4 steps power high dosage tutoring in early literacy
High dosage tutoring for early literacy does not necessarily mean devoting long periods of one-on-one time to each student, each day.
While the one-on-one component remains essential, an interventionist need only spend five or six minutes with a student while the rest can be done with technology, says Barbara Gilbert, national education director of the early-literacy tutoring nonprofit, Innovations for Learning.
“You don’t have to sit with a kid an hour every day,” says Gilbert, a former elementary school principal. “But it has to be one-on-one and you need a way to keep track of information so you can target areas, and then immediately reinforce so the learning cements itself in the brain.”
Here’s how Innovations for Learning’s tutoring model works:
1. Hiring interventionists: Innovations for Learning hires and trains early literacy interventionists, which its calls ELIs, and embeds them in elementary school classrooms. (The company shifted work online during the COVID pandemic).
2. One-on-one time: Interventionists, using Innovations for Learning’ laptops and tablets, spend about five minutes with each student. The interventionists share screens with students, who are also using the nonprofit’s devices. The interventionist assesses each learner’s needs and develops phonics-focused targeted instruction.
3. Syncing to the cloud: The interventionists’ assessments and data are synced to the cloud to guide personalized instruction in the skills each student needs to work on.
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4. Independent learning: After the one-on-one sessions, students complete game-based literacy lessons on Innovations for Learning devices that run its software and curriculum.
‘Chance of success for everything’
The system, which is heavily supported by philanthropy, is low-cost to district leaders who may be considering using ESSER funds to expand tutoring and literacy interventions.
The technology and curriculum are provided free by Innovations for Learning. Districts generally supplement the salary of the interventionists, who spend two years in a district or school, Gilbert says.
After two years, interventionists can transfer the tutoring model to the classroom teachers, she says.
At-risk students who participated in the tutoring increased reading scores by 163.5% between 2018-2020, according to a study of 189 kindergarten and first-grade students enrolled in a school that had previously reached only 39% proficiency in reading.
Students who did not receive the tutoring increased reading scores by 41.5%, Gilbert says.
“Our whole goal, our whole mission, is to get kids reading by the end of first grade,” Gilbert says. “If you can get kids reading on grade level by the end of first grade, their chance of success for everything is going to be very high.”