How Can Schools Design an Effective Tutoring Program? — Saga Education

February 22, 2022

School districts throughout the nation are trying to come up with ways to address the unfinished learning that students have experienced during the pandemic. Especially in the case of Black and Latinx students, there has been a disproportionate amount of interrupted learning.

 According to a recent report from McKinsey & Company, schools that have a high population of Black students as well as those who live in low-income communities, have learning losses of six to seven months. Even more troubling is the high drop-out rate of these students.

Effective and Sustainable
School districts recognize that they need to address this situation, but the question is how to do it. How can school districts develop a tutoring program that is effective, sustainable and successful?

When developing an effective tutoring model it is best to understand the evidence of success factors which include:

  1.  Tutoring should be in groups of 2 or 3 students.

  2. The same tutor is responsible for tutoring the group of students throughout the school year.

  3. Tutoring is provided a minimum of three times per week with at least 30-50 minutes of instruction.

  4. Tutoring is implemented during the school day, not before or after the school day. It is supplemental to core academic instruction.

  5. High-quality and well-trained tutors provide the tutoring, including teachers, paraprofessionals, teaching candidates, recently retired teachers, community providers, AmeriCorps members, and other individuals who have received training.

  6. The program emphasizes student attendance and educator support.

  7. The program uses a high-quality curriculum designed for small group instruction that is aligned with academic standards and practices.

  8. The program prioritizes coordination between classroom educators, tutors and school leaders.

  9. Tutoring is data-driven, with interim assessments to monitor student progress.

  10. The program provides ongoing professional training, coaching, and development for tutors.

  11. The student benefits associated with high-impact tutoring are greater when the program plan contains all of the elements set forth in the prior subsection.

Evidence and Support

School districts are looking for evidence that proves that tutoring programs work. Research has shown that students who receive high-impact tutoring in small groups during the school day are the most successful.

According to a case study from J-PAL. “Two randomized evaluations found that students who received individualized math tutoring through Saga scored higher on exams, earned better grades, and were more likely to pass high school classes.”

High-impact tutoring programs should have built-in layers of support, said Maryellen Leneghan, Senior Director of Business Development & Consulting for Saga Education.

“First, have a person who’s managing the program at the district level, then have someone at the school level who supports the day to day implementation and coaching of tutors providing them ongoing support and feedback,” she said.

 The recommended teacher to student ratio is one tutor for every 3 or 4 students with 30 minutes of instruction three times a week. U.S Secretary of  Education Miguel Carbona has expressed support of this high-impact model.

 Logistics, Scheduling and Other Details
One of the big challenges for schools is figuring out the logistics. Because high-impact tutoring is held during school hours, districts may have to rearrange the schedules so that tutors can provide services in conjunction with the class and follow the core classes standards scope and sequence.

“Individual school districts need to consider the key components of the program, such as the grade level and types of students who would benefit from tutoring, how to recruit qualified tutors, as well as how to schedule the tutors,” said Leneghan.

“Schools may have to revamp their scheduling. They need to think about whether this is a new class that students get credit for, or part of another class. These are just some of the details to consider, which takes planning and preparation. Planning this kind of program can take three months or more,” she added.

Expert Advice
But with schools being short-staffed and resources stretched thin, it helps to have some expert advice and support, especially during the time of COVID “We can walk alongside districts to get tutoring programs up and running and provide them with resources and support they need to build up their capacity to make these changes,” said Leneghan.

Different school districts require different levels of support. “We listen to the school’s needs and cater to their issues. We can offer them a step-by-step guide, scheduling checklists, job descriptions, course codes, and more. Basically, it’s hands-on consulting and technical assistance to help high-impact tutoring programs succeed.”

Other factors to include when designing a high-impact tutoring program include creating a communication plan to inform teachers, parents, students, and other stakeholders about the purpose and goals of this program, as well as how it is going to work.

But there is one very critical element of designing a tutoring program. It may be the most important factor to consider: the students. “Kids don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. That is a hallmark of tutoring. Relationships first, content second,” said Leneghan.

Read more about how to design high-impact tutoring programs.