PROMO Education - School Child Teacher Remote Distance Learning - iStock - Jovanmandic

New Mexico turns to virtual tutoring to boost student grades 

© iStock - Jovanmandic
Roz Brown

(New Mexico News Connection) To boost educational outcomes, New Mexico will start the new year with a free, virtual tutoring program - focused on math, language arts, and science for students from pre-K through 8th grade. 

The tutoring is available to all Title 1 schools, including tribally controlled ones. The governor's office announced the company, Paper Education Inc., was chosen to offer the services following a competitive process

Co-founder and CEO Philip Cutler said the free online tutoring can be scheduled before, after or during school. 

"It's either the text chat, or audio messages - and that's available 24/7 for all students in unlimited classes," said Cutler. "They can come for as long as they need - if they need five minutes of help, if they need five hours of help - it's available for whatever their needs are."

The state will also launch the "New Mexico Math Tutoring Corps" this month to serve Algebra 1 students in grades 8-12, aimed at reducing barriers to academic support. 

Research by various groups shows New Mexico consistently ranks at or new the bottom in academic achievement. 

In 2020 and 2021, Congress passed stimulus bills that provided nearly $279 billion in relief aid for education. 

Cutler said he believes that money has allowed some states to seek out alternatives to traditional learning.

"I think right now," said Cutler, "it's the stimulus money from the federal government that's allowed a lot of these initiatives to happen more quickly than I think they would have regularly, and say, 'Hey, we have the money that's coming from the stimulus that we're going to put to work and support all of the New Mexico students.'"

Students at Jemez Mountain Public Schools have been accessing the company's resources for the past year. Paper's tutors and instructors are proficient in both English and Spanish. 

A nonprofit newsroom, The Hechinger Report, has noted mixed results for such programs, concluding that students who need it the most often don't participate.