How one group is helping New York City students reverse pandemic learning loss


New York City — School begins on a high note at Mosaic Preparatory Academy, an elementary school in New York City, where students are greeted like superstars. It’s a stark contrast to four years ago, when the doors to New York City Public Schools were shuttered at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students like 9-year-old Joy Contreras, then a first grader, struggled with remote learning.

“Sometimes it was blurry,” Contreras said. “And when I had my headphones on, people were screaming in my ear.”

Crystal Arias remembers her daughter Joy’s frustration.
 
“She kind of felt shut off,” Arias said. “Like, her main thing was, nobody’s listening to me, because it’s a lot of people, you know, it’s a screen.”

To help reverse pandemic learning loss, Mosaic has partnered with City Year New York, an education nonprofit that supplies teams of student success coaches to serve as tutors, mentors and role models in 17 public schools citywide. 

The coaches provide academic help and other support both during classes — with volunteers assigned to assist teachers — as well as in after-school programs.

Jessica Solomon, 23, is one of those tutors, and she helps Joy with math and reading.

“Joy’s growth this year, academically and socially, emotionally, has been amazing,” Solomon said.

Solomon explained the idea is to take a holistic approach that focuses not just on a student’s academic success, but also one that provides emotional support and guidance when needed.   

“They help me with my homework, and when I don’t know something, and my friends won’t help me, they help me,” Joy said of City Year New York.

The results are earning high marks. In the 2022-23 academic year, attendance at Mosaic increased to 85%, up from 75% the year before. State reading scores jumped 18% over the same time frame, while math scores rose 9%.  

Joy’s mother says her daughter’s confidence has grown, thanks to her teachers and the success coaches. Joy even says she wants to become a teacher when she grows up, “because teachers help kids learn, so when they grow up, they can be whatever they want.”

“I just feel so rewarded to be a part of their academic journey, especially in this transition out of the pandemic,” Solomon said. 



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