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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The University of Indianapolis announced Tuesday the Board of Trustees has unanimously approved the selection of Tanuja Singh as the university’s 10th president.

Singh currently serves as the provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Loyola University New Orleans, where she led the plan to build financial, intellectual and other mission-specific priorities.

David Resnick, chair of the UIndy Board of Trustees, says Singh’s specialty is aligning talent and priority, ensuring that the institutions she leads are meeting the expectations of learners and future employers.

Resnick said, “As higher education is rapidly changing, and with it the demands of our students and community partners, this makes her the right leader at the right time for UIndy.”

Previously, Singh served as the dean of Greehey School of Business at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and served in various roles at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill.

Singh also spearheaded the effort to restructure education geared toward meeting the expectations of nontraditional learners and breaking down barriers for those groups at several institutions.

At institutions throughout her career, Singh has led the development of several programs, including new majors, minors and concentrations, and collaborated in the creation of new graduate programs.

Singh also took roles in serving her campuses through enrollment management, student success programs, alumni relations, community engagement, and more.

Singh expresses excitement about her new position as president, saying that education must be responsive to the needs of its community, and is eager to move forward as UIndy and its students grow.

Singh said, “Helping our students discover their potential and supporting them in their endeavors is one of our most important goals. My charge is to make sure that we achieve this by increasing opportunities for them through collaborative participation; both within our campus community, but just as importantly, and how we engage with the city and beyond.”

Singh will assume her role as president on July 1.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Families of students at North Central High School and its staff were informed Monday night that the principal’s leave of absence will be longer than first thought.

Evans “Bryant” Branigan III was put on leave earlier this month, the Washington Township Schools district says.

The district says it’s investigating allegations of “verbal misconduct” and “failure to implement District protocols regarding a student discipline matter.”

He was put on paid administrative leave during the investigation “with outside counsel,” the district says, declining to provide any more information due to legal requirements until the probe is completed.

Branigan became principal in January 2012. In 2008, the school board had elevated Branigan to the post of associate principal in preparation for the top job. He is scheduled to retire at the end of the school year, and the district has begun interviews for a new principal. A new leader was expected to be named by the end of the school year.

Brian Davis, the current associate principal, is serving as North Central’s administrator during Branigan’s leave.

The school board on Wednesday is expected to name an interim principal for the school of 3,600 students in grades 9-12.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The superintendent of at Clark-Pleasant Community Schools in Johnson County will be the next leader of Perry Township Schools in Marion County, the district announced Monday.

Patrick Spray will replace Pat Mapes, who’s began leading the Marion County south-side district in July 2016 and set to leave the district in June.

Spray will go from a district with about 5,900 students and a single high school to Perry Township’s 16,000 students and two high schools, according to Indiana Department of Education information for the current school year.

The Perry Township district says in a news release that Spray has 15 years of experience leading schools as superintendent and four additional years as assistant superintendent. He has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Teaching from the University of Indianapolis, and a Master of Arts in Elementary and Middle School Administration/Principalship from Butler University. He also holds a PhD from Indiana State University in school administration and supervision.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Legislation moving in the Florida House would ban discussion of menstrual cycles and other human sexuality topics in elementary grades.

The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Stan McClain would restrict public school instruction on human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, and related topics to grades 6 through 12. McClain confirmed at a recent committee meeting that discussions about menstrual cycles would also be restricted to those grades.

“So if little girls experience their menstrual cycle in 5th grade or 4th grade, will that prohibit conversations from them since they are in the grade lower than sixth grade?” asked state Rep. Ashley Gantt, a Democrat who taught in public schools and noted that girls as young as 10 can begin having periods.

“It would,” McClain responded.

The GOP-backed legislation cleared the House Education Quality Subcommittee on Wednesday by a 13-5 vote mainly along party lines. It would also allow parents to object to books and other materials their children are exposed to, require schools to teach that a person’s sexual identity is determined biologically at birth and set up more scrutiny of certain educational materials by the state Department of Education.

McClain said the bill’s intent is to bring uniformity to sex education across all of Florida’s 67 school districts and provide more pathways for parents to object to books or other materials they find inappropriate for younger children.

At the committee meeting, Gantt asked whether teachers could face punishment if they discuss menstruation with younger students.

“My concern is they won’t feel safe to have those conversations with these little girls,” she said.

McClain said “that would not be the intent” of the bill and that he is “amenable” to some changes to its language. The measure must be approved by another committee before it can reach the House floor; a similar bill is pending in the Senate.

An email seeking comment was sent Saturday to the office of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is widely seen as a potential 2024 presidential candidate.

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign up for their newsletters at

As a senior at Indianapolis’ Ben Davis High School, Jacob Gregory enrolled in an Exploratory Teaching program. He thought of it as an easy way to leave school for a few hours, but it ended up sparking “an unknown interest in teaching,” he said. 

Today, the sixth grade math and science teacher at McKinley Elementary School is a quiet rock star. The school’s sixth grade growth scores in math are at nearly 58%, meaning more than half of the students met their individual growth targets on the state’s ILEARN test.

That kind of growth is well above the state average, and it’s one reason why McKinley Elementary had among the highest improvement rates in state test scores last year. 

Throughout the pandemic, Gregory held his students to high expectations, whether they were learning in person or virtually. 

“I never looked for ‘gaps’ or ‘learning loss.’ I never changed my teaching style or ‘geared it down’ just because we were sitting behind 12-inch screens,” he said. “I knew I could deliver quality instruction to my virtual and in-person students; it was just a matter of how I was going to pull it off virtually.”

In an interview with Chalkbeat, Gregory shared his insights on the challenges of middle school math, his advice for his younger self, and how he uses basketball to get kids excited to learn.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

How do you engage middle schoolers or get them excited about math?

I stress the importance of every little thing we do in our classroom — every lesson, every assignment, every test — understanding that we are all building toward our end goals and being fully prepared for the next school year. We really build a “rally cry” and celebrate the successes of everyone. It’s that buy-in that drives each sixth grader to want to do their best in math. Without calling it “competition,” they want to not only meet their goals but to do as well, if not better, than their peers.

Your principal has noted your math growth scores. How did you achieve that?

I cannot pinpoint one thing that would be the root of our growth. I’ve always wanted to meet each student exactly where they are academically and build on that. I’ve said it often: Everyone starts a marathon at the same spot, but not everyone runs at the same pace or finishes at the same time. Just like in our class, we all must get to the finish line somehow. 

I’ve immersed myself in our Eureka Math program and have been able to become an expert (with still plenty to learn) in where it begins and where it wants our students to finish. 

We use a program called Plickers every morning for our spiral review. It is five questions I’ve constructed that allow us to both review previous content and continue to work on current classroom content. I think sixth grade math students have so much to learn over the course of 180 days it becomes very difficult for them to remember what they learned in August to answer a standardized test question in April. Our Plickers allows us to never forget our “old friends” and keep them fresh throughout the year.  

You lead an NBA Math Hoops club — can you tell me more about that?

NBA Math Hoops is our math club. It’s a board game and mobile app curriculum that allows students to learn fundamental math skills through basketball using current NBA and WNBA players. Math Hoops improves important math and social-emotional skills. 

We recently had the opportunity to take some of our Math Hoops MVPs to a Pacers game and had a great experience. We will be heading to Gainbridge Fieldhouse on March 15 with our sixth grade to play NBA Math Hoops LIVE with the STEM nonprofit Learn Fresh and Pacers/Fever special guests.

What best describes your teaching method?

Everything has structure, a place, and a purpose in my classroom. There is no wasted motion or opportunities for learning. My students could tell any guest exactly how my class is run and in what order we do things. 

What was the hardest moment on the job for you in all of your career – and how did you overcome it? What advice would you give to other teachers facing challenges?

Not finishing our 2020 school year. Period. Nothing else. That group of students I had was very special and will always be dear to my heart because we never got to the finish line together. I feel COVID took something special away from us.  

I was once told in a curriculum training that it was “one day, one lesson,” which sounds bad when you think about “What if a student didn’t learn in that lesson?” or “What if there is something we didn’t get to?” But I started to think about that as a whole, and no matter how bad you think that day and that lesson went, there’s always tomorrow and that next lesson. 

What part of your job is most difficult?

Keeping my job at my job. I have a tough time detaching from work. My wife gets to hear all the stories, all the successes, the failures, and the struggles. 

It has taken 17 years, and I’m sure I still can’t quite grasp it, for me to understand that these are children who are often dealing with adult-type issues. A lot of time, their biggest concern that day is not how to divide fractions or find the surface area of a rectangular prism.

If you could go back in time to your first year of teaching, what would you tell yourself then, knowing what you know now?

“Back To The Future” is my all-time favorite movie, so don’t tempt me with getting in a DeLorean and going 88 miles per hour. I would tell myself: Don’t sweat the little things; there will be strikes and gutters, ups and downs. At the end of the day, if a student learned one new thing, you did your job.

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Marion County schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization covering public education.

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign up for their newsletters at

Indiana students could soon be required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a shift that supporters say could give students more money to go to college and convince more of them to enroll in higher education in the first place. 

The Indiana House Education Committee  voted 11-1 Wednesday to advance Senate Bill 167, which would create the requirement starting with the 2023-24 school year, although there would be several exceptions. Lawmakers also amended the bill Wednesday to have the requirement expire in 10 years.

“This money is going to be spent somewhere, when we have a chance to put our hand out, let’s take advantage of it,” state Sen. Jean Leising, a Republican and one of the bill’s authors, told fellow lawmakers last week. 

If the bill becomes law, Indiana would join at least eight other states who have this law.

The FAFSA is the form that students need to file to be considered for federal financial aid such as grants, loans and scholarships. States and colleges also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for their respective aid programs.

By not filing out the form, students in Indiana are leaving $69 million in Pell Grants on the table, Leising said last week.

“That doesn’t even count the [other] scholarships, we don’t even have an idea of that money that’s lost,” she added. “We have got to do something about this.”

And the money isn’t just for two- and four-year institutions. Filling out the FAFSA can also provide funds for students who want to use a Next Level Jobs Workforce Ready Grant for a short- or long-term credential, because the grant could use federal Pell Grant dollars.

The legislation would require all high schoolers  to complete and submit the FAFSA by April 15 of their senior year, which is the deadline to be eligible for state aid in addition to federal aid.

The bill includes exceptions for students at certain nonpublic schools, and for students who have a parent sign a waiver (emancipated minors can also sign it for themselves) to decline to complete the form. A school principal or counselor can also waive the requirement if they are unable to reach the student’s parent or guardian by April 15 after “at least two reasonable attempts.”

There was some concern about the bill during committee meetings. Rep. Tonya Pfaff, a Democrat,said during the vote that while she was supporting the bill, she still had concerns about the burdens on school counselors and wanted to work on that.

However, the exception in the bill to limit the attempts to reach families has eased that concern for others. And it could give the bill crucial support, after years of unsuccessful attempts to require students to fill out the FAFSA. 

What FAFSA says about Indiana’s college attendance

Completion of the FAFSA is considered a leading indicator of college-going. 

Just 53% of students in Indiana’s Class of 2020 went on to college, and many Hoosiers see college as too expensive. In a statewide survey by the Indiana Department of Education, only 27% of parents said postsecondary education is affordable.

Find your high school’s FAFSA completion rate

Visit the Indiana Commission for Higher Education Dashboard.

state dashboard of FAFSA completion shows that about 36% of Indiana’s high school seniors have completed a FAFSA.  

It’s not that there aren’t efforts to get the word out from the state and other groups. Indiana has had College Goal Sunday, an in-person event to help families sign up, for more than 30 years.

But that doesn’t mean every student or family knows about the form or if it’s for them. And schools with higher rates of students receiving free and reduced-price lunch tend to have the lower completion rates, said Josh Garrison, associate commissioner for public policy for the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, in a previous House education committee meeting.

The legislation would make sure that filing out or not filling out the FAFSA is a choice, not happenstance of who found out about it, advocates of the bill said. 

They added that filling out the form can also help reduce student debt.  FAFSA qualifies students for government loans that have lower interest rates than the private loans that they would get without the form, Garrison said.

 The committee meeting last week about the bill featured a show of support from organizations representing school boards, principals, and counselors, as well as public, private and community colleges in the state, and the Indiana and Indy chambers.

MJ Slaby oversees Chalkbeat Indiana’s coverage as bureau chief and covers higher education. Contact MJ at Chalkbeat Indiana partners with Open Campus on higher education coverage.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization covering public education.

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign up for their newsletters at

The school board for Edison School of the Arts voted on Tuesday to terminate the employment of executive director and CEO Nathan Tuttle immediately, following allegations that he used a racial slur when speaking with students earlier this month. 

The board also voted to terminate its agreement with Indianapolis Public Schools for the arts school to expand by running James Whitcomb Riley School 43, a move that was part of the district’s massive reorganization plan known as Rebuilding Stronger

Tuttle faced allegations that he used a racial slur against a student earlier this month. Tuttle previously told Chalkbeat he has never used a racial slur toward a child, but was speaking to a student who had used a racial slur and told that student not to do so.

But parents and staff claimed in the board meeting last week that Tuttle repeated the slur back to Black students as he was trying to explain to them what they should not say. 

The meeting to address the allegations last week boiled over into an hourslong public comment session with parents, students, and staff describing a hostile working and learning environment under Tuttle and two members of his administration. 

School employees alleged many teachers had left the school, while students claimed the administration created a culture of fear and silence. 

In one of four resolutions passed at the meeting on Tuesday, the board determined that Tuttle “observed a student using racially inappropriate language and repeated the racially inappropriate language while trying to discipline the student.”

The board also determined in its resolution that under Tuttle’s leadership, “a significant divide has developed among the students, parents, faculty, and staff of the school.”

The board voted 4-0 to terminate Tuttle. Members Keesha Dixon and Ted Givens abstained but did not state in the meeting their reasons for doing so. 

Tuttle did not respond to a request for comment.

The board made little comment about the resolutions during the meeting, instead reading each one into the record for a vote. 

The board also unanimously voted to appoint elementary school Principal Amy Berns as the interim building administrator who will report directly to the board. Sheena Roach will serve as middle school principal. 

In a fourth resolution, the board voted to conduct a review of all school policies and procedures regarding the use of racially inappropriate and offensive language, employee and student discipline, and procedures for guests on campus. 

Edison is an autonomous school within the IPS Innovation Network. It is one of the few Innovation schools not run by a charter operator. Instead, it is run by a nonprofit and its own school board. 

IPS signed an innovation agreement earlier this year for Edison to operate a second Innovation campus at James Whitcomb Riley School 43. 

In a statement, IPS said it agrees with the decision not to move forward with Edison’s expansion to School 43. 

“We believe Edison’s Board has responded to the feedback and concerns from staff and families and has taken the appropriate and necessary steps to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for its students, staff, and families,” the statement said. “As an IPS Innovation partner school, the district will continue to walk alongside the Edison community to provide support where needed.”

IPS administration will work closely with School 43 staff, families, and community members to determine a “new path forward” for the 2023-24 school year, the district said. 

Some parents and students claimed at the meeting last week that two members of Tuttle’s administration, Principal in Residence James Hill and Director of Operations Vionta Jones, also contributed to the school’s hostile environment. 

Board member Greg Wallis said that the board will review the organizational chart for the school. He said after the meeting that concerns about other administrators will be handled through a grievance process the school has with a third-party human resources firm. 

Hill and Jones declined to comment through a spokesperson at last week’s meeting and did not respond to an email request for comment. 

The board will also create an “Edison Empowers” parent committee to hear from parents in the school, Wallis said at the meeting. The board also plans to listen to staff and student reports at every board meeting. 

“The nature of these reports hopefully will move to things of a positive nature celebrating the successes and the great work that our students and that our staff do,” Wallis said. 

The board also will conduct a monthly personnel review of new hires, resignations, terminations, and reassignments “so that the board has visibility to those types of things that are happening that were raised at our last meeting,” Wallis said. 

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Marion County schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization covering public education.


Previous coverage

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A school bus driver has been accused of strangulation after a fight with a Pike Township Schools student.

Leslie Sea, 53, was accused of placing her hands around a student’s throat resulting in bodily injury on Feb. 1, court documents say.

Police officers say the incident happened inside a Pike Township school bus near the Guion Road and 62nd Street intersection.

News 8 spoke to one student who was on the bus when the argument started. “Rebecca,” a middle schooler, said, “I was like right a few feet away from the fight, so I was pretty close because it was my stop, so I was trying to get off, but I couldn’t, but there was this other boy. He was trying to press the buttons, but the bus driver said that he shouldn’t because he might press something wrong.”

Court documents say Sea told police officers that the student attacked her. Sea said that he attempted to get off the wrong bus stop. She said the student pulled her hair and she defended herself.

Police officers say the student told them that it was taking too long to get home.

He also got upset that she called him “little boy” and that he was just trying to defend himself.

The middle schooler said, “It was like the first seat on the bus. He was pushed down against him and the bus driver was trying to hold him down and everything and they were like kind of wrestling like that.”

According to police, the student visibly had bruising, scratch marks, finger marks, and welts on his throat.

The middle schooler says some students already did not like the bus driver. “She does sometimes say bad words to us. I remember one time this one was the only time that it really like hurt me when she said that we were all retarded.”

The middle schooler’s mother said, “If I had heard about that I think I would have done something. How would you call my daughter retarded? So, that’s really bad. … The school can they should maybe quarterly they should be finding once in a while ask the students: How do you like your bus drivers?”

The middle schooler’s mother also says it’s important that parents get to know the bus drivers that are taking their kids home.

Pike Township Schools officials say the staff member was immediately placed on leave and that an investigation is underway. The officials also say they will continue to provide training and ongoing support for all staff members.

According to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, Sea will have a court hearing at 9 a.m. March 21.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office was reaching out to the Pike Township Schools Police Department for permission to share Sea’s jail-booking photo, News 8 was told Tuesday.

(CNN) — Kraft Heinz has succeeded in getting its ready-to-eat packaged Lunchables into school lunch programs starting this fall, in a major new initiative. But the company had to reformulate the ingredients to ensure the products meet federal guidelines first.

A Kraft Heinz executive announced last month that the company is preparing to deliver its packaged ready-to-eat Lunchable kids meals directly to students by putting them in school cafeterias.

Carlos Abrams-Rivera, an executive vice president with Kraft Heinz, said two new varieties of Lunchables (separate from Lunchables sold in grocery stores), with “improved nutrition” that comply with the National School Lunch program requirements, will be served in K-12 schools nationwide, beginning this fall.

While Abrams-Rivera, speaking at the annual Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference on Feb. 21, didn’t provide details about the specific Lunchable products headed into schools, a company website appeared to show the new products.

Kraft Heinz described on its website, Kraft Heinz Away From Home, the Lunchable products that it said are “built for schools” and “now meet NSLP” (National School Lunch Program) guidelines. The NSLP, established in 1946, provides lunch daily to nearly 30 million students in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions.

The information posted on describes two products — “Lunchables Turkey and Cheddar Cracker Stackers” and “Lunchables Extra Cheesy Pizza” — as new for the 2023-24 school year and built for the lunchroom “but are also great for field trips, summer school and dinner programs. One of the main selling points for schools is that the Lunchables for schools don’t need to be frozen, but kept refrigerated, “minimizing [school] labor needs and costs.”

The packaging for the turkey and cheddar Lunchable option is described as a 3.5 ounce container. The document said it contains 2-ounce equivalents MMA (meat/meat alternative), one ounce equivalent of grain and “meets whole grain rich criteria” of the NSLP.

The extra cheesy pizza option comes in a 5.05 ounce container and contains 2 ounces equivalent of MMA, 2 ounce equivalents of grain, 1/8 cup of red/orange vegetable and “meets whole grain rich criteria” of the NSLP.

The USDA referred CNNBusiness to Kraft Heinz for further details about the cost and nutritional content of its Lunchables for schools. Kraft Heinz declined to provide additional details about the cost and other nutritional content, including sodium and saturated fat content.

School food nutrition guidelines getting stricter

The idea to roll out Lunchables in schools and potentially have schools provide them directly to students comes amidst new proposed changes to school food guidelines by the US Department of Agriculture, which oversees the federally assisted school meal program.

The proposed changes aim to reduce added sugars and sodium levels in school-provided lunches. The standards would reduce sodium limits gradually over several school years.

While school meals are paid for by local and federal funding, the standards for what goes on a kids’ cafeteria tray are set by the USDA.

The agency’s job is to make sure any meal served at school is nutritious and falls in line with the US Dietary Guidelines. Schools are mandated to offer students five meal components — fruit, vegetable, protein, grain and milk – and students must take at least three (and one has to be a fruit or vegetable) as part of their lunch.

Lauren Au, assistant professor at UC Davis’ Department of Nutrition who studies the effectiveness of school nutrition programs, said she would want to know the sodium, saturated fat and added sugar content in the reformulated Lunchables to determine if they are a beneficial addition to school lunches.

“Research shows that high intakes of sodium will over time increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and other diseases,” said Au. “The concern also is that young kids who are exposed to high sodium in packaged foods early in life could develop a preference for high sodium foods throughout their lives.”

The Lunchable Turkey & Cheddar Cheese with Crackers (3.2 ounce) tray sold in Target, for example, contains 740 mg of sodium in the one packet serving size. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should limit sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day—that’s equal to about 1 teaspoon of table salt. For children under age 14, the recommended limits are even lower.

Au said the cost of the Lunchables for schools interested in procuring them is something else that would come into play. “From the cost standpoint, I would be concerned that these might be more expensive than meals currently available and offered in the NSLP,” she said.

Meghan Maroney, federal child nutrition programs campaign manager at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), said “Kraft Heinz has been promoting it for a while now to school and state organizations,” she said.

Maroney said she’s also interested in learning about the complete nutritional makeup of the two Lunchable products to determine if they fully meet the current and proposed NSLP nutritional guidelines.

“Also, if the products are reformulated to meet NSLP guidelines, they will taste different from Lunchables sold in stores because of lower sodium, saturated fat and other requirements. This can be confusing for kids,” Maroney said.

But offering Lunchables in school cafeterias might be welcome in some school districts that are struggling with higher food costs and labor shortages, said Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokesperson for the School Nutrition Association, a trade group with 50,000 members representing school food service providers.

“As school nutrition guidelines get increasingly complex, we’ve seen companies leaving the K-12 segment, said Pratt-Heavner. “It’s good to see a company interested in selling to this segment. But I would see Lunchables as one of a couple of meal options, and not that schools are getting away from offering a daily hot meal option.”

Kraft Heinz is a partner of the School Nutrition Association.

— CNN’s Jen Christensen contributed to this story

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign up for their newsletters at

David Daniel knows his son needs help.

The 8-year-old spent first grade in remote learning and several weeks of second grade in quarantine. The best way to catch him up, research suggests, is to tutor him several times a week during school.

But his Indianapolis school offers Saturday or after-school tutoring — programs that don’t work for Daniel, a single father. The upshot is his son, now in third grade, isn’t getting the tutoring he needs.

“I want him to have the help,” Daniel said. Without it, “next year is going to be really hard on him.”

As America’s schools confront dramatic learning setbacks caused by the pandemic, experts have held up intensive tutoring as the single best antidote. Yet even as schools wield billions of dollars in federal COVID relief, only a small fraction of students have received school tutoring, according to a survey of the nation’s largest districts by Chalkbeat and The Associated Press.

In eight of 12 school systems that provided data, less than 10% of students received any type of district tutoring this fall. 

A new tutoring corps in Chicago has served about 3% of students, officials said. The figure was less than 1% in three districts: Georgia’s Gwinnett County, Florida’s Miami-Dade County, and Philadelphia, where the district reported only about 800 students were tutored. In those three systems alone, there were more than 600,000 students who spent no time in a district tutoring program this fall.

The startlingly low tutoring figures point to several problems. Some parents said they didn’t know tutoring was available or didn’t think their children needed it. Some school systems have struggled to hire tutors. Other school systems said the small tutoring programs were intentional, part of an effort to focus on students with the greatest needs.

Whatever the reason, the impact is clear: At a crucial time for students’ recovery, millions of children have not received the academic equivalent of powerful medication.

“It works, it’s effective, it gets students to improve in their learning and catch up,” said Amie Rapaport, a University of Southern California researcher who has analyzed students’ access to intensive tutoring. “So why isn’t it reaching them?”

The Indianapolis school district last year launched two tutoring programs that connect students with certified teachers over video. One is available to all students after school, while the other is offered during the day at certain low-performing schools.

District officials say a trial run boosted student test scores. Parents give it high marks.

“The progress that he made in just a couple months last semester working with his tutor was kind of far beyond what he was grasping and doing at school,” said Jessica Blalack, whose 7-year-old, Phoenix, opted in to after-school tutoring.

Jessica Blalack watches as her son Phoenix, 7, works with a tutor on his laptop in his Indianapolis home. (AJ Mast/AP)

Still, the two programs combined served only about 3,200 students last fall, or roughly 17% of students in district-run schools. Two additional tutoring programs operate at a handful of schools.

Only 35% of the students who registered for after-school tutoring last fall attended more than one session, according to district data. 

Indianapolis Public Schools spokesperson Marc Ransford said the district is working to improve attendance and hopes to enroll more students in tutoring next school year. It’s also trying to accelerate student learning in other ways, including with a new curriculum and summer school.

Shaan Akbar, co-founder of the firm Tutored by Teachers, which runs the video tutoring programs, said his team is focused on maintaining quality.

“Trying to shoot for scale quickly is a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Nationwide, schools report that about 10% of students are receiving “high-dosage” tutoring multiple days a week, according to a federal survey from December. The real number could be even lower: Just 2% of U.S. households say their children are getting that kind of intensive tutoring, according to the USC analysis of a different nationally representative survey.

Schools trying to ramp up tutoring have run into roadblocks, including staffing and scheduling. Experts say tutoring is most effective when provided three times a week for at least 30 minutes during school hours. Offering after-school or weekend tutoring is simpler, but turnout is often low. 

Harrison Tran, a 10th grader in Savannah, Georgia, struggled to make sense of algebra during remote learning. Last year, his high school offered after-school help. But that wasn’t feasible for Harrison, who lives 30 minutes from school and couldn’t afford to miss his ride home. 

Without tutoring help, he started this school year with gaps in his learning.

“When I got into my Algebra II class, I was entirely lost,” he said.

Relatively low family interest has been another challenge. Though test scores plunged during the pandemic, many parents do not believe their children experienced learning loss, or simply are unaware. The disconnect makes it more important to offer tutoring during school, experts say.

“Parents just aren’t as concerned as we need them to be,” said USC education professor Morgan Polikoff, “if we’re going to have to rely on parents opting their kids into interventions.”

Even when students want the help, some have been let down.

In Maryland’s Montgomery County, 12th-grader Talia Bradley recently sought calculus help from a virtual tutoring company hired by the district. But the problem she was struggling with also stumped the tutor. After an hour trying to sort it out, Talia walked away frustrated.

“My daughter was no farther along,” said Leah Bradley, her mother. “Having an option for online tutoring makes sense, but it can’t be the primary option if you’re looking for good results.”

Repeated in-person tutoring tends to be more effective than on-demand online help, but it’s also harder to manage. District rules add complexity, with safeguards like tutor background checks and vendor bidding rules slowing the process. 

In Wake County, North Carolina, the school district began planning a reading tutoring program last summer. The program did not launch until November, and district officials said last month that volunteers are tutoring fewer than 140 students — far fewer than the 1,000 students the program was designed to reach.

“We’re always looking to serve more students,” said Amy Mattingly, director of K-12 programs at Helps Education Fund, the nonprofit managing that program and another serving about 400 students. But, she added, it’s important to “see what’s working and make tweaks before trying to scale up and serve everyone.”

Sixteen states have established their own tutoring programs using a collective $470 million in federal COVID aid, according to an analysis by the Council of Chief State School Officers. But even those statewide programs have reached a limited number of students.

Ohio awarded $14 million in grants to more than 30 colleges and universities to provide tutoring in local schools. They served just 2,000 students statewide last fall, according to a state spokesperson, who said the goal is to eventually reach 10,000 students.

Some districts defended their participation numbers, saying tutoring is most effective when well targeted.

In Georgia’s Fulton County, 3% of the district’s 90,000 students participated in tutoring programs this fall. Most of the tutoring was offered by paraprofessionals during the school day, with one hired to give intense support in each elementary school.

The district says time and staffing limits how many students can get frequent, intensive tutoring.

“We don’t want to water it down, because then you don’t get the impact that the research says is beneficial for kids,” said Cliff Jones, chief academic officer for the system. 

Others worry too few are getting the help they need even as programs continue to grow. 

This school year, about 3,500 students are getting reading tutoring from the North Carolina Education Corps. Meanwhile, in fourth grade alone, more than 41,000 students statewide scored in the bottom level on a national reading test last year.

“Who we are serving,” said Laura Bilbro-Berry, the program’s senior director, “is just a drop in the bucket.”

Patrick Wall is a senior reporter covering national education issues. Contact him at

Amelia Pak-Harvey covers Indianapolis and Marion County schools for Chalkbeat Indiana. Contact Amelia at

Collin Binkley is an education reporter for the Associated Press.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news organization covering public education.