“Pandemic Pods” For All: The Promise of High Dosage Tutoring

Nicholas Munyan-Penney and Charles Barone:

With more than half of U.S. K-12 students enrolled in districts providing no in-person instruction, and many more districts considering moving to all-remote learning due to spiking COVID-19 infection rates, pressures are mounting on parents to find ways to guide, support, and supplement their children’s education.

We know that many parents who can afford it are enrolling their children in private tutoring and small group learning programs also known as “pandemic pods.” Learning pods are, overall, a promising idea. However, only higher income parents can afford them, which exacerbates already wide opportunity gaps in our current public education system.

Recent polling we did in Wisconsin found that a majority of voters have similar concerns: 73% of likely voters indicated they were somewhat or very concerned that private pods would worsen opportunity gaps. These concerns were even higher among Black and Democratic voters, with 87% and 85% voicing concern, respectively.

To promote greater educational equity, we think it makes sense to establish publicly funded, evidence-based, one-on-one tutoring programs and pandemic pods, especially for those students who are the most ill-served by remote and hybrid COVID learning models. These could be run by school districts, colleges and universities, or non-profit community-based organizations.