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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Vancouver funds tutoring program aimed at addressing learning loss in at-risk communities

By Griffin Reilly, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 9, 2024, 5:36pm

The city of Vancouver will pay Vancouver Public Schools up to $500,000 to support a three-year after-school tutoring program at elementary schools in the Fourth Plain corridor.

The targeted investment addresses post-pandemic learning loss in one of Vancouver’s most diverse and economically vulnerable communities.

Known as the VPS Homework Cafe, the pilot program will provide after-school tutoring and meals for families at Ogden Elementary School, with the expectation of expansion to another nearby school in years two and three of the program.

“We have partnered in the past with (Vancouver) around housing supports, but this is the first partnership of this kind,” said Jessica Roberts, a spokesperson for the school district.

As part of the agreement, the district will hire several new part-time tutors and a program coordinator. Year one of the program is expected to begin this month; in years two and three, there will be one eight-week session in the fall and two eight-week sessions after winter break.

In addition to tutoring services catered specifically to participating students, parents are also invited to attend and receive education in financial literacy, civics, technology, building social-emotional competency, and more.

Targeted assistance

Based on current budget projections for the program, the Homework Cafe is expected to cost about $465,000 over three years. The city has allocated a maximum of $500,000.

The funding comes from federal aid provided in the American Rescue Plan Act in 2020 — a stimulus program to support cities, schools and other institutions during COVID-19-related economic distress. In November 2021, the Vancouver City Council dedicated $25 million of such federal aid for the “Fourth Plain for All Investment Strategy,” which would help revamp the struggling area in central Vancouver.

Ogden Elementary, where the program will begin this year, is among the most economically challenged schools in Vancouver. According to data shared with the state, 69.2 percent of Ogden students were identified as low-income in fall 2023, compared with a rate of 48.9 percent across the district.

The school also struggles academically. In 2022, 26.5 percent of Ogden students met proficiency standards for the state’s Smarter Balanced Assessment in English language arts, compared with a proficiency rate of 43.1 percent across students taking the test across the district.

Roberts said Tuesday the program is intended to provide “increased academic support for students” and “culturally relevant learning opportunities” for participating students and families.

Throughout the duration of the program, the district will collect data on regular assessments, state standardized tests and feedback from teachers to evaluate the effectiveness of the Homework Cafe. In the final year of the program, the city and district will evaluate results to pursue long-term, “sustainable” funding sources.