Feds will spend billions on virtual tutors to repair damage caused by virtual schooling

If there is one thing we have learned during this pandemic, it’s that a Democrat’s solution to a bad move is often to do it again, only bigger.

Vaccines not effective? Take a few boosters.

Masks don’t work? Wear three of them.

Virtual schooling turning your kids into uneducated zombies? Spend billions to hire virtual tutors.

In an article for The New York Times published Friday, Dana Goldstein points out the flawed logic in the Biden administration’s “American Rescue Plan,” which will send $122 billion to schools over three years.

Godstein states that “a sizable portion of that money will go toward tutoring. But because of labor shortages, the high cost of quality tutoring and the influence of a growing ed-tech industry, much of the tutoring will itself take place through a computer screen — and not always with a human on the other end.”

Doesn’t that kind of defeat the point?

Well, yes, it probably does. But on the upside, tech companies and non-profits are making a killing.

“For-profit companies and nonprofit groups are selling virtual tutoring services to school districts,” Goldstein writes. “Some programs use live video to try to replicate in-person tutoring as closely as possible. Others skip the human tutor and use artificial intelligence. And some are essentially instant-messaging services, with students and tutors randomly paired for brief typed chats, often organized around homework assignments.”

While spending on virtual tutoring is explicitly allowed under federal stimulus guidelines, many parents are finding the idea of fixing the problems caused by online learning with more online learning counterintuitive, to say the least.

What’s even more frustrating is the lack of data to show whether online tutoring is even an effective approach.

Though some small studies from Britain and Italy seem to show promising results, Goldstein writes, “The online tutoring field is fairly new, and many companies said they either did not have data proving their program’s effectiveness, or were still collecting it.”

But, as Goldstein notes, “Investment in ed tech surged to $3.2 billion in just the first half of 2021 from $1.7 billion in all of 2019, according to market research from Reach Capital, a venture capital firm specializing in education.”

With so much money to be had, it’s no wonder that ed-tech investors and entrepreneurs are passing the blame buck when it comes to failures in remote school learning.

“They emphasize that their platforms are supposed to supplement in-person education, not supplant it, and that being able to get a tutor anytime, from anywhere, has benefits,” reports Goldstein.

This does little, however, to calm the fears of parents who are worried about how their children are developing in a virtual world.

At Brewbaker Primary School in Montgomery, AL, writes Goldstein, “after missing months of hands-on classroom work, many children… are struggling with fine-motor skills.”

She goes on to report, “Some second graders cannot tie their own shoes or open a carton of milk, and are still struggling to form written letters. Others are slow in building their social skills.”


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Melissa Fine


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