Tutors must be well trained
I heartily agree that intensive one-to-one tutoring in foundational reading and math skills can reduce the level of academic failure in Maryland public schools. For those who can afford it, private tutoring is the current practice for students who struggle to read. There are low-cost and free options through the Dyslexia Tutoring Center in Baltimore, but they cannot serve every student with low literacy skills.
The key difference between good tutoring and poor tutoring is the quality of the teacher preparation, and if tutoring is not offered by educators trained in the foundations of reading and code-based instruction, then sadly, any attempt to offer targeted tutoring will continue to waste money and emotional investment for students and their families.
Specialized language interventions taught by teachers prepared in the foundations of reading or community volunteers must be based on effective evidence-based reading methods also known as structured literacy. The Maryland Task Force to Study Implementation of a Dyslexia Education Program heard from reading experts across the country on the root causes of reading failure (60 percent of students in Maryland read below proficiency). Based on presentations and expert testimony, the panel will report to the Gov. Larry Hogan and the legislature by year’s end methods to create a dyslexia pilot program in Maryland that includes screening for reading problems, evidence-based interventions and in-service teacher training to address the gap in reading.
Results of demonstration projects in Ohio, Arkansas, Kansas and Pennsylvania provide definitive proof that improved identification, training and instruction improves reading performance among the most at-risk students. In one school system, the assistant superintendent insisted on professional development and fidelity monitoring of evidence-based reading instruction. The result — student reading performance increased so dramatically that they are now on their way to becoming one of the top systems within the state.
Students in Baltimore and across Maryland deserve effective reading instruction delivered by well-prepared teachers. The state should be leading reform efforts to close and the achievement gap.