Since the COVID-19 pandemic first affected schools and student learning time, educators and policymakers have given serious attention to increasing the number of high-impact learning opportunities to improve student outcomes.
Students in specific demographic groups (e.g., Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and low-income students) were disproportionately affected by disrupted learning time during the pandemic, which meant they fell farther behind in core subjects.1 High-quality tutoring is one research-proven approach to provide support and customized instruction for students that can help close opportunity gaps.2
Key Considerations for Designing a Tutoring Program
How can district leaders start designing and implementing a tutoring program to accelerate learning? One resource, the National Student Support Accelerator's High-Impact Tutoring: District Playbook, can guide school district staff in implementing high-impact tutoring. The playbook includes resources, guiding questions, and tools to support the process, from identifying a focus area to ensuring staff capacity to scheduling tutoring sessions.
The National Student Support Accelerator also developed a Toolkit for Tutoring Program Design, which includes a planning tool (pages 22-38). This resource helps district and school leaders consider the design elements that constitute a tutoring program: target student group, content area, grade level, tutor type, delivery mode, dosage, student-tutor ratio, tutor consistency, setting, and take-up. For each element, leaders will want to consider the evidence of effectiveness along with any potential tradeoffs.
The following four elements, for example, require thoughtful consideration:3
Adjusting Your Tutoring Program Based on Student Needs
While evidence shows high-quality tutoring is effective across varied contexts, school and district leaders may need to adjust programming based on specific student needs. REL Northwest recently heard from Montana's Arlee Joint School District (Arlee) about how it used ESSER funds to support and customize a tutoring program. Arlee, located on the Flathead Indian Reservation near Missoula, serves 416 students, 36% of whom are American Indian.
In designing a math tutoring program, Arlee leaders considered their context. As a district administrator from Arlee described, "We've noticed that a lot of our Native Americans do not feel comfortable in a large group setting when they're lower in their educational attainment ... yet they don't necessarily like the one-on-one tutoring either. We're doing small groups, 3-4 kids max with one staff member, and we've really discovered that's paying off."
The district administrator noted that in spring 2022 American Indian students in grades 3-6 scored higher in math for the first time than non-American Indian students (read more in the Montana ESSER School District Spotlights).
See below for more resources about designing and implementing a tutoring program:
1 Lewis, K., & Kuhfeld, M. (2021). Learning during COVID-19: An update on student achievement and growth at the start of the 2021-22 school year. NWEA Brief. https://www.nwea.org/research/publication/learning-during-covid-19-initial-findings-on-students-reading-and-math-achievement-and-growth/
2 Robinson, C. D., Kraft, M. A., Loeb, S., & Schueler, B. E. (2021). Accelerating Student Learning with High-Dosage Tutoring. EdResearch for Recovery Design Principles Series; Nickow, A., Oreopoulos, P., & Quan, V. (2020). The impressive effects of tutoring on prek-12 learning: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the experimental evidence; Dietrichson, J., Bøg, M., Filges, T., & Klint Jørgensen, A.-M. (2017). Academic Interventions for Elementary and Middle School Students With Low Socioeconomic Status: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 87(2), 243-282.