The “Covid Slide” is estimated to have caused a learning loss of nearly 50% from the ’19-’20 school year (NWEA, 2020). Children who are not reading at grade level by 4th grade are held back. Teachers don’t always have the time to do one on one guided reading sessions with struggling students. Nearly 30% of millennial volunteers say they would participate more often if there were easier ways to find opportunities and more flexibility.
Vello, our online tutoring program, pairs teams of passionate professionals with classrooms to provide guided reading support through a safe and secure digital setting. Together, students and volunteer tutors read e-books using super simple screen sharing and audio. Volunteers are able to do their weekly 30-minute tutor sessions from anywhere with a computer and internet access, making it easy to do without leaving their workspace. Students have 24/7 access to an extensive e-library for themselves and their family members.
The global spread of COVID-19 brought new challenges to an already strained public education system. Our team adjusted quickly during the initial weeks of the pandemic to assess the needs of our school and community partners through surveys and direct outreach. We worked with teachers and other stakeholders to transition together into a distance learning format, and maintain Vello 1:1 reading sessions where capabilities existed. The Digital Divide became more evident as learning moved away from the school setting. Vello was drastically impacted by the reality of the situation. Access to internet and individual devices inhibited students from engaging in vital learning capabilities, thus many local United Ways formed local plans to support device distribution and internet connectivity.
Vello supported distance learning from March to May and then launched a COVID-19 Summer Response to assess how a new Vello model outside of a traditional school setting would work going forward. The Pilot included participants from Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Regina, Saskatchewan in Canada. The new approach focused on developing best practices for virtual reading sessions anywhere a student or volunteer could be, while maintaining safety/security, reading outcomes, a positive experience with Vello’s functional elements, and scalability in the years ahead. Moreover, the Pilot positioned data outcomes against known Summer Slide research and the emerging research behind “Covid Slide” that is estimated to have caused a learning loss of nearly 50% from the ’19-’20 school year (NWEA, 2020).
As local United Ways prepare for the new school year and Vello’s role in the many learning environments, the new ‘Vello Distance Learning’ or ‘Vello Anywhere!’ approach will be the primary mode for delivery. Volunteers can be anywhere with an internet-connected device (as always), students can be anywhere with an internetconnected device and the new Vello App, and teachers are able to maintain progress monitoring and leverage resources provided by the Raz-Plus teacher suite.
In response to the COVID-19 health crisis and school closures, United Way is pivoting to a 1:1 model of delivery for Vello that will provide children with virtual 1:1 reading sessions from home or on individual devices at school.
With the support of hundreds of volunteers, Valley of the Sun United Way’s Project Connect program has helped those who are experiencing, or on the brink of, homelessness. Since this program’s inception in 2008, Project Connect has served more than 22,000.
Valley of the Sun United Way will continue to provide relief for our Maricopa County neighbors struggling in these areas, respond to emerging needs, address racial, social, economic and educational inequities, and when the time is right, help our community rebuild.
From 2014 to 2020, United Way and its partners, worked with 108 schools to successfully bring breakfast into the classroom.
Find ways you can still support our Community and neighbors. Please follow recommended guidelines if you wish to volunteer at an organization in our community. Many agencies are taking precautions to keep volunteers and clients safe during this time.
Families and individuals served by A New Leaf represent populations who are the most vulnerable to the social and economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early literacy efforts and resources that are making a difference during the pandemic.
Every year, Valley of the Sun United Way has the pleasure of welcoming in staff from our corporate partners as Loaned Executives (LEs).
To prevent reading regression during the COVID-19 school closures, Read Better Be Better created and distributed Family Literacy Kits to all 2nd and 3rd graders at partner schools.
Now more than ever, it is vital for littles to have interactions and the mentorship of their big and fortunately, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been able to continue their mission of impacting the lives of children and families.
ASCC supports children everywhere by providing resources and support to anyone who impacts them, helping every kid achieve the brightest outlook possible.