Student scores on Michigan’s standardized tests in the 2021-2022 school year were sharply down from before the pandemic. Last spring, 41.5% of third graders statewide scored at least proficient in math on one exam, known as the M-STEP. That’s a decline of 5.2 percentage points from 2019, the last time the test was given before COVID-19 shuttered classrooms. In English language arts, 41.6% of third graders scored proficient or higher, a decline of 3.5 points from 2019.
These numbers didn’t come as a surprise to Richard Schumacher, Senior Director of Operations for Lutheran Special Education Ministries (LSEM). “Practical issues really created a damaging impact on education and it’s going to take us years to overcome that, if we’re able to do it at all,” said Schumacher.
Michigan District ministries and organizations are helping through partnerships with LSEM to provide tutoring. Charity Lutheran in Detroit hosts the iCan tutoring program, where students learn about Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through him who strengthens me. LSEM teachers Denise Sanders and Rebecca Gladden serve numerous students at Charity, working to improve their reading and math proficiency and adding a faith component at the same time.
St. Paul Community in Pontiac also uses the iCan tutoring program. Students meet there on Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. LSEM teacher Susan Williams leads the group and has seen how students are generally one or two years behind in reading. Williams makes it a point to visit each student and help build them up.
Gifts for All God’s Children (GFAGC) continues to help students with both their online tutoring program and their in-person tutoring sessions at East Bethlehem, Detroit. Additionally, this year they have been able to get into a public school to help students, thanks to a new initiative from Detroit Public Schools that accepts help from faith-based groups. GFAGC sends a tutor weekly to Marion Law Academy on the East side of Detroit.
There are still obstacles—teachers and tutors are needed—but many within the Michigan District are helping in places that really need it. Schumacher knows every tutor makes a huge difference to the kids. “Any opportunity that we have to bring those students back into a place where qualified educators are able to work with them and provide them with the services they need to be able to rebuild those skills, that’s our one best chance,” said Schumacher.
To find out more or to volunteer to help, go to michigandistrict.org/joinaministry.