‘Academic booster shot’: Fairfax Co. schools to launch virtual tutoring after spring break

Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia’s largest school district, plans to offer free online tutoring sessions to all students as part of its efforts to help students overcome what it’s calling “unfinished learning.”

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand said unlimited tutoring in any subject for every grade level will be available through a new partnership with Tutor.com. The rollout will begin after spring break.

The tutoring service, which Brabrand said is intended to complement in-person efforts underway in schools, is the county’s latest effort to help students who faced challenges associated with virtual learning. The county opted to create the program after research for students with unfinished learning found the most notable academic gains came from one-on-one tutoring, he said.

“This is going to be really a post-pandemic booster shot, a post-pandemic academic booster shot for our students,” Brabrand said. “I hope it’s seen that way too, for our families as well.”

The service will enable students to connect with a tutor online at any time, according to a newsletter sent to the school community. Tutors will communicate with students through voice or text chat and are available before, during or after school hours and on weekends.

Sessions will be available in English, Spanish and other languages, Brabrand said, and the sessions will be recorded, with a transcript available to students and parents at the end of the meeting. Tutors are required to pass an application process and background check, the school system said, and personal information isn’t shared between the tutor and the student.

The digital partnership is being crafted with federal government funding the district received from the American Rescue Plan Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III Fund.

The online tutoring will supplement efforts each school is already offering, Brabrand said. School board member Laura Jane Cohen said last week that many schools are offering students the opportunity to receive additional support before or after school in the form of reading and math groups.

“We’re already involved in tutoring at the school level, but many of our teachers are just tired,” Brabrand said. “They’re not ready to do tutoring after a long day of work. This is going to give them an extra set of hands frankly at a scale that allows all of our students to access tutoring.”

Students will have access to the virtual tutoring site unless a parent or guardian opts them out of participating, the county said. Families are expected to soon get an email with additional details about the service and further opt-out information.

Brabrand expects the program to be popular. He said he has already been asked when the extra help will be available.

“This is a chance to go fully to scale,” Brabrand said. “Every kid in FCPS, whether you’re in a special program, or in a special class, just every child in our system at every level who wants tutoring can get it. That’s a powerful, I think, accelerator for learning.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the languages the service will be available in.)

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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