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Lawrence Township Education Foundation grant goes toward online tutoring program

Lawrence school district officials are dealing with challenges as the in-person school year was canceled.

Lawrence Middle School students who may be losing academic ground because of remote learning can catch up on their studies through one-on-one online tutoring, thanks to the Lawrence Township Education Foundation.

The foundation awarded a $10,000 grant to Lawrence Township Public Schools to arrange for FEV tutor – an online tutoring service – to help Lawrence Middle School students. The grant was made possible by a donation from Church & Dwight Co.

The FEV Tutor online tutoring program links middle school students with a professional tutor who will work with them in real time, said Karen Faiman, the executive director of the Lawrence Township Education Foundation.

The grant will pay for 800 hours of tutoring for any seventh- or eighth-grade student who needs help in any academic area, Faiman said. It is intended for the 2020-21 school year. If there are unused hours, they may be rolled over into the next school year.

Lawrence Middle School Principal Mindy Milavsky collaborated with Faiman on the proposal to offer one-on-one tutoring. It is already challenging to offer sufficient one-on-one help and support, Faiman said, so FEV Tutor will help.

“These virtual tutoring services are extremely flexible and will allow students to work with a tutor during the school day from home, or from school when they return to in-person learning, and on any day of the week,” Faiman said.

FEV Tutor is research- and evidence-based, Faiman said. It has a history of achieving results in public schools with at-risk students who are struggling, and with special education students. It is not student- or content-specific, she said.

Milavsky, the middle school principal, said the tutors will work collaboratively with the middle school teaching staff to monitor students’ progress.

“Any support we can get for our students who consistently struggle is a benefit,” Milavsky said. “It is important now, more than ever, that we provide as many supports as possible for our students. The FEV Tutor program will help us to do just that.”

Faiman cited a recent study that showed students overall were on track to lose nearly half of their potential reading growth by the beginning of the 2020-21 school year as a result of school closures last spring due to COVID-19.

The study also said the achievement gap between students from lower- and higher-income families was expected to widen, Faiman said. Missing in-person school for a prolonged period of time has significant impacts for all students, but it is especially harmful for at-risk students, she said.

While the school district is taking steps to make sure that students have access to “appropriate and engaging material” during remote learning, it is especially important to focus on students who have been most impacted by school closures – and that’s the point of retaining FEV Tutor, she said.

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