Are Northern Virginia students using virtual tutoring services?

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

How many Northern Virginia students are using digital tutoring?

What it is: In an effort to help students remain on track in the aftermath of the pandemic, several school systems across the D.C. region partnered with online tutoring services that are, in many cases, available 24/7 and provide students with the personalized feedback that experts say can advance learning.

Proponents of the offering suggest it complements in-person tutoring services. Critics say virtual learning is a big part of the reason students are so behind, so solving the problem with another digital service may not be helpful.

In Fairfax County, Virginia, former Superintendent Scott Brabrand touted a partnership with Tutor.com as an “academic booster shot.” Arlington Public Schools partnered with a similar service, called Paper. In Montgomery County, Maryland, students have access to programs called FEV Tutor and Tutor Me Education.

What it means: In some parts of our area, school systems report few students are using the virtual tutoring services because it hasn’t been well-advertised. School leaders are also paying close attention to which subject areas the services are being used for the most.

Regional snapshot: In Fairfax County, Virginia’s largest school system, a report released earlier this month found that the service wasn’t used by the students who need the most help. Nearly 3,200 students, or 1.6% of the school’s population, used Tutor.com last year. It was made available for the final weeks of school.


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Fairfax students will have access to the service in each of the next two years. The partnership is costing the county $2.8 million.

In Loudoun County, meanwhile, 2,550 students have engaged in 7,863 tutoring sessions since Tutor.com became available to them on Sept. 6, a county spokesman told me. High school students used it the most.

Loudoun County’s partnership with Tutor.com costs $1.6 million.

The tutoring sessions have an average 4.57/5 rating among students who completed a survey after the session.

Arlington Public Schools has made digital tutoring available through a deal with a provider called Paper. Between August and October of this year, over 2,000 students have used the program, Superintendent Francisco Duran said.

Eighth-graders have used Paper the most, and math is the top subject discussed during the tutoring sessions.

Talking points: Regarding usage of Paper, Duran, Arlington’s superintendent, said, “Our hope is that our teachers and our parents and our community will know more about this and continue to remind others who might not know it’s available. It’s just been in existence since August, so when something is first implemented and launched, (some people) may not know that it’s there. But it’s a great tool that is free and available, not just during the school day, but actually 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Sloan Presidio, Fairfax County’s chief academic officer, said the county is working to spread the word about Tutor.com. “We’re really working to push out communication about the service, because clearly, the feedback that we have from students who have used it, and from teachers whose students have used it, it’s all very, very positive. So we really need to get the message out that that’s a service available to any of our students and make sure it’s more widely used.”



By the numbers
Some data that caught my eye this week.

Bus driver bonus: Montgomery County, Maryland, school leaders this week said bus drivers will receive $25 for each extra route they drive. The county offered the bonuses for part of last year but hadn’t offered it so far this school year. School officials hope the efforts will help them retain bus drivers.

What Scott’s Reading

  • Officials begin external review of UVA shooting response [WTOP] 
  • Virginia bill would require transgender student-athletes play on teams based on biological sex [WTOP]
  • Acting Uvalde police chief during school shooting steps down [WTOP]
  • Father identifies teenager killed by driver in Baileys Crossroads area [Washington Post]
  • D.C. gets federal funds to help homeless students. But many schools in need are shortchanged [DCist]
  • ‘Bike-buses’ provide safety in numbers to APS students riding to school [ARLNow]

Field Trip 

Here’s a fun thought ahead of the weekend.

Friendsgiving and birthday celebration: We’re off to Montgomery County for a combination friendsgiving and birthday celebration. I see it as a good excuse to have turkey a few days early.

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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