Annenberg Learner Partners with Step Up Tutoring to Recruit 500 Online Volunteer Tutors for LAUSD Students impacted by Pandemic Learning Loss

Annenberg Learner and Step Up Tutoring

Annenberg Learner, a program of the Annenberg Foundation, and Step Up Tutoring today announced a new partnership designed to address educational inequity and historic learning loss triggered by the disruption in education as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of the joint effort is to provide free online tutoring to those students most in need across the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The goal of the collaboration is to recruit 500 volunteer Step Up Tutors before the end of May.

On Monday, April 12th, students attending schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District will have the option to return to in-person instruction after a year of distance learning.  Many of the challenges they faced during the closure remain. A new report by Great Public Schools Now titled “Educational Recovery Now” found that many LAUSD students are still not actively engaging, and that large gaps across race, income and student need persist. Report findings show that more than 13,000 middle and high school students consistently disengaged in fall 2020 and an additional 56,000 did not actively participate on a daily basis. Additionally, two in three students are falling behind in literacy and math, with Black and Latino elementary school students falling the furthest behind.

“We can’t allow the impact of the learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic school shutdowns widen our educational divides even more,” said Wallis Annenberg, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation. “That’s why this new partnership with Step Up is so important. Individual tutoring is one of the most powerful educational tools we have — a proven and effective way to engage our children, to lift up those who are being left out. We need to make it as available and accessible as possible. And we need to come out of this pandemic with all our children learning and achieving.”  

Small-group and one-on-one tutoring have been shown to help students who have fallen behind in their studies. Research suggests that a large-scale initiative to make tutoring an integral part of public education would go a long way toward recovering the ground lost as a result of the pandemic. For the most part, however, one-on-one tutoring has been available only to those households with significant financial reserves.

“There is a clear need for more one-on-one support for students,” said Nati Rodriguez, Director of Annenberg Learner. “We are reaching out to tech and business leaders and calling on all eligible LA-based adults to volunteer their time as tutors so that LAUSD students at every school will have the support they so urgently need.”

To help Step Up Tutoring reach its goal, Annenberg Learner has partnered with AnnenbergTech and PledgeLA, a collective of tech companies focused on diversity, equity, and community engagement. Annenberg Learner will leverage the networks of local organizations to recruit 500 tutors before students break for summer.

Last fall, Step Up Tutoring initiated a pilot program with LAUSD, matching 650 students from third through sixth grades with volunteer tutors in their first semester. Step Up tutors completed over 10,000 hours of tutoring during this first phase, and received high levels of approval from teachers, parents, and students. 95 percent of parents rated their level of satisfaction at a seven or higher, on a scale from one to ten.

“Many kids struggle with distance learning – especially the quiet and shy ones – and shut down,” said Irma Navarro, a 4th grade teacher at Walnut Park Elementary School. “They are really happy to get the one-on-one help and I already see improvement in turning in assignments. I was really worried about one of my students because she was really shutting down, but now she can’t stop raving about her tutor. She really connected with her.”

Prospective tutors may apply online through the Step Up Tutoring website, at To be eligible, volunteers must be at least 18 years old, have completed or begun working toward an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, have reliable internet access and reside in California. After filling out the online application, applicants will be interviewed via video conference by specially trained Step Up Tutoring volunteers. Upon the successful completion of a Live Scan background check, tutors will be matched with an LAUSD student.

Since the inception of Step Up Tutoring, over 1,350 volunteers have applied to be tutors. In addition, Step Up Tutoring has worked closely with L.A. Works, Los Angeles’ largest volunteer action center, to recruit and train tutors. L.A. Works is committed to recruiting mentors for Step Up Tutoring through its network of more than 35,000 longstanding volunteers.

“We’ve partnered with Step Up Tutoring because their innovative platform makes volunteering easy and accessible,” said Deborah Brutchey, Executive Director of L.A. Works. “By removing a significant barrier to service – the need to travel or meet in person – more volunteers and students are able to feel comfortable committing their time, during the pandemic and even after.”

The partnership with Step Up Tutoring is part of Annenberg Learner’s continuing effort to address the widespread and devasting disruption in education and the resulting learning loss.  Learner provides additional support while students are learning from home during the COVID pandemic, as well as transitioning back to the classroom.  When schools closed last year, Annenberg Learner provided free temporary broadcast licenses for Learner materials to any school district. Learner also collaborated with Two Bit Circus Foundation to provide free access to over 150 hands-on science, arts, and tech projects designed for educators, parents, and children across the country. This school year, Annenberg Learner partnered with Discovery Education and LAUSD to provide nearly 300,000 educators and more than 600,000 LAUSD students with new digital resources.

About Annenberg Learner

As part of its mission to advance excellent teaching in American schools, Annenberg Learner funds and distributes educational video programs – with coordinated online and print materials – for the professional development of K-12 teachers. Many programs are also intended for students in the classroom and viewers at home, with videos that exemplify excellent teaching. Annenberg Learner also partners with impactful organizations to provide other means of achieving this goal. As part of the Annenberg Foundation, Learner supports the Foundation’s mission to encourage the development of more effective ways to share ideas and knowledge.

About Step Up Tutoring

Step Up Tutoring’s mission is to improve student success through academic support and mentorship in under-resourced communities. Step Up Tutoring is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that recruits, screens, trains, and matches volunteer tutors with students for twice per week online tutoring and mentoring.

Step Up Tutoring has a five-year Memo of Understanding with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), is of no cost to the district, and is currently in the pilot phase serving 3rd-6th grade students. Step Up Tutoring plans to expand to serve more than 50,000 students and their families.

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