Addressing Education Inequity

December 21, 2020

Systemic racism and underinvestment have created a relentless barrier to educational opportunities for Black, Latinx, and low-income students. The opportunity gap between these students and their White and higher-income peers results in disparate academic achievement levels. This difference in performance persists through high school, college, and beyond, contributing to financial instability and greater inequality.

The opportunity gap is strongly correlated with racial gaps in income, poverty rates, unemployment rates, and educational attainment. Saga Education partners with high schools in Chicago, Broward County, D.C., and NYC to address education inequity by focusing on helping students succeed in and master foundational mathematics skills.

The mission of Saga is to provide the right intervention to support high school success overall and parity beyond. Saga has identified Algebra I to be not only a barrier but also a gateway for improved academic performance with the right intervention. Saga’s programs aim to break down the self-perpetuating cycle of racial and economic inequity by simultaneously supporting the development of strong mathematical competence, engagement, and enjoyment for our students. Considering the exacerbation of educational inequity due to the impacts of COVID-19—an example of which estimates that remote instruction sent math learning for students of color back by three to five months while white students lost only one to three months—relationship-driven, high-impact tutoring models like Saga’s have never been more crucial.

Saga’s program adopts a holistic approach to addressing student academic needs, utilizing a personalized curriculum for each student in a small student-to-tutor ratio while also leveraging the benefits of school-to-home relationships. Unlike other tutoring programs, Saga provides intensive and individualized instruction and mentoring as part of students’ school-day schedules and in addition to their regular math class.

In this way, Saga provides students with something more valuable than 35-50 minutes of one-on-one math instruction. A student participating in one of Saga’s programs forges an invaluable bond with their tutor; as Saga Fellow, Kyle Forth, described in his blog post for The 74, to students, tutors can be, “…their teacher, counselor, coach, confidant, and biggest fan.” Furthermore, the fact that Saga hires a diverse tutor cohort, increasingly directly from the communities we serve, allows students to see themselves within their tutor. From this, tutors not only provide students with immediate math and social emotional support, but they also serve as role models exhibiting for students their post-secondary possibilities and potential.

Students and teachers alike have confirmed that Saga’s “secret sauce” is our Tutoring Fellows’ uncanny ability to build meaningful relationships. Right now, as COVID-19 has stripped so many students from the comfort and routine of school, educators are seeing how impactful student social bonds are to learning, specifically to the success of tutoring. Studies have already demonstrated that Saga’s tutoring program works; Saga students acquire up to 2.5 years of additional math learning per year in the program, – closing the math achievement gap by close to 50% – achieve higher standardized test scores, earn higher grades in their math classes, and have stronger engagement in school and enjoyment of math.

At this turning point in our nation’s education system, Saga sees the potential for harnessing impactful programs for young people, ones that emphasize the human connection in learning and reassure students that they can and will overcome the COVID-slide. While we do not see ourselves as the sole solution for the challenges our students face in the coming years, Saga’s team is determined to make sure that evidence-based, personalized school-day tutoring that harnesses student assets and talent is at the forefront of the conversation.