Opinion
School & District Management Opinion

8 Considerations for Designing High-Impact Tutoring

The most important rule is start small
By Kevin Newman — June 08, 2021 4 min read
A woman tutors a young child.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

With the return to in-person learning in sight, K-12 leaders are urgently setting priorities for the coming school year. Each spring, educators are eager to find that “just right” approach to their biggest challenges. As a former middle and high school principal, I know that’s especially true after a tough year—and no year has been tougher than this one.

For many leaders, accelerating student learning is top-of-mind, and one method that has garnered a lot of recent attention is high-impact tutoring. The National Student Support Accelerator, founded this year at the Annenberg Institute at Brown University to promote and support high-impact tutoring, defines it as one-to-one or small-group support that supplements classroom learning and complements existing curriculum by focusing on specific goals in response to individual students’ needs. This kind of tutoring is also known as “high-intensity tutoring” or “high-dosage tutoring.”

Research has shown that frequent in-school tutoring is one of the best ways to support students’ academic progress. In fact, tutoring has had greater impacts on student learning than various forms of teacher training, curriculum, extending the school day, teacher evaluation, and more.

This kind of tutoring is not meant to solely focus on remediating previous learning, although some reteaching may be involved. It might be helpful to think of high-impact tutoring as “accelerated learning” rather than “remediated learning.”

As with any education intervention schools undertake, it is important to first consider a variety of factors and then formulate a program that’s calibrated to address them. In my current role helping leaders of the KIPP network of charter schools shape their academic strategies, I advise that any school looking to design a high-impact tutoring program address these eight key components:

  1. Format: It can be either online or in person.
  2. Frequency and length of time: It is recommended that tutoring take place at least three times per week for at least 30 minutes at a time for the full school year.
  3. Ratio: Ideally, a student-to-tutor ratio should be 1-1 or 2-1 and no greater than 4-1. Any ratio greater than 2-1 runs the risk of “teaching to the middle” and thus being less effective. Larger groups also require the tutor to have greater pedagogical skills and/or classroom-management skills.
  4. Scheduling: It is recommended that tutoring occur during the school day as a formal part of the schedule, such as a dedicated class period.
  5. Staffing: If possible, students should have the same tutor(s) for the full year. Research indicates that less-experienced tutors can be effective with consistent training, strong supervision, and structured curricula. Schools might consider staffing with paraprofessionals and/or novice teachers.
  6. Students: Given that all students benefit from individual attention, tutoring is recommended for all students, not just for those who may be struggling. Tutoring exclusively for struggling students tends to create stigma and may be perceived as punishment.
  7. Support: For tutors, determine who will provide ongoing training and supervision, including observation and feedback. For content, determine differentiated scope and sequence for each student and determine whether teachers or tutors will be providing it. For outcomes, determine the process for individual goal setting, progress monitoring, and data collection and analysis.
  8. Tutoring content: Content should be curriculum-based, on grade level, with just-in-time scaffolds to help students over rough spots, and it should be focused on the most critical standards for the grade level. It is most important to tailor content to students’ progress, whether that be pre-teaching, reviewing for an exam, or aiding with homework.

These are all important considerations, but the list comes with a caution, too. In stressful times like these, a recipe feels like a godsend. Yet a recipe can also be dangerous because it does not take local context into consideration. So rather than run with predetermined recommendations, school leaders should first start with defining the student outcomes they are seeking to meet through high-impact tutoring. If schools are looking for one “rule” to follow without exception, it is this: Start small, work with the program until you find success, and then assess whether that success can be maintained at a larger scale.

See Also

A tutor welcomes a student to a workstation
JuliarStudio/iStock/Getty Images<br/>

For example, the KIPP schools in Nashville, Tenn., are currently building their program with these components in mind but in a way that meets their context and constraints. They will be targeting students in specific grades, with primary students focusing on reading and secondary students focusing on math. Their tutoring will be offered for an hour after school, three days a week, and they have partnered with a local tutoring service to provide instruction and oversight.

While KIPP Nashville is not incorporating every single recommendation, they are considering all components in their design, and—most importantly—they are starting small. “We decided to start small and observe results so we could make the appropriate revisions if we decided to scale up,” said Nancy Livingston, the KIPP Nashville chief of schools.

To be as successful as possible, take these eight components into account and thoughtfully design a program that is realistic, sustainable, and rooted in your specific context. Our students don’t need another education initiative to fizzle out partway through the year. They deserve a well-considered plan that places their learning at the center. High-impact tutoring, if done right, can be instrumental in achieving that goal.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the June 16, 2021 edition of Education Week as 8 Considerations for Designing High-Impact Tutoring

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Be the Change: Strategies to Make Year-Round Hiring Happen
Learn how to leverage actionable insights to diversify your recruiting efforts and successfully deploy a year-round recruiting plan.
Content provided by Frontline
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Critical Ways Leaders Can Build a Culture of Belonging and Achievement
Explore innovative practices for using technology to build an environment of belonging and achievement for all staff and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Download A Visual Guide to Nonverbal Communication (Download)
Understanding nonverbal communication can help you improve interactions and get your message across.
1 min read
v42 8SR Nonverbal Communication Share Image
Gina Tomko/Education Week and Getty
School & District Management Ensure Your Staff Gets the Message: 3 Tips for School Leaders
School staff are inundated with information. Here's a few ways to ensure they will actually hear you.
3 min read
Image showing a female and male in business attire connecting speech bubble puzzle pieces.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management How District Leaders Can Make Social Media Work for Them
Two school district leaders with impressive followings share best practices for using social media.
3 min read
Two diverse educators with laptops sitting on an oversize cellphone with communication symbols and text bubbles on the phone and in the air around them.
Gina Tomko/Education Week and DigitalVision Vectors
School & District Management 10 Buzzwords Educators Never Want to Hear Again
We asked educators on social media to share their least favorite education “buzzword” and why it grinds their gears.
5 min read
silhouettes of people with colorful thinking and speech boxes full or buzzwords like Rigor, Kiddos, Self-Care, Grit, Learning Loss, Pivot, Fidelity, and Unpack
Gina Tomko/Education Week and Getty