Throughout the pandemic, global organizations such as UNICEF and UNESCO have raised concerns about its negative impact on education because of school closures affecting 1.5 billion students worldwide (Gustafsson 2021; UNESCO 2021). Several studies examining the detrimental effects of COVID-19 on academic achievement have been conducted in countries around the world.In Canada, the pandemic led to the significant disruption of education and halted progress for many students. Undesirable outcomes included mass and localized school closures, multiple models of education delivery, and severe gaps in support for students with disabilities.
Canadian data reveals trends in higher teacher-assigned grades, increased secondary school failure rates, and lower than expected scores on report cards and standardized literacy tests (e.g., Star Reading, Developmental Reading Assessment) for young children in Alberta and Ontario (e.g., Cook 2020; Davies and Aurini 2021; Nerestant 2021; TDSB 2021). The data also highlights discrepancies between the assessed academic skills and knowledge of students and grade-level curricular expectations. COVID-19 has unquestionably deepened and accelerated inequities in education outcomes.
Skills, competencies, and knowledge related to reading and math, the arts, history, and social studies can be recovered; however, to do so will require greater intensity and personalization of instruction and plenty of practice (Thompson and Steinbeis 2020; Woodard and Pollak 2020). At Evoke, we’re working to help minimize the effect of pandemic-related disruptions to education and our students’ lives, preparingthem for the next academic year and any upcoming transitions to high school or postsecondary studies.
No educational program is as effective in accelerating the reading and math achievement of struggling students as structured one-to-one and small-group tutoring (Slavin et al., 2020). One of the oldest and most versatile forms of education, frequent and individualized tutoring yields “consistent and substantial positive impacts on learning outcomes” that are particularly strong among the earlier grades (Nickow et al., 2020). When it comes to remediating the learning-loss caused by the pandemic, tutoring can address knowledge gaps and help students get back on track when they are falling behind.
Evoke works with clients exclusively online across borders and time zones. The benefits of online learning include the elimination of commuting time for sessions, the incorporation ofassistive technology and other online resources into instruction (i.e., Google Docs for collaboration and work that isautomatically saved, the use of voice-to-text and text-to-speech programs), andflexibility around session length, particularly for students who have challenges sustaining self-regulation for long periods of time. With online learning, students can access specialized support regardless of where they live and enjoy a higher level of confidentiality of services. By offering remote instruction, Evoke canhire the best practitionersfrom across North America and beyond. Online instruction creates a mindset that embraces learning and technology, gets students organizing themselves virtually so they are less likely to lose materials, and allows them to access their work from anywhere at any time.
At Evoke, we strive to create a virtual tutoring environment for students that emulates a face-to-face experience and provides authentic opportunities for students to engage. We do not offer any group programming; all services are delivered one-to-one by tutors with advanced technological skills. Research has shown that accommodations are the most common response to the diagnosis of a learning disability in school settings, as opposed to the use of evidence-based intervention; however, accommodations are designed to allow for access to educational opportunities, not necessarily to cultivate success in a particular task. Evoke’s remediation programs therefore offer effective skill development through quality interventions that focus on long-term outcomes that help students to become independent and successful adults. Thefocus of intervention should always be to prioritize the acquisition of skills for independent functioning that helpsstudents develop intohealthy adults who can cope on their own. Reducingexpectations does not help students develop the competencies that lead toautonomy. Accommodations are helpful while students are developing the necessary skills and competencies,but they are not a long-term solution.
Evoke specializes in working with students who have ADHD and self-regulation challenges and understands their unique profiles and learning needs. We use evidence-based best practices in our virtual instruction and employ strategies, effective approaches, structure, and tools to enhance student engagement. Feedback regarding our virtual services, from students with ADHD and executive function challengesin Grades 1 through graduate studies (and their families), has been strong. Student achievement is important to us, and we use measurable outcomes to track student progress through standardized assessments (where possible), regular feedback communication from practitioners, and student progress-tracking summaries to highlight the mastery of strategies, accomplishments, and areas of challenge.
Students struggle in math and have gaps in their learning for a variety of reasons: lack of self-efficacy, challenges with focus and staying on task, mindset, problems with processing information at the same rate as their peers, deficits in psychological processes (such as working memory), and inadequate practice to master concepts and skills. Studies have consistently highlighted the fact that low achievement in math at the secondary school level can often be traced to deficits in the understanding of certain basic concepts taught in elementary school. At Evoke, our math programs give students the extra time to learn these important skills and concepts and address their learning deficits, bridging the gap for those who are behind in math and ensuring that the learning gap doesn’t widen.
Studies demonstrate that successful remediation requires explicit instruction and intense intervention. Geared toward students who have been falling behind in math and those with gaps in their learning, Evoke’s math remediation program focuses on identifying and addressing academic gaps in math for students in Grades 3–12. The program begins with a diagnostic assessment that allows us to pinpoint the specific concepts and curriculum expectations with which a student is struggling and to remediate them. The information collected from the math diagnostic is helpful in guiding our tutors so that they may effectively and efficiently develop skills and build fluency. The diagnostic also helps to determine the number of remediation hours the student will require. The program gives students the extra time to relearn important skills and concepts and address their learning deficits, bridging the gap for students who are behind in math and ensuring it doesn’t grow.
Many students have lost several weeks of math instruction because of the pandemic. This program is for the student who does not traditionally struggle in math but is concerned about having missed the introduction of essential concepts and academic content or requires a little more time to process and understand certain concepts. The program begins with a diagnostic to identify the gaps based on the student’s current grade. The diagnostic also helps to determine the number of recovery hours the student will require. A tutor works with the student to fill in those gaps to master concepts before the next academic year.
If a student wants to move ahead to begin the next grade curriculum to ensure a strong performance for next year, they can select this “go ahead” program. Tutors will work with students to provide greater exposure to—and a jump-start on—the next academic year’s curriculum. Students are introduced to the materials to facilitate a deeper understanding, mastery of key concepts, and enhanced confidence.
Reading Remediation for French Immersion and English Stream Students; Grades 1–12
On February 28, 2022, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released its Right to Read public inquiry report on human rights issues affecting students with reading disabilities. The inquiry determined that despite their importance, foundational word reading skills have not been effectively targeted in Ontario’s education system. They have been largely overlooked in favour of an almost exclusive focus on contextual word-reading strategies and on sociocultural perspectives on literacy. The report indicated that students who don’t develop strong, early reading skills can quickly begin to experience negative academic consequences, which may only get worse.
Reading difficulties are endemic, and the only chance for the vast majority of students who struggle with reading is for someone to teach them what they need to know. Struggling readers require explicit, structured reading instruction (teaching that leaves nothing to chance and makes no assumptions). Students with reading difficulties do not catch up without systematic and intensive intervention and practice; this involves considerable time on task, consistency, and evidence-based approaches based in reading science. Reading is not innate, it is a skill that must be taught, and some students require direct instruction to be successful readers. The need for proficient reading skills increases as students get older and those with difficulties in reading find it increasingly challenging to keep up
At Evoke, we use research-validated strategies based on the science of reading in all our programming. Evoke’s reading remediation curriculum features components that align with the Simple View of Reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986) and Scarborough’s Rope (Scarborough, 2001). Reading skills are taught in an explicit, systematic, and sequential fashion, from simple to complex. Prior to remediation, students undergo an assessment with a speech-language pathologist aimed at identifying gaps in their reading skills to ensure intervention is targeted and strategic. Throughout the remediation sessions students are regularly re-evaluated, highlighting the gains that have been achieved, ensuring the remediation is strategic, and providing the family with a record of student improvement.
This program requires a minimum commitment of 10 hours per month. Sessions are 30 minutes in length and delivered 5 days a week.
Academic Writing Strategies; Grade 4–Postsecondary
Evidence-based research shows that struggling writers can improve their skills dramatically if they receive the detailed explicit instruction they need (Graham & Harris, 2005). Such strategies can improve the writing skills of students with learning disabilities and are equally effective for individuals who just need extra help.
Evoke’s Academic Writing Strategies program teaches students, step-by-step, evidence-based strategies that assist with every phase of the writing process, from brainstorming and goal setting to proofreading and revision—strategies that have been researched and proven to work with students at all levels, and especially those who are challenged by learning disabilities. Together, the student and tutor will identify the greatest roadblocks to the student’s writing and choose the strategies that will best address their challenges. Our writing strategies are research-informed and introduced gradually as the student demonstrates understanding and mastery.
The writing process demands a lot from our brains, requiring us to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. Many students with executive function challenges, ADHD, and learning disabilities have a difficult time organizing their writing. Students work one-to-one with a tutor and are provided with the explicit strategy instruction required to enhance their writing skills and boost their confidence. This program requires a minimum commitment of 8 hours over the course of the summer and 15 minutes of homework per day, in between sessions, to reinforce strategies and skills.
Executive Function Development, Learning and Study Skills Program
This program introduces students (Grade 7–postsecondary) to key foundational concepts and skills necessary for academic performance. Informed by current cognitive science, the program focuses on both academic skills and noncognitive factors such as procrastination, the science of success, and the nature of ADHD. Students are introduced to information, resources, strategies, and tools that will help them navigate the academic curriculum, develop executive function skills, and enhance their learning, organizational, and study skills. Students engage in conversations about the cognitive science principles of learning, time management, procrastination, study skills, misunderstandings about learning, motivation, and notetaking skills. This information is particularly helpful for those students with executive function challenges. This program is designed to be delivered over 8 hours over the summer with a minimum commitment of 4 hours per month.
Critical Thinking – NEW!
Critical thinking—the ability to gather and synthesize information, identify biases, make comparisons, ask questions, and weigh alternative points of view to reach informed conclusions—is an essential skill for students who want to succeed in their postsecondary studies and an important talent in the workplace and life. By acquiring new knowledge and different ways of looking at nuanced or novel problems, students learn to develop and vet logical, supportable arguments informed by research and analysis.
This capability looks different across academic disciplines. For example, students studying history learn to interpret documents by considering their sources, finding corroboration, and identifying historical context. In the lab, students follow the scientific method and rely on the content knowledge stored in their long-term memory to free up their working memory to brainstorm hypotheses. In math class, students can take the goals of the steps in the solution models they have learned and apply those goals to solve word problems.
In this eight-session program, students learn the importance of (and brain science behind) content knowledge and time on task, practice understanding and taking points of view, learn how to research information effectively and efficiently, become familiar with the psychological origins and implications of bias, learn how to identify fake news and propaganda, practice asking open-ended questions, identify and make effective comparisons (surface structure vs. deep structure), and become more adept at breaking down arguments. Each session includes reinforcing activities/practice time and self-quizzes. Students receive helpful handouts and tip sheets that can be used as reference tools in future coursework.
This program requires a minimum of 8 hours over the summer.
ADHD and Academic Coaching
Summer is a great time for students to engage in coaching. Our coaches help students reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, prepare their mindset, think ahead, and set goals for the next year (i.e., what do they need, what are potential barriers that they faced this year that could get in the way for them in the fall, and how can they find balance when the school year begins?) Coaching helps students build skills for the upcoming school year, prepare for transitions, learn strategies, and strengthen their organization, time management, and executive function skills to enhance academic performance. Students with ADHD have an opportunity to understand how the symptoms of ADHD play out in their daily, personal, and academic lives and to understand their ADHD better and how it gets in the way of their learning, as well as strategies they can use to help facilitate change and help translate abstract goals into concrete actions. Engaging in coaching over the summer means there is no homework to juggle, and plenty of time to focus on strategies that will enhance executive function skills and promote more positive thoughts and behaviours and new approaches to learning. This program requires a minimum of 8 coaching hours over the summer.
Parent coaching helps to provide encouragement, practical suggestions for challenges faced at home, feedback, and support in applying a change management system to move families forward. The goal of parent coaching is to help devise and implement personalized strategies to help your child manage their challenges, and for family life to be more balanced and functional.
The benefits of parent coaching include:
Coaching is a proven method for creating and managing change. The principles of coaching can be used by parents to help a child with ADHD and/or executive function challenges build an independent and happy life. This program requires a minimum of five, 60-minute coaching sessions.
This program is designed for students interested in, or currently taking, online summer courses. An Evoke tutor works one-to-one with the student to keep them organized, supported, and on task. Benefits of this program include:
Students managing learning differences and other demands on their time are frequently at a disadvantage when it comes to guidance counselling. Many students are unsure of their options and have difficulty organizing their approach, getting adequate time with counsellors, and identifying their strengths and interests. Our academic mentors understand that the postsecondary environment is competitive and that it is extremely important for students with learning disabilities to pursue their education and career goals at an institution that fits their needs and abilities. At Evoke, we alleviate anxiety for our students (and their families) by helping them ensure that they have the prerequisite courses and experiences to make successful postsecondary choices. Our mentoring sessions are student-centered, and we ask our clients open-ended questions to discover what inspires, motivates, and engages them. We move beyond traditional standardized questionnaires to give students an early, personalized, thoughtful, and comprehensive plan for thriving in a postsecondary environment. This program requires a minimum commitment of 3 hours.
Transition to Postsecondary
Students with learning disabilities face unique challenges when entering postsecondary education after high school. A successful transition to and navigation of postsecondary studies requires knowledge of one’s own disability and needs as well as access to the resources and support services that may be available at the institution, and the ability to self-advocate (Milsom & Hartley, 2005). In the move to college or university, students often lose the essential supports they received in high school. As a result, many struggle both academically and emotionally.
Evoke offers personalized mentoring focused on the development of metacognitive skills. Our mentors identify effective strategies and solutions that help students bridge the gap between ability and performance, and transition to postsecondary studies. Mentors focus on increasing the individual’s ability to plan, prioritize, and organize, and emphasize a proactive approach to learning. Our program supports students in their transition by helping them create a vision for the kind of postsecondary experience they want to have, define their goals, and implement action steps to achieve them. Through Evoke’s Transition to Postsecondary program, students learn to develop key academic strategies, understand how to access available resources, and learn how to make a successful transition to postsecondary studies. This program requires a commitment of 8 hours over the summer.
Financial Literacy for Students; Grade 11–Postsecondary
It’s so easy for young adults to fall into financial traps, and poor decisions about money can take decades to fix. Learning to manage their personal finances now means that students will be prepared when the time comes to set financial goals, follow best practices, and prevent and protect themselves against fraud and financial abuse. Understanding the fundamentals of budgeting, saving, debt, and investing is critical in every part of life and students require the knowledge and skills for making sound financial decisions, engaging in good saving habits, budgeting, and building a solid credit score. This program is especially helpful to individuals who are transitioning to postsecondary education and/ or students with ADHD who may find managing finances particularly difficult due to challenges with procrastination, disorganization, and impulsivity. This program requires a commitment of 8 hours over the summer.