I’m a big believer in identifying learning gaps when students are in elementary school. There’s still time to address the issues and get students on the path to successful learning outcomes. If you wait until later to focus on the gaps, they can turn into more insurmountable problems down the road.
Knowing this, we’ve prioritized tutoring for elementary students at my last school and middle school students at my current school. This is much more effective than waiting until they’re in high school and then trying to fill in gaps that have grown over the years.
To get in front of these issues, we implemented the FEV Tutor high-impact virtual tutoring platform for the 2021-22 school year. Working with teachers and administrators, we identified approximately 50 students—roughly 12% of our total population—for the one-to-one tutoring sessions.
Here are five steps we took when setting up our after-school tutoring program at our building:
1. Get classroom teachers involved. We had a specific, S.M.A.R.T. goal-driven plan (setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based goals) for the tutoring sessions. We wanted them to take place after school and completely separate from the learning day. Even though students would have a one-to-one tutor on the platform, we also wanted certified teachers in the room who could help students through any barriers. The district compensated those teachers, each monitoring 10 to 12 students during the sessions.
Superintendents to watch: How leaders are elevating students’ best interests
2. Create a comfortable and exclusive environment. We set it up so that the sessions would take place Monday through Thursday after school. Students worked in a designated, quiet space outfitted with 50 laptops and equipped with excellent Wi-Fi. After an after-school snack, they logged into the tutoring platform for a one-hour tutoring session.
3. Schedule sessions in a way that synthesizes the learning. We scheduled the sessions back-to-back to ensure that students were paired up with the same tutor as much as possible. This allowed the tutor and student to reflect on the previous day’s activities and progress to bridge the learning from one day to the next.
Students could use the learning from the prior afternoon in the current session, and teachers could more easily synthesize the learning for the students. Coming back in the next day, the tutor and student could more quickly begin the next lesson by recapping what they did the day before and then bridging it forward to support the student’s progress.
4. Track the results. Our school’s comprehensive and dedicated approach to high-dosage, high-impact virtual tutoring has paid off in numerous ways. In comparing the FEV Tutor users to the campus’ NWEA MAP Growth data, for example, we saw significant gains. We compared the scores of the 50 students who had FEV after-school tutoring to the entire building’s MAP math scores. Students in tutoring performed 27% higher than their non-tutored peers.
5. Get a feel for the tutoring program before you buy. Knowing that middle school teachers may not be as quick to use virtual tutoring, I had our tutoring partner come and speak with a few teachers about the platform and its history and purpose. Once they saw the platform in action for themselves, the instructors were eager to test it out. In October, we started our first 100 students on the platform. The 6th and 7th graders use it for two days of math tutoring per week, back-to-back.
If you’re thinking about a tutoring program, be sure to look at the product first. Find out how they will provide ongoing support once the implementation begins and the guarantees they make on addressing out-of-the-box issues. It’s an investment, so be sure that principals and decision-makers have researched the product thoroughly before putting it in front of students.