Public schools in Golden Triangle utilize free online tutoring program

Third-grade through 12th-grade students across the state have been given a new way to receive free online tutoring.

The Mississippi Department of Education purchased access to online tutoring for English and language arts and mathematics, and districts were allowed to opt in at no cost to them for the next two school years with the program ending mid-2024.

Columbus Municipal School District, Lowndes County School District and Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District have opted into the program, and the three districts are working on teaching parents how to help their students use the platform.

“We were given access to Paper, an online tutoring program, in April,” CMSD Assessment, Curriculum and Professional Development Coordinator Debbie Murray said. “We pushed it out with our parents, but it is hard to do a full rollout at that time of year. We started this summer with a group of 25 teachers, administrators and academic coaches who were trained to be champions at their schools. Our champions then trained the staff at their schools. Teachers have been working with students to teach them how to use the program. We will host parent training sessions in September and October.”

The program allows students to log-in through their Clever portals and access a tutor at any time of the day. The tutors will begin a written dialogue with the student about the English or math work they have questions about.

Tutors can provide reviews of essays and can even help with math problems, but they will never give the full answer to the student, SOCSD Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Christy Maulding told The Dispatch. Tutors will ask guiding questions and give suggestions on how to improve.

Christy Maulding

“The first thing (tutors) will ask is what the student has been working on, what they know so far,” Maulding said. “Wherever that point of conception is, the tutor goes from that point and begins to ask guiding questions. Those questions ask the student to give examples. … They’ll redirect or when a student gets way off, a tutor will back up to a previous step where they saw the student did understand then try to move forward from there.”

Conversations between students and tutors are monitored by a health and safety department within Paper. The dialogue between student and tutor will never disappear, and teachers can access the conversations to see where students need assistance or where some in a class are confused on a topic.

Parents can also benefit from the tutors because they can sit down with their children and learn concepts in real time and ask tutors questions about how they can help their child with homework.

“I think back about being a mother of young students and when math began to look a little different and feel a little different,” Maulding said.

“Parents became so frustrated because math looked different and was taught different from when they were in school. I think it provides such a great resource for parents who are coming home from work and trying to work with multiple students at multiple levels with today’s curriculum. It’s such a great safety net for parents to have someone who’s trained in that, and for parents to sit beside their child and watch, learn and listen to a concept being re-explained through a third party.”

Maulding hopes MDE will expand the program to include other subjects such as science and history. Both Maulding and Murray hope MDE will receive funding to help extend the program past 2024.

“We have the program until September 2024,” Murray said. “Our hope is that it will get funded past that timeline. This program is an amazing asset and gives students help at their fingertips whenever they need it.”

Stefanie Jones

LCSD leaders hope teachers and students there can start using the program in the coming weeks.

“We are grateful for this great resource that some of our teachers have begun to use,” LCSD Assistant Superintendent Stefanie Jones said.

“We plan to communicate its availability more in the coming weeks so that more of our staff and students will begin to use it. It can be very beneficial for students to use at any time they may need.”

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