PED launches free, online tutoring services for New Mexico students

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico education leaders are working to improve student report cards across the state – through free tutors.

“It’s all about getting kids caught up and not just caught up with the thing that’s happening tomorrow but caught up with all of the grade-level standards,” said Kenneth Stowe, curriculum & instruction director for the state’s Public Education Department.

On Thursday, the state launched a new, on-demand tutoring service called paper. It’s a 24/7 service that connects students with real-life tutors across the nation who can answer questions in over 200 different subjects — and it’s completely free for New Mexico students.

“Paper is going to meet the students where they’re at, and that’s at home,” Stowe said. “If your kindergarten student really needs support with phonemic awareness, they can log in to paper and get that help right then and there. If you’re a sixth-grade student, or perhaps an eighth-grade student taking algebra 1, and you’re an advanced eighth-grade student taking algebra one, you can get help through paper.”

PED leaders say they used roughly $3.2 million in covid relief funds to contract the new service – which is already being used in 34 other states.. Paper is available for all pre-K through eigth-grade students attending Title 1 schools – that includes tribally controlled schools. Stowe says the service can be used in both English and Spanish.

“Our students have needed these supports long before the pandemic, and we’re just now being able to launch these programs to provide that direct support to students straight from the public education department,” Stowe said.

The PED is also offering a more intense tutoring option in the new year.

In January, the PED will launch the New Mexico Math Tutoring Corps for eighth to 12th graders. The 14-week course will solely focus on Algebra 1 proficiency. The program will include up to three 45-minute online sessions taught by local educators – which includes current and retired teachers as well as some college students.

Stowe says the high-dosage tutoring program is meant to help the most struggling students.

“We’re really encouraging teachers and schools to identify those students that are either not on track to achieve grade-level standard mastery, or perhaps failed last semester or last year, and are kind of in that at-risk model,” he said.

Stowe says individual sessions will be limited to just four students. There will be availability before, during, and after school hours to accommodate different schedules. As of Thursday, there were only 75 spots left for the new program, but students will be able to join a waitlist.

Stowe says the PED is planning to offer a similar tutoring program for sixth-grade math, early literacy, and other subjects next summer.

The PED’s investment in tutoring resources comes just about three months after standardized test data revealed staggering low proficiencies in math, science and reading. Many education leaders have blamed the poor performance on learning loss from remote learning during the pandemic.

“The reality is students and families need support now,” Stowe said.

PED reps say they are partnering with a research firm to measure the success of the new programs. Stowe says current research is largely limited to urban areas; however, he noted the promising results from those studies.

“Students are 50% more likely to pass their content area courses experience reduced absenteeism, higher graduation rates, and an increased sense of belonging in their school community,” he said.

Click here for more information about the PED’s free tutoring program.