A Message to the Field About High-Impact Tutoring

This is the third post in our series about high-impact tutoring. You can read the first post here and the second post here.

This year in working alongside our site partners, in addition to identifying promising practices for districts and sites to make implementation more successful, TNTP also learned several things that will be helpful for the broader education field as they support and roll out high-impact tutoring programs. While districts can focus on their program design and implementation, funders, policymakers, and conveners can create enabling conditions for them to be set up for success. The below considerations will support those implementing the program in having the time and resources necessary to enact change for students and use HIT as a lever to close opportunity gaps. Each of these considerations will also help situate the conversation about HIT as part of a larger goal to individualize learning, provide an integrated system of supports and ensure each child gets what they need to be successful.

Consideration 1: Make philanthropic investments to ensure core instructional materials provide content to support HIT.

One challenge districts face when trying to implement HIT as part of a coherent instructional program is that not all high-quality curricula include aligned resources for tutoring. Investing in resources that are easy to implement and align well with the content and skills students are being taught during their core instructional time is essential to create an experience for students that will minimize confusion and lead to greater impact. Focusing on scaffolds for multilingual learners and intentionally planning skill-building around executive functioning and self-management will better support access for all learners and the integration of social and emotional development. This will also ensure that the topics and skills taught during the core instructional time of the school day align with the additional support HIT provides.

Consideration 2: Ensure policies around HIT include funding for additional educator development on supporting the whole child.

The goals of HIT are to improve both student academic achievement and their overall wellness and social and emotional development. However, many of our sites struggled to measure the latter. Without having indicators of success and progress it is easy to lose focus on the integration of these practices. Funders and policymakers can both invest in continued research and the development of high quality social and emotional measures as well as measures of student belonging and well-being. Ideally measures will look across social, emotional, relational, cognitive, and academics factors. Assessments should be frequent and formative to provide real-time data. The field can also seek to ensure metrics measure both the environment and student skill development. For example, an emphasis on tutor skill level and specific practices and routines to create a supportive environment can ensure that students are set up for success and do not become problematized. More attention and research are also warranted on how to ensure measures and success criteria are fully inclusive of the student and caregiver perspectives. This can be done through more training and support on implementing surveys and focus groups to get a holistic understanding of program outcomes. Additionally, more nuanced measures and an emphasis on continuous improvement will allow programs to demonstrate progress that can be seen more quickly than summative student academic test scores and outcomes.

Consideration 3: Enact policies that support realistic implementation timelines.

Legislators across the country can meaningfully affect students’ learning acceleration by supporting bills that elevate HIT. It’s important to note that these bills should have practical connections to the implementation and sustainability of the work. Ensuring a practical implementation timeline is important rather than expecting that systems can make the shift in a single school year. While accountability matters, giving LEAs a runway to implement policies and mandates is critical for the long-term sustainability of HIT. We have seen how state policy can serve as an important tool to bring this practice to students who need it most in states like Texas with HB4545. There are challenges that can be experienced in implementing a state-wide approach that are typical to what is seen in single sites, including staffing, and ensuring effective training.  Providing incentives along with mandates can help systems access HIT for their students in a systemic way. A longer runway would allow systems to make the necessary shifts in setting vision, aligning resources, including time during the day in master schedules, recruitment and training of tutors, and informing key stakeholders such a principals, teachers, and families about the why and how behind HIT. Through an incentives-based approach, policies can allow for systems to start small and scale according to their systems’ needs.

Consideration 4: Make philanthropic investments to create opportunities for sites to learn how other systems are tackling design and implementation challenges.

Last year, at the recommendation of our partners at Watershed and America Achieves, TNTP created a community of practice for sites to come together and discuss challenges and successes and share resources. Convening sites to engage in continuous improvement is critical for organic learning from those closest to the work to inform the direction of new resources and investments to address the most pressing needs districts have in implementing HIT programs. Participants reported this as being a very useful support. Additionally, other sites that had the opportunity to participate and create similar collaborative structures also reported participant satisfaction and practice changes from the shared learning. Conveners can break down silos that exist and create networks around shared challenges and early successes to support HIT success for students.

Consideration 5: Pass policy that enables continued funding to sustain the tutor pipeline.

Currently many states and districts are facing teacher shortages, particularly in high-need subject areas and in schools serving high numbers of students of color. As states and districts prioritize HIT as a key part of their learning acceleration strategy, they should look to policies and practices that would enable tutors to play a role in meeting their talent needs. Tutors are already invested in school communities and student success and are receiving training and support to build their instructional expertise to support students. In addition, at our tutoring sites that collected information on tutor race, tutors were a significantly more diverse group than teachers in each district.  Overall, 50% of tutors across these sites identified as people of color compared to 21% of public-school teachers nationwide. They should be intentionally cultivated as future educators and connected to certification pathways. This could look like building strong relationships with tutors and including them as a part of the school community, understanding their professional aspirations and goals and providing them with resources and connections to local certification pathways that will meet their needs.  This strategy can be one that both supports short-term needs and builds a long-term pipeline of effective educators.  Additionally, HIT can provide an opportunity to think differently and creatively about how talent is used in schools, while helping to reduce workload concerns among educators. For instance, tutors may provide additional learning opportunities for students to allow teachers time for collaborative planning. Leveraging the additional supports tutors provide can be part of a solution to addressing teacher and talent shortages nationwide as well as moving toward an educational system where students can be offered more individualized supports. See here for more actionable steps that districts can take to address teacher shortages.

Final Thoughts

We believe in the power of HIT to change outcomes for students and close opportunity gaps. All stakeholders have a part to play to ensure that programs have the structures and conditions in place to accelerate student learning. These conditions will enable the long-term sustainability of these programs, ensuring that when funding shifts, programs will have the necessary infrastructure and resources to continue operating. By focusing on the considerations above funders, conveners, and policymakers can support LEAs and SEAs in launching and scaling their programs successfully and fulfilling the promise of more equitable educational opportunities for students.


Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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