MPR News with Angela Davis

Tutoring boosts students after the pandemic 'teaching loss'

young man with book smiles at child with back to camera
A tutor with Reading Partners meets with a young student. The program sends community tutors into schools twice a week to work with students who are six months or more behind grade level in reading skills.
Courtesy of Reading Partners

Students across the board in Minnesota fell behind in math, reading and other school subjects during distance learning in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Only about 51 percent of Minnesota children hit reading benchmarks in 2022, a drop of eight percentage points since just prior to the pandemic in 2019. Fewer than 46 percent of students met or exceeded math standards, a drop of 10 percentage points. Students of color and students from low-income families fell even farther behind.

Educators are grappling with how to address this “learning loss,” or as some call it, “teaching loss.” One promising approach might be intensive tutoring, either in small groups or one-on-one.  

A tutor can give a steady dose of encouragement for kids who are disheartened. Tutors who are trained or who use a proven curriculum can also meet students where they are and focus on exactly the skills that need improvement — whether that’s phonics or fractions.  

MPR News host Angela Davis talks with the directors of two free Minnesota tutoring programs about what they do and how tutoring can make a difference.


  • Brooke Rivers is executive director of Reading Partners Twin Cities, the regional branches of the national nonprofit literacy organization. The local program places reading tutors in eight metro schools. 

  • Lesa Clarkson is an associate professor of mathematics education in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota. She’s also the founder of the math tutoring program Prepare2Nspire.