Addressing Learning Loss
Mississippi to Use COVID Relief Funds for Statewide Access to Digital Learning and Safety Platforms
- By Kristal Kuykendall
The Mississippi Department of Education has announced it will spend $49 million in pandemic relief funds on four new statewide initiatives to boost learning and safety, including providing 24-hour access to 1:1 digital tutoring for all students grades 3–12, at no cost to school districts or students.
The first initiative aims to provide free access to a school safety platform so districts can “create and manage emergency operations plans that meet state and federal requirements,” MDE said in a news release. Every public K–12 district in the state will have the option of using the nSide school safety platform at no cost; nSide features include an emergency alert system, a communications network connected to first responders with precision geomapping and school floor plans, and surveillance cameras.
Initiatives 2–4 focus on helping students overcome learning losses resulting from pandemic interruptions to school.
The state committed to spending $10.7 million to provide web-based, 24-hour tutoring through Paper.co for all 350,000 public school students in grades 3–12, MDE said. Paper provides unlimited, on-demand 1:1 tutoring as well as a writing feedback service called “essay review.”
Paper said in a news release that Mississippi is its first statewide tutoring contract; the company already contracts with scores of districts across 30 states, and it has tutored 2 million students to date, according to its website. Tutoring is available in four languages, Paper said, and its platform gives teachers full visibility into students’ activity on the platform so teachers can keep up with their progress and address learning gaps as needed during class time.
Several states' education departments in the past year have announced new, no-cost digital tutoring programs for students statewide: Texas said last fall it had contracted with FEV Tutor; South Carolina signed a three-year deal with Tutor.com; and Rhode Island announced a deal last year with Schoolhouse.world for tutoring services for grades 6–12.
Mississippi’s third new initiative emphasizes college and career readiness. MDE said it will spend $1.4M to provide free statewide access to the MajorClarity platform to students in grades 7–12. MajorClarity “helps students explore careers, select courses that will help them meet their goals, prepare for work-based learning and coordinate college and other postsecondary applications,” MDE’s announcement said.
The fourth initiative by the state to boost learning achievement is a commitment of $23M to provide school districts no-cost subscriptions to Discovery Education, HOMER Learning, Newsela, Imagine Learning, Cengage, and News-O-Matic, MDE said. The platforms offer a wide variety of online lessons, hands-on activities, and instructional content in English Language Arts, mathematics, science, and social studies for students in grades K–12; teachers can use the subscriptions as part of their classroom instruction or assign homework from the platforms, or students can use the resources outside the classroom if they choose, the department said.
Districts that opt in to any of the new services will have free access through September 30, 2024, MDE said.
“These student and school support services will help all district and school leaders manage the challenges of the pandemic and help students accelerate their learning,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “We urge all districts to take advantage of these valuable services. Along with a system to make schools safer, we are offering districts services that will give students access to high-quality content, college and career planning tools, and live tutors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Kristal Kuykendall is editor, 1105 Media Education Group. She can
be reached at [email protected].