Use these strategies to build a lasting tutoring program.
Research has confirmed that high-dosage tutoring is one of the most effective methods for getting students on grade level and keeping them there. But how do you make tutoring sustainable for your school or district?
Read on to learn five ways to lay the groundwork for a tutoring program that will drive engagement, foster achievement, and stick around long enough to benefit every student needing extra support.
What Is High-Dosage Tutoring?
Knowing what effective high-dosage tutoring looks like can be confusing with so many tutoring options. Here’s a quick list to help you differentiate between high-dosage tutoring and other, possibly less effective, options.
Effective high-dosage tutoring:
Happens at least three times a week.
Occurs in either one-on-one sessions or small groups (no larger than four students to one tutor).
Aligns with a school’s curriculum, pacing, scope, and sequence. It goes beyond homework help and complements the content and skills students learn in the classroom.
Uses high-quality instructional materials and highly qualified instructors with ongoing training and support.
Collects usable student progress data so tutors and teachers can track growth and adjust lessons to meet student needs.
What Does It Mean for a Tutoring Program to Be Sustainable?
In the past, tutoring often focused on remediation, but sustainable tutoring is proactive in keeping students doing grade-level work. Sustainable tutoring programs aim to make tutoring a routine part of the educational journey, providing every student with the chance to accelerate their learning and meet their full potential.
Five Ways to Make Tutoring Sustainable
As you think about the shift from reactive to sustainable high-dosage tutoring, here are five ways to build a robust tutoring program at your school or district that will last.
1. Don’t compromise on tutor quality.
Just as students benefit from adept and compassionate classroom teachers, they also benefit from experienced and knowledgeable tutors. Whether you’re training your tutors yourself or using a tutoring service, prioritize hiring tutors who are former classroom teachers. They’ll understand scope, sequence, and content, and even more importantly, they’ll know how to build relationships with students that will increase engagement, confidence, and performance.
As Peter Lacasse, Carnegie Learning Chief Strategy Officer, says, "A tutor is doing a lot of things: formative assessment, building conceptual understanding, demonstrating multiple approaches. All the things that we know are fundamental to student learning. This is why the quality of the tutor is so important."
TIP: When choosing a high-dosage tutoring provider, ask where and how they find their tutors. Also, inquire about tutor training and support, which should be ongoing.
2. Increase student attendance and engagement.
Students must show up and work hard for your high-dosage tutoring program to be effective. So, how do you make this happen? Here are a few ideas:
Start with relationship building. From snap surveys to online scavenger hunts, there are many ways tutors can show students they are there to support them, not just as learners but as people.
Build tutoring into the school day. Based on data collected by Dr. Michelle Dyson at Prince George’s County Public Schools, Maryland, attendance increased 15-20% when tutoring sessions occurred during the school day. This may hold especially true for schools where students are more likely to have jobs or be responsible for sibling care.
Involve caregivers. When caregivers receive text messages and tutoring notices through online platforms, they can remind their learners to attend and monitor progress if they wish. Offering periodic caregiver surveys is a great way to solicit feedback and gauge how tutoring services are landing with families.
Offer incentives. Small gift cards can be a great way to incentivize students. Often these can be phased out once students see that the real reward of tutoring is better academic performance and increased confidence.
Have students set goals. When students record, revise, and reflect on their goals, they begin to take ownership of their learning, a mindset shift that leads to them accepting responsibility for their academic growth and celebrating their achievements.
TIP: Look for high-dosage tutoring programs that value relationships between students, caregivers, and tutors. Research shows that students will engage more in learning when they have built mutual rapport with their tutor.
3. Align tutoring with the core curriculum.
The most sustainable tutoring programs align with and support the work of teachers. High-dosage tutoring programs should build tutoring plans based on the content, pacing, scope, and sequence students will experience in the classroom.
Tutors can identify the prerequisite skills for upcoming lessons and make sure students are prepared to do grade-level work, but they can also push students who are ready to think beyond grade-level standards, setting them up for academic success not only in the current year but for years to come.
TIP: When exploring high-dosage tutoring options, look for programs that actively use resources from the schools/districts they support.
4. Establish an assessment strategy and data collection method.
To sustain a tutoring program, you must show that it improves student outcomes. Early on, tutoring programs should identify school and district benchmarks and standards and form a plan for addressing them. They should also decide how they will assess student learning. Generally, formal and casual formative assessments paired with qualitative feedback from students, teachers, tutors, and caregivers can establish enough data points to show that tutoring is effective.
If your high-dosage tutoring program uses learning software, make sure it collects easy-to-analyze data, so you can see where students are making progress and where they need more support.
TIP: Look for tutoring programs that collect robust and usable data. Just as important is program flexibility; tutors should adjust methods if data suggests a different approach would benefit students.
5. Make the most of funding.
High-dosage tutoring programs can be costly, and to make one sustainable, you’ll need to figure out how to pay for it in the long term. It’s worth researching these funding options:
Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) through the Department of Education
Title 1 funding
The National Student Support Accelerator has information on grants available to fund tutoring.
Once initial funding is secured, the best way to keep a high-dosage tutoring program going is to show that students benefit, which is why collecting data is crucial.
TIP: Many state, federal, and private grants are available to fund tutoring. Oftentimes, the applications don’t require a lot of specialization, so one strong grant request can likely be used to apply to many funding sources.
When You Make Tutoring Sustainable, You Empower Your Students to Succeed
Congratulations on reaching this step in your journey to bring high-dosage tutoring to your school or district. It’s one of the best things you can do for your students.
To learn more about how to make your tutoring program sustainable, watch our on-demand webinar, "How To Make Tutoring Sustainable: Strategies for Effective District-Wide Programs."
Before joining Carnegie Learning’s marketing team in 2021, Emily Anderson spent 16 years teaching middle school, high school, and college English in classrooms throughout Virginia, Pennsylvania, California, and Minnesota. During these years, Emily developed a passion for designing exciting, relatable curricula and developing transformative teaching strategies. She holds master's degrees in English and Women’s Studies and a doctorate in American literature and lives for those classroom moments when students learn something that will forever change them. She loves helping amazing teachers achieve more of these moments in their classrooms.Explore more related to this author
A tutor is doing a lot of things. Formative assessment, building conceptual understanding, demonstrating multiple approaches. All the things that we know are fundamental to student learning. This is why the quality of the tutor is so important.
Peter Lacasse, Chief Strategy Officer, Carnegie Learning