The COVID pandemic created an environment where academic inequities were exposed.
"Most of the consumer-facing solutions, even if they're relatively inexpensive, are still too expensive for so many families," says Philip Cutler, the CEO of a free online tutoring service called, Paper.
A survey of school districts across the country done pre-COVID found that 66% of high schools had one digital learning device per student, Now, over 90% of high schools report every student with their own digital learning device.
Having made great strides in providing access to technology, school districts are now looking at ways to close the divide in academic opportunity.
"We know that talent is everywhere. There are smart kids all around us. What's limited is their access," says Val Verde Unified School District Superintendent Michael McCormick.
Paper is an online tutoring service that contracts with school districts to provide free, unlimited, 24-hour academic support in any subject, in multiple languages.
"For so many of our students, they don't necessarily have another adult they can turn to and ask questions. And so this plays a really important role in supporting those students. They can't turn to their parents, because they may not be able to help them with their calculus, for example," Cutler said.
Founded in 2014 as a way to help families who couldn't afford an individual, in-person tutor, Paper was assisting 50,000 students pre-pandemic.
Now, a roster of 1,500 educators provides one-on-one assistance to over a million and a half, K-12 students -- 600,000 in Southern California.
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Alejandra Silvar, a junior at Citrus Hill High School in Perris with a 3.5 GPA , is among those students.
"They'll give you ways to build off of your ideas inside your essays. And then when you're doing your math problems, they'll give you certain ways and certain tricks, but not a certain way to do it," Silvar said.
Teachers can also access Paper, so they know who needs help and in what subject. Compatible on all devices, Paper is expanding across a growing number of school districts. In addition to Perris, Paper is looking to grow across Southern California.
You simply type in your problem, draw it or upload a file and a tutor helps you understand why you're stuck.
"Once they sign in one time, they get that dashboard, they click the 'Paper' icon and they're off and running," McCormick said.
Paper has become a growing resource for families of all economic backgrounds, primarily because the help is there when the student needs it, no matter how late.
"I stay late to 9 or 8, so I can't really get teacher help since they're already gone. And then I can't get a tutor since I don't think any tutors can be available to me in the nighttime," explains Silvar.
"It's a brilliant integration of a software platform with live human tutors that are available around the clock for our students," adds McCormick.
With over 20,000 sessions having already been taken in the Val Verde School District, Paper is fast becoming what families expect.
"I can't imagine schools not wanting to provide their students with 24/7 access to unlimited support. And it just, you know, it's a new norm," says Cutler.