‘High-impact tutoring’ isn’t what you think it is—here’s how to ensure your program is effective at improving student learning

The best ways to approach high-impact tutoring

‘High-impact tutoring’ isn’t what you think it is—here’s how to ensure your program is effective at improving student learning

4. Who is the tutor? Given the scale of the problems they’re facing, some districts are tapping parents as volunteer tutors, but we’re also seeing many college students joining “near peer” tutoring programs. While teachers tend to be the consistently effective tutors,  the demands on their time often exceed their capacity to provide intensive intervention with individual students. Fortunately, emerging evidence suggests that trained paraprofessionals can also be very effective, if they receive quality training and ongoing support.

5. Is the staffing consistent? A student’s learning experience is highly dependent on the relationships that are forged within their educational journeys. Tutoring programs that pair a student with a consistent tutor for the duration of the program appear to provide a much more effective learning environment. When tutors meet regularly with students, they have the best opportunity to get to know that individual student and develop a deeper understanding of that individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. And we also know from the research that when students have positive relationships with their tutors, they’re much more motivated, have better attitudes, and most importantly, feel empowered about their educational trajectories.

6. Is the content rigorous? The research indicates that using high-quality instructional materials that are aligned with classroom content is a crucial element in facilitating effective tutoring. Having that content available allows a tutor to support and reinforce teachers’ classroom instruction. Focusing solely on remediation in tutoring settings has actually been found to result in students falling further behind the grade-level materials. Rather than focusing on areas that students have failed to master previously, tutors should address the missed concepts and skills that are going to be most critical for students to access the upcoming content to keep them on track.

Next Steps for Districts

Once schools have made a decision about a tutoring program, the real work begins. Implementation can be challenging. Fortunately, there are resources available—like implementation checklists—that can support administrators as they navigate these challenges. But it is helpful to be aware of the three key challenges when implementing high-impact tutoring programs, according to the National Student Support Accelerator.

First, there’s a need for a supply of high-quality tutors and tutoring providers. As school districts and tutoring providers look to expand tutoring programs, finding and hiring high-quality tutors will remain a challenge amid personnel shortages.

The second challenge is administrator capacity. In many districts, the responsibility of implementing a tutoring program is but one on a long list of responsibilities assigned to just one individual. This one person must identify funding sources, evaluate and choose effective programs, train and supervise tutors, navigate school schedules, coordinate relationships with external tutoring providers, and ensure high levels of program enrollment and attendance.

The third struggle is buy-in and ownership. Buy-in from principals and other school level staff is foundational for tutoring success, given that high-impact tutoring is a school initiative, but that decision-maker may not be the same person who is leading the tutoring initiative. Stakeholder support and partnership at these various levels will be critical for a successful implementation.

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