As the latest results from the National Assessment of Academic Progress (NAEP) make clear, we have a long way to go to ensure that our students are achieving at grade level in reading and mathematics.
Yet, we don’t just want to address the gaps in students’ learning—we want to make sure each one of our students grows and advances.
At Baker Charter Schools, we’re a K–12 public charter school with students all over Oregon. Online tutoring gives our students access to the critical academic support they need, even outside traditional school hours. By making this support available to all our students, we’re not only closing opportunity gaps but helping students reach their full potential.
The benefits of high-impact tutoring can’t be ignored—for all student groups. Recent research shows that tutoring is one of the most effective ways to increase academic achievement, including among students from lower socio-economic households—one of the groups disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, while the pandemic shined a light on tutoring as an academic intervention, it’s important that we recognize tutoring is a crucial strategy for student advancement regardless of a student’s abilities.
Agreeing about this, we’ve gone beyond using tutoring merely as an academic intervention for closing learning gaps. Instead, we’re weaving 24/7 online tutoring into the fibers of our programs and services—and we’re seeing promising results.
Piloting on-demand online tutoring
Recognizing our students needed tutoring options available after regular school hours, we piloted TutorMe, an online tutoring solution, during the 2021–22 school year and reassigned most of our staff tutors. We conducted a two-part pilot project with a small pilot in fall 2021 and a full pilot for students in grades 8–12 in spring 2022.
To gauge the pilot’s success, we focused on how often our students used online tutoring, setting a goal of 40 hours of average weekly usage. The reason we set a weekly usage goal is because frequency matters: Tutoring is shown to have the greatest success when delivered in high doses. To track our progress toward this goal, I collected monthly data on student usage using the administrative dashboard.
While we didn’t meet our goal right away, we saw that usage steadily increased, primarily in math. We noticed almost immediately that more students used the service outside of regular school hours—times when our in-house tutoring wasn’t available. Now, we consistently reach our goal of 40 hours of tutoring per week, and this usage spikes at certain times, such as the end of a semester—when we might see as many as 80 hours per week.
I learned not to assume that 100 percent of students would participate, and I made it clear to our administrators that if we had 20 percent of our students using the service, that’s a great percentage. Now, as the year is progressing, we’re surpassing that goal, and the number of students using online tutoring outside of regular school hours continues to grow.
Reaching students whenever they need help
Access to online tutoring outside of regular school hours is important because we want to support our students whenever they might have questions about their work. Many of our high school students work later at night, and when we examined our pilot data, we realized that offering around-the-clock online tutoring helps us reach a large group we’d otherwise never be able to help.
Our schools don’t have staff available to help students during off-school hours, and online tutoring fills that gap in a huge way. During fall break when students were off for a week, we had 15 students log 25 hours of tutoring time. That’s 15 students who did not have access to on-demand help with our in-house tutors. Because those students had access to online tutoring, however, they got the just-in-time support they needed.
Providing on-demand online tutoring helps us provide the best education possible. What’s more, it’s helping all our students advance, even those already achieving at grade level. We’ve made online tutoring an integral and habitual part of our students’ learning, and it plays a large role in their academic success.
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