Haslams launch tutoring program
Former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and his wife Crissy Haslam announced they were establishing a statewide tutoring program to help grade school students at risk of falling behind because of COVID-19 classroom closures.
The program will employ at least 1,000 college students, many of whom are missing summer internships as the pandemic pummels the economy. The student tutors will receive a $1,000 stipend, the Haslams said.
The Haslams framed the effort as a natural extension of their past work to expand access to education, particularly among low-income students. It also serves as a flare, drawing attention to a “summer slide” exacerbated by a pandemic.
Research shows most students forget some lessons during their three month summer vacation each year. The education nonprofit NWEA said the drop this year could be much worse, predicting kids could lose as much as 50% of their new math knowledge before classes are scheduled to resume in the fall.
“As a country, we haven’t had enough concern about what we’re losing in kids’ education through this period,” Bill Haslam said in a phone interview discussing the tutoring project.
“We could not have gone to school in the spring. There was no way that was safe,” he said. “But it is important that we not just think everything is going to be back to normal when we return to school in the fall. Our teachers are going to have some big gaps to make up.”
Under the Haslams’ program, dubbed the Tennessee Tutoring Corps, college students would get training and then would begin working one-on-one with students ranging in age from kindergarten to sixth grade.
The Bill and Crissy Haslam Foundation is launching the program in partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs and other local groups.
“Hopefully it does a lot of good,” Crissy Haslam said. “If it does nothing else, it brings attention to the summer slide phenomenon.”
The Haslams made education a top priority while they were in public life.
Bill Haslam established the Tennessee Promise scholarship as governor, making community and technical college tuition-free for most residents. Crissy Haslam worked to improve literacy as Tennessee’s first lady.
They said the Tennessee Tutoring Corps fits in with that long-running work, even though it was quickly designed to respond to an unpredictable and unprecedented crisis.
Bill Haslam pushed Tennessee Promise as an equalizer that could ease income inequality by opening higher education to more people, regardless of their ability to pay. The same themes are in play now, he said.
“We know there’s an issue around income inequality and unequal opportunity in our country,” Bill Haslam said. “We also know that in times like this, those issues get exacerbated. The differences in opportunity become even more pronounced.
“The best answer to those problems is great public education.”
The Haslams said they began working on the program three to four weeks ago. They will begin vetting tutors this week with instruction expected to take place from June to August.
College students interested in tutoring can apply to participate at www.tntutoringcorps.org. Qualified tutors must be current college students and must pass a background check.
Participants will get about three hours of in-person instruction a day, although plans might be adjusted if face-to- face teaching isn’t safe during the summer.
The program is expected to target low-income students, who typically fall further behind during summer break.
Students will be assessed before and after the tutoring program to gauge its efficacy. Bill Haslam said the program could continue and expand if it helps enough students retain knowledge.
“We’re obviously hoping it has a big impact, and if it does, we will consider doing it in future years,” he said.
The Haslams said they plan to continue working on education initiatives as private citizens.
Both of them had parents who were first-generation college students. Expanding educational opportunities for others has become a passion in and out of office.
“In some ways, I think it could be seen as a justice issue,” Crissy Haslam said.
“Without a good education, we wouldn’t probably be where are we have been able to go,” she said. “I do think it’s one of the things holding back so many students who don’t have the opportunities we had.”
Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Adam Tamburin
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Published May 14, 2020