Report Calls for $109 Million Investment in High Dosage Tutoring, along with increased Social and Emotional Learning Supports to Help Bring Students Back from Pandemic

[STOCKTON, CA] – Today, San Joaquin A+ released an education policy brief titled: Stuck in Neutral: How Governance Failures Have Held Back Progress in Stockton Schools and How More Focused Investment in Our Students Can Help Them Accelerate Forward. The brief is a status report on the state of education across San Joaquin County.

The report shines a light on how despite pockets of progress across the county, dysfunction and leadership failures on the Stockton Unified School Board is holding back educators and students in the County’s largest and highest need school district; it then lays out a path forward for academic recovery from learning loss due to COVID-19 with more focused and transparent investment to support students.

“We at San Joaquin A+ applaud the herculean efforts of teachers, parents, and school staff for the work they’ve done to support students over the last few years” shared Don Shalvey, CEO of San Joaquin A+. “When we look at what is happening in schools across San Joaquin County’s largest school system, data shows students are falling behind, and local feedback indicates that students and educators feel stuck in neutral.”

The report is broken into a few key sections: It highlights pockets of progress in communities around San Joaquin County, identifies systemic challenges posed by the governance failures of the SUSD school board, and shares key areas where more focused investments would help  catch students up. One of the pockets of progress highlighted is in Lodi USD, where they’ve spent federal funds on innovative tutoring and support programs.

“Children suffered in many ways as a result of COVID-19 and much of its impact continues today,” added Cathy Nichols-Washer, Superintendent of Lodi Unified School District. “Now, our priority is to re-engage children in school by offering a variety of high interest, high quality programs to help them move forward academically and socially. We want our students to be excited about learning and eager to explore new interests.”

The systemic challenges portion of the report, highlights several key barriers to student progress:

  • A Failure of Governance: The leadership turnover in SUSD where there has now been six superintendents in six years. In addition to the two Grand Jury Reports on the School Board’s governance issues.
  • Financial Red Flags: This year, the Grand Jury issued a second report, this time honing in on the district’s poor business practices, conflicts of interest, lack of transparency in spending and contacts, and budget shortfall of at least $30 million by 2024.
  • Lack of Academic Data Continues: Lastly, lack of state academic data (2021 testing, the most recent available, was basically optional) has inhibited accountability for the impact these actions have had on students, but national data would indicate that students are falling behind in districts across the US, and most dramatically for lower-income children.

“As a former educator and long time Stockton resident, I know our teachers and staff care about students just as much as educators in the other districts across our county and State,” shared Bruce Roberson, the former head of the education committee for the Stockton branch of the NAACP and a retired teacher from the Lincoln Unified School District. “Over the last few years though, we’ve seen bad school board leadership get in the way of good teaching and learning, and we need to work together to help our students realize their potential.”

SJA+ identifies solutions that will mitigate learning time lost during the pandemic and help students develop as learners. One of those solutions is high dosage tutoring – a form of tutoring in which students receive targeted support in very small groups on a sustained, daily basis, during the school day, to accelerate their learning in an individualized manner.

The report uses a Covid learning loss Calculator (Calculator – Edunomics Lab), created by the Edunomics Lab at the University of Georgetown and their Director, Marguerite Roza. The Calculator estimates the costs to help students recover academically from Covid. When looking at what it is going to take over the next two years for SUSD students to catch up:

  • Roza and her team estimate that kids in Stockton Unified lost 23 weeks of learning in math and 21 weeks in reading.
  • The estimated costs for high dosage tutoring was $67,842,482 in Math and $41,919,892 in reading, or a total of roughly $109 million dollars to catch SUSD students up.

The good news as the calculator shows, is that United States government provided $156 million in ESSER III funds (part of the total $250 million Stockton Unified received for COVID relief in total) for tutoring and other needs through 2021 that needs to be spent over the next several years. These federal funds should be directed right into high dosage tutoring strategies to catch students up and accelerate their learning.

“The stakes are high,” noted Dr. Marguerite Roza, Director of the Edunomics Department at the University of Georgetown. “With loads of money and an expiration date approaching, districts need to stay focused to make sure investments are having their intended effect: ensuring that kids are making progress on reading, getting up to speed in math, and staying on track to graduate. Where investments aren’t effective, districts should be pivoting to redirect funds accordingly—and doing so ASAP.”

Other solutions pointed to in the report include increasing social emotional support for students, and engaging with school board candidates to ensure that new board members are committed to transparency and community engagement around spending if elected. The report concludes that students and educators have shown that they are ready to learn, but poor governance is holding them back.

“Ultimately, in order to help our students get ‘unstuck’ – and caught up,” continued Don Shalvey, “we need to hold our local school boards accountable to invest in more focused strategies to target student learning loss. The money is available, we just need to come together to put it to use for our students.”

You can read more about the report here: