Tutor Corps: Can We Make Distance Learning More Equitable?


Distance learning will work reasonably well for some families and children. But as Dick Lilly recently pointed out, we can expect to see education inequities worsen. Families with resources will form learning pods, hire private tutors and find other work-arounds to assure their children continue to succeed.

What about those families without the means to find extra support for their children? And what about teachers striving to help already struggling children?

Maybe it’s time to create Tutor Corps. Tap retirees and others with the time and ability to work with students who too often fall through the educational cracks. Tutor Corps would recruit and train volunteers willing to tutor students remotely. Volunteers would be matched with schools, and teachers would pair them with students. In a way, it would be like a volunteer Teach for America that channels tutors to those school districts with the greatest need. Tutor Corps could be a national endeavor that could attract people of all political views in a common endeavor.

Volunteers helping out in schools is nothing new. Most districts like Seattle Public Schools have well established programs. But the SPS page says it is not accepting volunteer applications at this time. The traditional way it and most other districts use volunteers in classrooms has been derailed by COVID-19.

But why can’t volunteers also help with distancing learning? Would you give a few hours a week to meet up online with a student to work on a reading exercise or math problem? This would take some of the burden off teachers and offer students welcome variety to their online schooling. It could provide the kind of individualized help many students need and don’t get.

Even volunteer programs require funding. Maybe an organization like Teach for America could help launch Tutor Corps. It knows how to recruit and do background checks and must already be developing training to help its members teach online. Or maybe literacy organizations and similar nonprofits might want to create a Tutor Corps.

The suggestion of a national volunteer effort appeals because the most needy schools anywhere in the country could be matched with tutors. However, maybe first we could explore how to get this rolling in our communities. Any ideas?

Linda Kramer Jenning
Linda Kramer Jenning
Linda Kramer Jenning is an independent journalist who moved to Bainbridge Island after several decades reporting from Washington, D.C. She taught journalism at Georgetown University and is former Washington editor of Glamour.


  1. Invest In Youth runs just such a program in SPS. I’ve volunteered with this terrific program for three years and it’s continuing, with Covid workarounds, this year. They’re looking for more volunteers!

  2. My experience trying to volunteer (at a middle school on Queen Anne) was that the teachers resented having “assistance” imposed on them and made it very difficult for the volunteer. Just saying.


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