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Episode 3: High-Impact Tutoring with Susanna Loeb


Susanna Loeb is Director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, where she is also Professor of Education and Professor of International and Public Affairs. Her research focuses broadly on education policy and its role in improving educational opportunities for students. Her work has addressed issues of educator career choices, and professional development of school finance and governance, and of early childhood systems. She is the founder and acting Executive Director of the National Student Support Accelerator. Before moving to Brown, Susanna was the Barnett Family Professor of Education at Stanford University. She was the founding Director of the Center for Education Policy at Stanford and Co-director of Policy Analysis for California Education. Susanna led the research for both Getting Down to Facts projects for California schools. In 2020, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She holds a PhD in Economics and an MPP in Public Policy from the University of Michigan and a BA in Political Science and a BS in Civil Engineering from Stanford University. 

The following transcript has been redacted and edited for quality and educational purposes.

Nati [02:47] 
I looked over the site and there were two focus areas: The Center for Student Well-Being and The Center for the Study of Educators. Can you share about those areas of focus and how that relates to our current system, recovery, and accelerated learning efforts across the country?  

Susanna Loeb [03:20] 
I’d be happy too. The goal of the Annenberg Institute at Brown is to help equalize and improve educational opportunities. Part of that is helping to inspire and train individuals to go and really be part of the education system. Another part is learning new knowledge that can help us improve education and then taking that knowledge and helping it to go into practice so that we can make positive changes in schools. To get there, we do a number of things. We do a lot of research and we partner with districts around the country, in order to make sure the research is relevant and rigorous and speaks to the needs on the ground. We have the framework for how we go about it, but then we really want to get it, we’ll go deep into a couple of focus areas.   

Those areas at the Annenberg Institute are on student and well-being and educator well-being. There are so many different aspects of development for students that are important. While it’s really important to learn reading, math and science and core academic content, it’s also important to make sure students have optimism and resilience and a whole bunch of other skills and the ability to work in groups that can really serve them well in the future. We have one center that focuses both on trying to think about what all those dimensions are and then how we help students develop them mostly in schools, but also through other kinds of government services that provide support for families, libraries, and the health system. The Center on Well-Being focuses on these multiple dimensions of learning, that we really care about for students, and then the multiple multi-sector approaches towards helping students develop those capabilities.    

Nati [06:29] 
Can you talk about the concept of flourishing? Are there models in the research where that’s being done, where all these systems are working together?  

Susanna Loeb [06:52] 
Yeah. That’s a wonderful question. I’m not sure I can take it all on, but I will do my best. There were a lot of factors that go into whether an individual flourishes and part of those things are just luck or what they were born into. There are all these things that are out of our control, in terms of what contributes to flourishing, but there are these capabilities that students and children can develop that will lead them to a life that we consider flourishing – one where they’re happy, engaged and contributing to themselves and others. The capabilities that we often think are basically economic productivity, let’s say in order to develop skills that will help them in the labor market, but really to flourish, students also need to have positive social relations to treat each other well.   

Particularly in the U.S. today, they need to know how to participate in a democratic society in a way where they’re effective voters and members of communities. There’s this range of skills that they need. I actually, with some colleagues, wrote a book called Educational Goods with Adam Swift, Harry Brighouse and Helen Lad. That book talks about the capabilities that go into flourishing and the education policies. How can we think of education and schools, in terms of how they contribute to this range of capabilities that lead to flourishing – that really can help us think about education policy in a more systematic way. Sometimes people say they really like something in education, but they can’t say why. They’ll say I care so much about arts education because by having arts education, it will have students more interested in math to engage them in school. The reason we have the art is because it increases math, literacy or something like that. Well, that doesn’t need to be true if we really think that there’s also this part of life – flourishing – that is about appreciation and delving into something like art or sports or other things that really engage people and allow them to lead full lives.   

Nati [09:40]

I love it. The last bit you said reminds me, what came to mind is passion – helping students to figure out what they’re interested in, what really moves them to experience deep learning. One aspect is what can get them work and well-paying jobs that help them to make a living. The other aspect is what really enriches their lives and makes them feel connected. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive, obviously. 

I’d like to switch gears and talk about the Center on the Study of Educators, looking at the news in the last year, and whether there is or isn’t a teacher shortage or sub shortage in certain states. I’m curious how the research and work being done at the Center has shaped or influenced how you think about the current state of recruitment, development and training of talented educators?   

Susanna [10:39] 
That’s a great question. The center is quite new, but there’s been a lot of work done by educators and its importance for students – primarily teachers but also principals and superintendents, tutors, and paraprofessionals. They’re central for us to provide quality education. For example, having a diverse teacher workforce, that is representative of the community and of the broader world, is important for students. If we have a workforce right now that is far more white and female, then the population of students is not optimal. There’s really interesting work going on right now about how to diversify the teacher workforce. Similarly, it has been difficult to recruit teachers with certain skills, for example, in multiple languages who work well with English Learners or with skills in higher-level math.   

A bunch of work has been going into trying to diversify the teacher workforce in multiple ways, in terms of background, but these are more difficult for staff positions and skills. The important thing that we’ve learned is who comes in to be a teacher is important. We want to make sure that we have diversity there. It’s also really clear the kinds of professional development and instructional materials that teachers have to work on are important. Being effective is how they learn to teach once they’re in the classroom. Do they have a good curriculum and curricular materials and enough time to have the kinds of lesson plans and attention to students that they need to be effective?   

Other adults in the school like principals and paraprofessionals are really important for creating support for teachers, who work mostly with the students, to be as effective as they can be. Thinking about that full group of educators, for example, we just did have one study recently done on the range of adults in schools. What comes to mind when we think schools, are the adults and teachers, in fact teachers make up less than half of the adults in U.S. public schools right now. Thinking about the adults in schools – paraeducators who work individually with students, principals, coaches, counselors, all are really important roles in schools. There’s a new paper that looks at the importance of guidance counselors.   

Second, there’s a lot on retaining teachers in the pandemic. We thought, oh well, people are going to be unemployed and looking for jobs, and it’s not going to be a problem recruiting and retaining teachers. The labor markets are tight right now. Making sure that teachers are paid, supported and encouraged in a way that keeps them doing is important work is critical to high-quality education systems. There’s a line of work that we’re doing in the Center for Educators on that.  

Nati [15:03] 
That’s one of the initiatives for Learner – really thinking about how we elevate our teachers and how we help them. How do we help the profession really be looked at with the importance that it has? What’s been clear in the last year is how much they’ve supported our students and it’s not easy work by any means.  

Susanna [15:30] 
That’s just right.  

Nati [16:15] 
I’d love to talk about the National Student Support Accelerator. Can you share about what it is and how this work got started?  

Susanna [16:28] 
Early in the pandemic, a group of educators came together to talk about all the disruptions that students were experiencing. At that time, students had already lost substantial ground academically. If you compare them to students who were in the same grade and the prior year, it was clear this loss was particularly severe for low-income students and students of color. It’s really exacerbating what we already knew were big differences in educational opportunities. While these academic losses were clear, what was even more striking, talking about the Well-Being Center was the negative effects that the pandemic was having on students’ broader well-being that leads them to flourish. Some students clearly thrived at home and in the online settings, but many others experienced severe hardship and fundamentally as a result, disengaged from school. In thinking together about what to do to help address these students’ needs, we quickly identified tutoring as a high potential option for catching students up and reengaging them in school.  

Rarely, if you look at research, and I hate the silver bullet solutions to things, do we have so much evidence pointing to the promise of a specific approach. The studies show positive effects of tutoring across grade levels and subject areas with effects in half a year of additional learning compared to recent years. Often the results are based on studies of students who are far behind on grade level. Tutoring has turned out to be a really effective way to accelerate learning for those who have substantial unfinished learning. We realized the evidence is strong, but scaling a promising practice like this is never easy. Tutoring on a large scale was attempted during the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era with pretty poor results.  

We were also aware that tutoring has shown us to be effective in all these studies. No Child Left Behind (NLCB) was really focused on homework help and tutoring, where students have to come with questions and the knowledge of their needs and its ad hoc. On the other hand, the type of tutoring shown to be effective is consistent tutoring with a well-supported tutor, who uses data to understand student needs and its relationship based. It builds students’ overall well-being, as well as helping with their academic skills and knowledge. We saw tutoring as a potential way to address some of the problems that have emerged during the pandemic, as well as some of the inequalities that were there already, but we realized that it’s difficult to scale.   

In order to help scale this type of high-impact tutoring, our group launched the National Student Support Accelerator, and our mission is to increase access to high impact tutoring for K-12 students in need. It’s a very broad goal to increase access. We don’t do it by tutoring ourselves, but in other ways. We conduct and coordinate research about what makes tutoring effective and cost-effective, so it can be implemented for the long run and what enables tutoring to scale within districts. We provide technical assistance and tools. If you go to our website, you can see that we have a whole bunch of free tools based on research that can help with implementation to really help engage and activate stakeholders to support districts and states to implement high impact tutoring more easily.  You can read all about it or reach out to me: [email protected] 

Nati [21:07] 
Thank you, Susanna. There’s so much there for our listeners, district leaders and anyone wanting to implement high dosage tutoring. I was really impressed with this work that came out so quickly. Susanna and I first met over a year ago when there were still research and interviews being done. Now the site is very robust and has a lot of resources for practitioners. You mentioned at the beginning that you very quickly landed on tutoring as a way to help students that were falling behind or were experiencing gaps in their learning. What were some of the other ideas that came out of that group, if you recall?   

Susanna [22:01] 
Well, tutoring really stood out. What you want to do is accelerate students’ learning, because it allows you to teach a really wonderful class to students. It really hones in on the specific needs that they have in order to catch up and really engage in the current grade level work. There were other options we found out there that couldn’t really do this. I mean, to a certain extent, you could do tutoring in different ways. You could do it during the school year, you could do it in the summer. We found individual acceleration for students who are in very different places and have different needs, this is the approach to take. Of course, there are other things schools need, they need support to help with students’ mental health, because of all the disruption students have experienced, as well as the difficulties in the world.   

More generally, we need a really strong curriculum so the courses themselves are really strong. Well-trained teachers, as we’ve talked about, are central to everything.  If you want to take students who are in very different places and different individual needs because they skipped school at different times and lost things at different times, then tutoring is the most promising approach by far.   

Nati [23:40] 
Looking at the work, there were 10 sites that were selected for this research and the recommendations that came out of it. Can you talk about how they were selected and what were some of the findings that came out of the pilot sites?   

Susanna [23:55] 
I would love to. We’ve partnered with districts around the country, and these partnerships allowed us to learn about challenges and successes as they scale high-impact tutoring. It allowed us to begin to test different features of tutoring, such as pre-training for tutors, should tutoring be one-on-one, one-on-two, or even, one on five, depending on which students needed the most. It allows us to do all of this learning. We wanted to select sites that varied a lot so that we could see lots of different contexts. Certainly, we selected sites in part opportunistically. They were interested in tutoring. This was before all the federal funds came in before tutoring had taken off. We had to find sites that were interested in this, but we wanted to get a variety.     

We have some small and some large, some serving almost all low-income families and some mixed east coast, west coast in the middle of north, south, urban, suburban. We were looking for a bunch of different contexts. Most of our research studies on the effects featuring tutoring are still in process. I don’t have much to share on those. We did an early study and this was looking at an opt-in program. It’s very tempting for districts to say, we’re going to provide this opt-in program to all our students because it’s an appealing thing to say this is available. But when you have an opt-in program, one thing that we’ve learned from this study, not surprisingly, is the higher achieving students that make use of this, not the lower-achieving students.     

It’s the more engaged students in school, not the less engaged. It’s not a very good approach. If what you’re trying to do is increase equity and address the needs of the students, who are struggling the most – opting in, it isn’t the right way. You can make it better by encouraging teachers to take it up and having the teachers have the students take it up. You can focus on it, but it’s a really hard thing to do with opt-in tutoring. That’s just one example of a feature we were looking at. The research that’s come out so far has been a lot about what are the challenges in implementing high-impact tutoring and what can we learn that helps us. I mean, one thing that we’ve seen just looking across the country is that many districts are interested in high-impact tutoring right now.     

This probably isn’t surprising given the needs of students. Given there’s a lot more money from the federal government, specifically to help with learning loss because there’s tons of interest in tutoring. Anyway, in our partner districts, we have a number of lessons. The first is to try to make it available to all students. The opt-in is one way that districts try to do it, but they also have this real pull to do it just by doing things like not giving very much of it or having the ratios of students to teachers be high five, six to one – that may lose some of the benefits of tutoring. The high-impact programs have provided a lot of tutoring and have provided it with quality. It’s much better to give a smaller number of students high-quality tutoring, especially when you’re starting off.    

All students may have low-quality tutoring, especially if you’re trying to increase equity. If tutoring is low quality, or if it requires students to opt-in, the students most in need are going to miss out. Keeping quality high is probably the first thing we’ve learned. Learning is the importance it needs for support in designing and implementing programs. Even with plenty of funds available, it takes effort from district leaders and school leaders. For some programs, it even takes teachers’ effort to make administrative choices needed to implement high-impact tutoring. As a result of the pandemic, educators are exhausted at this time. Technical assistance and tools can be really helpful with that. At the Accelerator, we’ve been building tools based on our experience with our partner districts to make implementation easier, but states and even philanthropy can help with this as well.     

The second thing is administrative capacity is important. It’s been a trying time with lots of decisions and districts. Many districts could use help in this area. I’ve got two more. The third, finding from this research is the recognition that building tutoring into the school day can be tricky. The best is tutoring during the day. This is in part because that’s when you get the students who are least engaged in school to show up to it. Other students or students with real challenges, once they leave school, they may have other things like taking care of family, working jobs that they need to do. But schools need to be creative to do this well. In high schools, intervention periods are great options, using homeroom periods or an elective is another good option. It is possible to do it right before or after school strategically for students who can make it work so that you can free up more of the time during the school day for students who can’t do that work.     

The importance and difficulty of scheduling is learning that we’ve had. All this to say districts are creative in implementing tutoring during the school day. It just takes work! Finally, this is the most recent lesson. When we went into this, the unemployment rate was high. We expected that one of the benefits of tutoring would be that it would supply jobs for many people looking for jobs, as well as the benefits for the students themselves. The labor market right now is unusually tight. I have trouble hiring at Brown University and districts across the country are having trouble finding teachers, substitute teachers, and tutors. The low supply of tutors is a temporary issue and not a typical time that this is not a typical time for labor markets.     

However, this is the time we’re in. As a result, districts need to think about how they can attract and retain the tutors that they need. A number of districts and even states are partnering with universities. Teacher education programs can provide tutors while simultaneously building the teaching skills of their teacher candidates. Colleges can provide undergraduates, some of whom have these scarce skills like language and mathematics, educational experiences. Community groups can be a source overall. This labor market presents our biggest hurdle to expanding tutoring. If we use this temporary challenge to build pathways into tutoring, and may be further from tutoring into teaching. We may be better off in the long run because we’re forced to build these bridges. But it is a challenge right now.    

Nati [32:27] 
Yes, yes. I love this – your last point of partnering with colleges and community organizations. Do you think that the teacher pathway, the credentialing process and teacher prep, will change because of this?   

Susanna [32:52] 
Well, there are places, Illinois is a really good example where they are trying to build tutoring into their teacher preparation programs. Tutoring provides an excellent opportunity for learning for teacher candidates, because they can first learn to teach reading to an individual student. That’s a really powerful experience for them just in teaching. As a tutor, they might interact with parents and teachers. It’s a much more concrete, educational experience than the observations that have been more typical of teacher preparation programs. Instead of observing, you’re getting to dive in.   

Nati [33:36] 
Yes, I agree.  

Nati [34:02] 
You mentioned the high impact tutoring. Can you share about what is meant by high impact? I think we also talked about high dosage. What do those terms mean?  

Susanna [34:15] 
Oh, that’s great. High impact tutoring is high dosage tutoring. But it’s more. One of the things about high-end, high-impact tutoring is it’s called high impact because what we’ve done is looked at all of these studies that are out there, and there were more than 150 random control trials, which are these high-quality studies of program effects. You can see whether a program is effective at increasing student learning. Many of them have been effective. We took those programs and said what are common features of the programs that have been effective? Certainly, dosage was a common feature of those programs. That means the students are receiving tutoring three or more times a week for a class period for them, for a semester or a whole school year, even better. A lot of tutoring and in small groups of one-on-one one on two, one on three.    

You’ve got that high dosage part of it, but other things are common in these high-impact programs. You need a well-trained tutor. What’s been amazing is that lots of people can be this well-trained tutor. It can be certified teacher or a paraprofessional, but it also can be a college student or a community member. A wide range of people can be effective tutors, but they need support. They need initial training and oversight so that if they’re struggling, somebody is there to help them figure out how they can do what they’re doing better. This oversight and coaching of tutoring are really important. They’re having good materials because some of the tutors, most of the tutors were not certified teachers. They don’t know exactly what to do in every situation that a student may come into and the struggles that they have.     

Having materials that help them address the specific needs of the students in ways that are engaging for the student is important. Data is really important because it’s really difficult for a student who doesn’t understand something to know that they don’t understand it. You can’t say to a student, what are you struggling with? Whether it comes from a formative assessment or addressing needs in the classroom. Tutors need that information. High-impact programs use data to guide instruction. They have strong tutors, good materials, data, and a lot of it. The other is really around issues of equity. In order, as we talked about, to reach the students that you need to reach, you’ve got to make sure that they have access and the best way to do that is to embed the tutoring on the school day.     

Those are some of the key features of high-impact tutoring.   

[Nati 36:48]

Got it. Thank you. I’m wondering if there have been a lot of redesign of school days, in this last year, because of the pandemic, and trying to integrate additional programming?   

Susanna [37:24]

There’s an opportunity now, because school days were redesigned, as you could say, or a given they were done differently, at least during the pandemic, because so much was online. Now, as we’re coming back, there is the possibility of falling back into the traditional structures, but also a recognition that we learned a lot during these last 18 months or more of the pandemic that can help us think better about what students need and how to design the school day.  

Nati [38:17] 
How does mentorship factor into the toolkit and recommendations? I know you mentioned relationship-based tutoring is one of the factors that contributes to high-quality tutoring, any thoughts on that?   

Susanna [38:40] 
We work closely with David Shapiro and his team at MENTOR, which focuses, not surprisingly on mentoring, to make sure that mentoring best practices are referenced as resources in our tutoring toolkit and other materials, because both mentoring and tutoring are built on these strong relationships. We have a lot to learn about tutoring from those who know about mentoring. I do want to make clear that mentoring also differs from tutoring. Tutoring like mentoring is built on strong relationships with an adult, as you said, however for tutoring, the content is focused on academic learning. While for mentoring, it’s not. And it might sound too narrow to focus on academic learning, but it has some advantages, even for goals, similar to mentoring, like building overall student well-being. Here’s my logic, to help students learn, and that leads to success in schools, which they can celebrate with their tutor, who they have this close relationship with, and that in turn increases their engagement in school and starts this whole positive cycle.   

All of this is very satisfying for the student and also for the tutor. Mentoring is a really important part of tutoring, but focusing on academics has some benefits as well, because the success that you have in academics affects your ability to engage in your interest in engaging in school, in the long run, which we know is helpful, which is beneficial for students. 

Nati [40:24] 
Yes. I think I’ve been in a lot of conversations where we interchange the two, and I love the distinction that you just provided. What do you think about the statewide initiatives that are supporting tutoring at scale? I’m thinking of states like Tennessee and California. We have a new initiative for college students to receive stipends to do service work. I think Texas has some funds that are also being diverted to tutoring statewide. Do you have any familiarity with these programs and the best practices that you’ve highlighted in your work with the Institute?   

Susanna [41:06] 
I love these statewide initiatives. That’s a really important role of the state, but in any case, the state can do great things. Some of the challenges we hear about the most – like we talked about – the ability to hire enough tutors, how to train them, where to get instructional materials, can be solved more efficiently at the state level. Particularly if you have, for example, lots of small rural districts or small districts, the state can do things at a broader level that can be useful. I’m especially excited about initiatives that integrate universities and their teacher prep programs like we talked about in Illinois and California, as that strategy could support a larger and more diverse educator pipeline in the future. States have a critical role to play in supporting districts to take up something like tutoring that has so much potential, but it’s tricky to get.   

 

During this time, like we talked about before, when so much changes for educators and leaders’ day to day, it’s really helpful for states to provide easy access to a core of tutors. The North Carolina Education Core has done it with early literacy tutors. It’s also helpful for states to provide these policy guide rails. Districts know what they mean by tutoring is high impact tutoring and this is not homework help. For example, Texas requires a certain amount of tutoring. Some states have even provided design programs sometimes called design bootcamp, where you bring together district leaders to design tutoring programs together, and build a community of practice. Others have adopted the toolkit we created for tutoring programs and in their local context. State efforts hold a lot of promises and we’re optimistic that they’ll help districts get tutoring right.   

Nati [43:24] 
Great. Well, thanks. Thank you. I’m glad to hear that you support these programs and it also makes me wonder why didn’t we do this a long time ago.  

Susanna [43:38] 
Oh, it’s effective, and it’s cost-effective. For the returns in student learning and engagement that you get, it’s worthwhile in terms of its cost, but it’s also costly. As a result, it takes a lot of funds to get it going. If you’re guessing, well, maybe this will be good, but do I want to take all my funds and change my schedule during the day and bring in all of these tutors, these additional educators into schools when I’ve got a strong teacher workforce? That transition and change is really hard to accomplish. That’s why we’re in an exciting time right now, because not only did the pandemic really shake things up striking inequalities and students with individual needs don’t need to repeat a whole course, as the pandemic has shown a light on.     

Recently huge amounts of federal funds have come in as well. We’ve got a shaken-up school, lots of money, a clear light on student needs. We’ve got this opportunity right now where people are saying, oh, well, maybe we can try this other thing. We have the funds for it. We’re already a bit different than before. There’s this opening that helps us move against some of the forces that keep big change from happening. 

Nati [45:09] 
What happens when that money runs out and where do you see the momentum around tutoring going once, we’re past this period of opportunity and momentum and energy around this?  

Susanna [45:36] 
When we started this, we thought funding was going to be the biggest challenge because it’s hard to do something costly when you have to stop other things to do it. There is $28 billion in funding dedicated just to learning loss. It’s targeted essentially at the things that tutoring can provide. Suddenly there’s this unprecedented amount of money. Nonetheless, as you mentioned, the funding is going to run out. Districts do again have other sources of funding that could support tutoring, but there’ll be competition for those funds from established programs. One example of the funds is Title I; it is available for tutoring. Title IV, Part B established the 21st Century Community Learning Centers and can include tutoring. You can combine those kinds of funds. Many of the tutoring programs that were active already, such as Saga Education and EduCorps partnered with the Corporation for National and Community Service, and they used AmeriCorps funds.   

There are those kinds of funds out there, but will districts choose to use that money for tutoring rather than other programs? That’s really what the question is. In order to do that, they will need to see that tutoring is effective for their students. That’s why this is such an important time, not only to get tutoring going in districts so that students who’ve been hurt by the pandemic can benefit, but it’s important to learn from this implementation so we know whether it’s had a positive effect, for whom it’s had a positive effect, and embedded as part of core programs in schools, but also address some of these other needs, these inequalities that we’ve had in educational opportunities.     

Using COVID funds, this is a great time to see what high-impact tutoring can do for students in your districts. And then to take that learning, not only put it in, but try to see its effectiveness so that you can take that learning to make the new decisions about how to use the old funding streams once the COVID funding streams have run out.  

Nati [48:37] 
How are they measuring effectiveness? Let’s say we’re in a couple years, and they’re deciding where they’re going to get money now to continue or not continue tutoring. What will be those measures of success for them from the district perspective?   

Susanna [49:03] 
They’re interested in students’ assessment scores. How they’re doing in the subject area, and many of the districts collect these kinds of formative assessments as the students go. Not just the state tests, that’s a little disconnected from what the students are learning in the classroom, but something aligned with that. Are students more successful in classrooms? They’ll look for not only that, but also signs of engagement, attendance and other behavioral signs that indicate engagement in schools. Districts are thinking about what outcomes they care about. One of the tricks is to know, if something works, you need a comparison group and making sure that districts have a comparison group so they can say, well, I know it worked for students because the students who got tutoring, it went well for them, while the students who didn’t, but were quite similar to them who didn’t get tutoring, didn’t do as well.   

Having some comparisons is going to be important. One way you could do it is very hard to just start up and provide it for all students. You could imagine providing it for one year to one set of students or one term, and then another term to the next set of students. If those two groups are similar, you can see after the first term how good that was for the students who received it, relative to other students.  

Nati [50:50]

Thank you. I read through some of the recommendations and I’m curious what do you think is the most critical component?  

  • Tutoring should be embedded in existing schools or during their school day. 

  • The tutoring sessions should include a minimum of three sessions per week.  

  • Students should work with a consistent tutor who is supported by ongoing oversight and coaching.  

  • Data should inform tutoring sessions 

  • Materials should be aligned with research and state standards. 

Susanna [51:31]

Like almost all good programs, the key isn’t the individual piece, but how they work together to create something that works. For tutoring, you need enough of it. You need tutors who care and connect to the students and teachers, those tutors need support to do their work well, and you need data on students’ needs with good materials. I am not going to choose. We want to design a program that many students really need, substantial support to work at the grade level, to see they can be successful and then really thrive as they move through school. This doesn’t have to be tutoring, doesn’t have to be with students every day, every week for their whole time in school. There are times when students get behind where they need this support.   

I would do it all out. I think we want to give them what they need to succeed.  

Nati [52:33]

If you had to pick which grade or age, do you think is the most critical? If they could get tutoring for one year, one academic year, one calendar year, is there a grade level that would have the most impact?  

Susanna [52:48]

That’s a good question. This evidence on tutoring is for children learning to read early in elementary. For middle school and high school students who are struggling with math, and that isn’t to say that those are necessarily the most important times. We don’t have an equal number of studies in all subject areas for all grades. My guess is the tutoring can be effective at all ages. If you’ve got a student who is struggling, tutoring is a great way of accelerating their learning. The reason we have studies for those two is that’s when schools have tended to use it and they have a pretty good sense of what students need and having trouble learning to read is going to be important for the rest of schooling. I would give them tutoring.   

That would probably be my first choice, but high school students and upper middle school students who have missed some math. Those are going to hurt them in the long run, it’s really hard to get through high school and be successful without an ability to pass algebra. It can have long-term effects and you have much less of school left to help them out. I do think that some of these upper middle school and high school tutoring are also really important. Again, I’m not answering your question, but you don’t need to give it to all students in those grades. You want to give it to the students who are most in need, which will be beneficial for them, and then it will increase equity more broadly.   

Nati [54:37]

Is there anything else that you would like to share about this work with the Learner audience?  

Susanna [54:46] 
Thank you for having me. The only thing I would just repeat is that we’re really in a special moment with unprecedented need and an opportunity to adjust how we do school, that students are assured access to an adult who can help them academically, and really champion their learning and success. We use that term at the Accelerator and the Annenberg Institute at Brown. We’re trying not to lose this opportunity. If anyone in your audience is interested in helping increase students’ access to high-impact tutoring and could use help, please reach out to us. I really appreciate being here today. Thank you.  

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