Pandemic increases the need for tutoring

The COVID-19 pandemic left children behind in their learning.

According to Washington D.C.-based Brookings Institution, the effects of the pandemic on academic achievement are staggering. The virus left low-poverty and high-poverty elementary schools with severe staff shortages, absenteeism, lost instructional time and mental health challenges. Testscore gaps for those students, increased by as much as 20% in math and 15% in reading, the institution says.

Declined math and reading scores indicate that COVID-19 more significantly affected students than other large-scale school disruptions, such as Hurricane Katrina.

“These numbers are alarming and potentially demoralizing, especially given the heroic efforts of students to learn and educators to teach in incredibly trying times,” reads a March 3 blog post on the institution’s website, the Brown Center Chalkboard. “School districts and states are currently making important decisions about which interventions and strategies to implement to mitigate the learning declines during the last two years.”

Locally, Burke County Public Schools is promoting ENGAGE Georgia, a free program that provides students with an extra layer of academic support this school year. The state has partnered with Graduation Alliance with a mission of boosting school engagement for K-12 students and their families.

When a student chooses to participate in the program, they are assigned an Academic Success Coach who will answer questions, connect them with resources, and develop a plan to help them stay on track and engaged with their schooling. Coaches aim to motivate students, offer them organization and study tips, guide them toward educational resources and social-emotional referrals and provide them with technical support.

There is another local solution for parents who are worried about their child’s academic performance, as well. Martha Chalker opened Learning Enhancement Centers years before the pandemic hit. Passionate about the proven approach to achieving scientifically measurable improvements in brain performance, she became a certified instructor in both Master the Code (MTC) and Processing and Cognitive Enhancement (PACE) in 2004. Social distancing requirements caused her to take a long break. However, prior students have reached out to her recently, prompting her to begin taking on students again in her Waynesboro office. There is a cost associated with the 16- week program, but payment plans are available.

Chalker offers an “intense” program with “crazy” results, she said. She meets with students one-on-one, 90 minutes per day, twice a week. PACE focuses on training and strengthening the brain’s core cognitive skills, making it easier to think, read, learn and remember by developing auditory processing, comprehension, logic and reasoning, planning and processing speed. MTC is designed to integrate with and build upon the PACE cognitive skills enhancement program. MTC begins with blending, segmenting and sound analysis. Students are trained to segment words into isolated units of sound and then to blend them into words.

Chalker is excited about the results she has witnessed, including children who advance three to five years in their academic skills across the board. Currently, she has room for up to four more students. More information about the Learning Enhancement Center can be obtained by calling her at 706-564-4458.

More information about ENGAGE Georgia can be found at

The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization whose mission is to conduct in-depth research that leads to new ideas for solving problems facing society at the local, national and global levels. The Brown Center Chalkboard can be found at chalkboard.

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