Elevating Student Learning with Tiered Intervention and High-Impact Tutoring

Elevating Student Learning with Tiered Intervention and High-Impact Tutoring

Education systems continuously evolve, seeking to optimize student learning and ensure that every child reaches their fullest potential. Among these evolving strategies, the integration of tiered intervention via Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) with high-impact tutoring is a clear path towards a more equitable future for K-12. In September of 2023 the National Student Support Accelerator (NSSA) released an in-depth brief on the benefits, challenges, and most effective action steps related to properly integrating High-Impact-Tutoring with MTSS. The following is a primer on the brief.

What is High-Impact Tutoring

The NSSA defines high-impact tutoring as tutoring that enhances student learning without replacing classroom instruction. Its key features include:

  • Regular tutoring sessions, ideally more than 30 minutes per week.
  • Strong, ongoing relationships between tutors and students.
  • Continuous assessment of student progress and tailored instruction.
  • Consistency with what students learn in school.
  • Regular training and support for tutors to ensure quality.

In short: High-impact tutoring is intensive, tailored, and aligned with classroom teachings.

The efficacy of this tutoring isn’t universal; it hinges on the right implementation. Research reveals that the tutoring’s impact is maximized when specific features and methodologies are applied with utmost fidelity. More on HIT here.

What is MTSS and Tiered Intervention?

MTSS or Multi-Tiered Systems of Support is a holistic framework adopted by districts to provide tailored support to students based on their individual needs. The essence of tiered intervention lies in its ability to cater to students at various tiers of academic competence, ensuring no student is left behind.

By relying on data, MTSS identifies and tracks struggling students, offering insights into effective interventions. Furthermore, its collaborative essence fosters unity among teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders, ensuring optimal student support. The rising adoption of MTSS in some districts may also be driven by state or federal mandates, a push to elevate specific academic outcomes, or a focus on addressing social-emotional student needs.

Why Marry MTSS with High-Impact Tutoring

When high-impact tutoring is infused into MTSS, districts witness:

  • Enhanced student outcomes: The combined effect of structured support from MTSS and the tailored, evidence-based methods of high-impact tutoring leads to significant learning gains.
  • Implementation ease: Challenges inherent to introducing new systems are minimized, thanks to the cohesiveness of this integrated approach.
  • Streamlined operations: The dual systems, when working in tandem, eliminate redundancies and pave the way for smoother school operations.
  • Instructional coherence: Aligning the objectives of both systems ensures that students receive a consistent and unified learning experience.

Steps to Successful Integration

Successful integration demands coordinated efforts at multiple levels:

  • State level: Review and, if necessary, amend conflicting guidelines in existing state policies to make room for this integrated approach
  • District level: Clearly define the scope of integration and set expectations for its seamless implementation
  • School level: Ensure that the practices are implemented with unwavering fidelity

The Clock is Ticking

Although states now have a path to file an extension on ESSER funding, the time is ripe for educational agencies to bolster their support systems. Embedding high-impact tutoring within tiered intervention is more than just an effective strategy—it’s an opportunity to bridge learning gaps, foster equity, and elevate educational outcomes.  Yet, success doesn’t come on a silver platter. It demands meticulous planning, strategic resource allocation, and continuous monitoring.

Dive Deeper

If you would like to explore more about the power of combining MTSS and high-impact tutoring? Discover benefits, delve into action steps, and glean insights from successful implementations at studentsupportaccelerator.org.

Steps to Successful Integration

Successful integration demands coordinated efforts at multiple levels:

  • State level: Review and, if necessary, amend conflicting guidelines in existing state policies to make room for this integrated approach
  • District level: Clearly define the scope of integration and set expectations for its seamless implementation
  • School level: Ensure that the practices are implemented with unwavering fidelity

The Clock is Ticking

Although states now have a path to file an extension on ESSER funding, the time is ripe for educational agencies to bolster their support systems. Embedding high-impact tutoring within tiered intervention is more than just an effective strategy—it’s an opportunity to bridge learning gaps, foster equity, and elevate educational outcomes.  Yet, success doesn’t come on a silver platter. It demands meticulous planning, strategic resource allocation, and continuous monitoring.

Dive Deeper

If you would like to explore more about the power of combining MTSS and high-impact tutoring? Discover benefits, delve into action steps, and glean insights from successful implementations at studentsupportaccelerator.org.

Building a Logic Model for Your Tutoring Program

Building a Logic Model for Your Tutoring Program

More than ever before, community tutoring programs have the potential to fundamentally transform K12 education. When starting a community tutoring program, it is imperative to maximize your potential based on the resources available to you and the greatest identified needs. By creating a model that outlines your program’s goals, activities, and expected outcomes, you can identify potential challenges and be equipped to evaluate your program’s success. 

An overview of the five key steps you need to take to build such a model is provided below.

Step 1: Needs

Performing a community landscape analysis allows you to evaluate the full context in which you are operating.  In a landscape analysis, data collection and information-gathering activities are used to identify a community’s strengths, resources, and needs.  During this exploration period, your ultimate objective is to clearly define beneficiaries and community needs.

It is important to balance several strategies for collecting intelligence. You must  consider the stakeholders who will contribute to your program and ask the tough questions: 

Once you have compiled information, it is critical to evaluate the community’s strengths, gaps, needs, opportunities, and threats. If there is a clear opportunity, the next step is to share your findings and align with your stakeholders. The elegant part of this last step is that, if done correctly, you will build buy-in for your program.

  1. Do the students need tutoring in the first place?
  2. Does the district or school currently have access to a tutoring program?
  3. What are the strengths of current academic support in the community?

Step 2: Inputs

The next step after completing your needs assessment is to ensure access to all critical resources. Students and tutors are among these resources, as well as curriculum, physical space, and sustainable funding. The capacity to scale without digital solutions must also be assessed.  These solutions include rostering, matching, scheduling, and maintaining all of the data required by funders for reporting.  Also, examine, as well as legal and safety restraints.

When assessing your tutor resources, It is imperative to clarify where the tutors will come from. You have to ask the difficult questions, for example:

  1. Will local universities participate, or will I need to recruit on campus?
  2. Is there a willingness to source tutors across other supply options, such as retired teachers, non-profits, community groups, volunteers, etc.?
  3. Will some tutoring be conducted online for logistical reasons?

Step 3: Actions

Once your needs and Inputs have been aligned, it’s time to create a clear path. In order to execute your strategy, you need to assemble a step-by-step plan that utilizes all of your newly acquired critical network and data.  

Repeatable and scalable actions are needed. Every program will come with its own set of challenges, so planning well in advance is crucial. Here are a few examples.

  1. In some cases, districts may provide very narrow insight into which students should be tutored. 
  2. School schedules are often constructed in downtime (Summer), making advocating for tutor slots a timely exercise
  3. If the tutoring program is left to administer assessments, timing and choosing the assessment tool can slow things down considerably. This is especially true if you have varied core curriculum approaches across multiple districts.
  4. Challenges in hiring tutors, including:
    1. If you are using university students as tutors who need clinical experience, how well are your training materials aligned with the University’s approach?
    2. What are the criminal background check requirements in your state? 
    3. Do criminal background check requirements vary from district to district?

Step 4: Outputs

Outputs are immediate goals that you can (most often) quantify.  These goals can include a host of different metrics to help you guide the timeline and overall impact that your program is making as you begin the initial stages of implementation.  

It is imperative that the output component of a logic model does not measure success. These are merely metrics needed to understand how well you are executing. There are many outputs in a logic model. As an example, based on your program’s design, you might track:

  1. The number of tutors that apply are trained and tutor their first session.
  2. How many tutors report that they are enjoying the tutoring?
  3. How often are tutor managers interacting with tutors over a specific period?
  4. How many students feel like they are learning what they need to learn in a certain amount of sessions?
  5. How many students increased their GPA across a semester or a single year?

Step 5: Impact

In the final section of a logic model, you define your short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. In addition to quantitative goals, qualitative goals can also be set. The National Student Support Accelerator recommends focusing your impact measurement on three key areas: learning, skills, and conditions.

Measures of learning can vary but are usually related to assessments, improvement gaps covered, and general attitudes toward learning. Also, by regularly gathering data on social-emotional learning (SEL), you can get a sense of student sentiment.  

Ultimately, the ability to teach oneself is a key goal, usually measuring studying habits and approaches to learning that build curiosity. It’s important to measure performance in order to understand the sustainability of the program. You should stay focused on the question, “Are students (and tutors) more confident academically, and more proud of their achievements than they were before tutoring?”

Summary

It is difficult to create a comprehensive logic model for your tutoring program, especially one that involves the community. Nonetheless, without this crucial work, you will inevitably hit roadblocks, which will slow things down and possibly halt progress. Furthermore, the actual process of assembling a logic model is equally as important to the information gathered. During this journey, you will establish connections with the stakeholders necessary to realize your vision. When you gain community input and buy-in on your project, you greatly increase your chances of success.  

For the most comprehensive guide to building a logic model for your tutoring program, we highly recommend spending some time leveraging the resources on the National Student Support Accelerator (NSSA) website.  Once on the NSSA website, click on the Toolkits tab in the menu.  Here you will find a treasure trove of resources.

At Pearl, we work with our partners to create a logic model so that they implement tutoring programs that actually work. If you are interested in learning more about how we can help you create an evidence-based logic model, shoot us a note at nate@tutorwithpearl.com.

Breaking Down the 3 Benefits of District Partnerships in Higher Education

Breaking Down the 3 Benefits of District Partnerships in Higher Education

Across the nation, Community Partnerships are forming, where HigherEd institutions partner with local K/12 school districts to provide evidence-based tutoring to younger students in their backyard. These partnerships offer states and districts an interesting alternative to traditional, for-profit tutoring partnerships. These community partnerships offer 3 unique advantages that could lead to a greater impact on student success than traditional tutoring programs and a more sustainable tutoring model. 

  1. If designed correctly, these partnerships can help improve the academic achievement of K/12 students. Providing access to high-impact tutoring, which meets the standards set forth by the National Student Support Accelerator, gives students the individualized support they need to succeed in school and mitigate learning loss. This can help close the achievement gap and ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed.
  1. These partnerships can provide valuable professional development opportunities for university students interested in careers in education and create a pipeline of talent for local districts. By participating in tutoring programs, university students can gain hands-on experience working with K/12 students and can develop the skills and knowledge they need to become effective educators. They will also build relationships with local principals and superintendents, leading to career opportunities in the schools and inevitably addressing the teacher shortage. Deans For Impact is a non-profit that is focusing on these partnerships and has developed specific training content for future educators who are participating in community-tutoring partnerships. 
  1. Last but certainly not least, these local partnerships between universities and local school districts can foster a sense of pride and ownership within the community. By working together to support the academic success of K/12 students, universities and schools can demonstrate their commitment to the local community and can help build stronger, more supportive relationships with families and other community members. Because both the university and district are in the same town/region, these programs can provide more culturally relevant instruction and mentorship to their students. We see this in the state of Virginia, where Urban Leagues are partnering with HBCUs to provide academic mentorship to students in local districts. This approach can help create a sense of shared responsibility for student success.

Overall, these sustainable partnerships between universities and local school districts can provide a wide range of benefits for K/12 students, university students, and the community as a whole. By providing evidence-based tutoring and other support, such partnerships can help improve academic achievement, develop a talent pipeline for future teachers, and create a more collaborative, supportive learning environment for all students.

Tutoring needs a standard approach to assessments

Tutoring needs a standard approach to assessments

The many variations across hundreds of tutoring RFPs

Each year our public school districts issue hundreds of requests for proposals (RFPs) for high-impact tutoring support, but there is no standard approach to collecting feedback and assessments of the tutoring. Many districts require their tutoring providers to administer academic assessments, while others do not. Here at Pearl, our partners typically follow one of these 4 approaches to assessments:

  1. The tutoring provider uses a specific assessment tool (like iReady or NWEA MAP) to assess students at all stages of a student’s tutoring experience.
  2. The tutoring provider assesses each student’s progress (choosing their preferred benchmark, formative, and other assessment types) with no specific assessment tool requirement other than the assessment questions used must meet the state’s ESSA standards.
  3. The tutoring provider supports students but is not required to administer the assessments. In this case, the district runs the assessments and advises the tutoring provider accordingly.
  4. A state-based program serving multiple districts is required to use different assessment tools depending on the requirements of each district they serve. In these cases, the state agency is also left with the complicated task of comparing district progress with varied types of outputs and insights from multiple assessment tools.

The Pearl platform provides the technical scaffolding for state and district tutoring programs, nonprofits, and enterprise-level tutoring companies. For each of these different client types, we take an agnostic approach to how academic progress is assessed. Sometimes our partners have their own assessments, like district-funded programs, and other times they simply follow the requirements defined in the contracts they serve, such as outside tutoring companies responding to RFPs. 

In a “best case” scenario tutoring providers would have: 

  1. A diagnostic or benchmark assessment from the student’s school (or district) to inform gaps in learning and insights into how that student learns most effectively
  2. A viable feedback loop with a student’s school teacher(s)
  3. A formative assessment tool that:
    1. Meets the applicable state ESSA standards
    2. Aligns with the school’s curriculum 
    3. Is agile enough to be used on the fly
    4. Provides a way to regularly measure student academic progress
    5. Informs clear opportunities for tutors to employ an individualized learning pathway for their students
  4. A final “end of tutoring” assessment to measure progress against the benchmark test

If more districts had the resources to increase their level of system interoperability, the above “best case” assessment pathway would be more widely viable. It is common for even sophisticated districts to lack an elegant method for merging assessment data from providers with SIS student records. In addition, tutors may be unable to access useful academic-related data because of security concerns and requirements.

In the absence of a standard assessment methodology, a host of problems arise. To determine learning gaps, tutors often need to conduct several sessions without a baseline. If a tutor does not use a formative assessment approach aligned with the student’s starting point, he or she may be left guessing about the student’s understanding gaps. Also with so many assessment approach variations, it is difficult to compare programs district-to-district or state-to-state. 

To develop a successful tutoring program, four key data categories are needed (attendance, dosage, academic progress measurement, and SEL insights). In the absence of academic progress that relates to individual students, tutor providers are unable to measure the true picture of progress or show clear ROI to stakeholders. With the final ESSER cliff fast approaching it is critical that programs robustly measure efficacy. Only programs that demonstrate evidence of effectiveness will be sustainably funded in the future.