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On December 15th, 2022 the New Jersey Department of Education announced the creation of the state’s “Partnership for Student Success.” With Governor Phil Murphy at her side, Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan described a bold initiative to recruit and train 5,000 tutors who would help students recover from pandemic-induced learning loss. NJPSS, she said, would serve “as a central point of reference for district administrators, educators, and parents to access resources, professional development opportunities, and funding opportunities to bolster our educational system.” Murphy added that the new program would “address the challenges of our school community” in supporting “the social, emotional, and academic needs of students.”
How’s that going?
At Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting, six months after the launch of Allen-McMillan’s initiative, she updated the public on her progress. Currently NJPSS has recruited, trained, and “introduced” 259 tutors to school districts, 5 percent of the Murphy Administration’s goal of 5,000 tutors.
Last month Allen-McMillan underwent harsh questioning from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee because of the what Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz called the DOE’s “lack of urgency” three years after COVID-19 school closures and the subsequent “staggering learning loss.” She lambasted the Commissioner for sending $3.8 billion of federal emergency funds back to the federal government because she couldn’t find a way to spend it. “It’s shameful for any of us to send back a quarter to the feds,’ Ruiz said, noting that she would have spent that money for a pilot summer reading program or sent it to a district to help repair a roof. “It’s absurd to me that we would have sent any money back.”
What if we had used some of that money to pay qualified tutors instead of hoping for volunteers? That’s what Tennessee did, not only creating a statewide paid tutoring corps but also incentivizing districts to use at least 50% of their COVID money on research-based interventions like high-dosage tutoring. But that’s not how we roll. New Jersey districts divvied up $2.8 billion with no oversight from the DOE, some districts spending it wisely and others using it for turf fields and promotional videos.
Below is a slide from Allen-McMillan’s presentation to the Board on Wednesday.
[photo credit] Flickr: Phil Murphy