Student Achievement

‘Don’t Reinvent The Wheel': How One District Made a Tutoring Program That Works

By Libby Stanford — February 10, 2023 1 min read
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Tutoring has become a popular strategy for schools looking to help students recover learning lost over the pandemic. But Andrew Houlihan, the superintendent of the Union County school district in Monroe, N.C., started using tutoring to help students make academic gains long before the world first learned about COVID-19.

In a live interview with Education Week, Houlihan shared how his district developed an intensive math tutoring program after seeing how well small-group instruction worked at his former district in Houston. Starting in the 2017-18 school year, the district enrolled 4th- and 7th-grade students at schools with low math performance in a intensive tutoring program, during which they received instruction in groups of three students to one tutor.

The program includes district-designed training for tutors, involving a math test to ensure tutors’ skills meet district standards and ongoing collaboration with teachers to ensure tutoring is aligned with the curriculum and involves best teaching practices.

So far, the strategy has worked. It helped pull all four of the low-performing elementary schools off the state’s low-performing schools list by the end of the 2018-19 school year. The district is now using the program to help students who have fallen behind since the onset of the pandemic.

Houlihan’s advice to districts trying to have the same impact? “Don’t reinvent the wheel.”

“Take something like this that has a proven track record that works. We’ll give you everything,” Houlihan said. “I say to our staff, ‘don’t reinvent the wheel.’ Steal the wheel and make it work for your district.”

See Also

Casey Rimmer, left, is the director of innovation and ed-tech for the Union County School District in North Carolina. She's helped both staff and students navigate the glut of tech tools and applications that became a part of daily life during the pandemic. Andrew Houlihan, right, is the superintendent in Union County and developed a high-dosage tutoring strategy to combat student learning loss. Pictured here on Dec. 16, 2021.
Casey Rimmer, left, and Andrew G. Houlihan have kept Union County, N.C., steps ahead of the pandemic's disruption. Rimmer, an innovation and ed-tech leader, helped staff and students navigate the glut of tech tools that became a part of daily life, while Houlihan, the superintendent, developed a tutoring model to bolster academics.
Alex Boerner for Education Week

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