Sexual Assault, Facebook and Transgender Policy.

The group Equality Loudoun recently alleged that the document requests were targeting the school system’s LGBTQ community, something Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares’ office refuted. Responding to those allegation, Robert Falconi, counsel for the school system, said so far he has not seen any subpoenas that request the identities of transgender students.

Q: What case/investigation are the subpoenas related to?

A: This investigation is tied to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order, which called for an investigation into LCPS after its response to two sexual assault cases, committed by one student at two separate schools, received scrutiny last year.

[Read the story about the school board meeting on]

By the numbers
Here, I take a look at some data that caught my eye this week.

Superintendent search: Several local school systems have hired new leaders in recent months.

Monifa McKnight got the top job in Montgomery County, Michelle Reid in Fairfax County and Cheryl Dyson in Frederick County.

Now, Anne Arundel County has narrowed its list of finalists to 15 candidates. Forty-seven people applied before the April 30 application deadline.

[Read the story about the Anne Arundel superintendent search on]

What Scott’s Reading

  • DC, Maryland and Virginia high school students named presidential scholars [WTOP] 
  • Phasing out resource officers in DC schools to continue as planned [WTOP]
  • Longtime Fairfax Co. teachers could see pay bump under budget proposal [WTOP]
  • After COVID cases surge, some Johns Hopkins students want online exams [Washington Post]
  • New elementary school in Gaithersburg to be named in honor of Harriet Tubman [Bethesda Beat]
  • Girl, 17, Arrested for Bomb Threat Prompting Evacuation of Emhoff From Event at Dunbar High School [NBC Washington]
  • Anne Arundel County schools report most COVID-19 cases in the region [Capital Gazette]

Field Trip 

Here’s a fun thought ahead of the weekend.

Bottomless brunch: A field trip indeed. We’re moving a few blocks around the corner this weekend. The reward will be bottomless brunch at Doi Moi on 14th Street on Sunday. The hibiscus daiquiris are delicious, as are all of the pasta dishes.

Keep in touch: Have a school story idea we should know about? Send it to

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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