Maximizing the Impact of Tutoring to Accelerate Learning Recovery

High-Impact Tutoring: An Equitable, Proven Approach to Accelerate Learning edLeader Panel recording link


Blog post by Robert Low based on this edLeader Panel

While some students have thrived during the switch to remote and hybrid learning that was caused by the pandemic, many others have had their learning disrupted and fallen behind the timeframes established for meeting state standards.

To accelerate these students’ academic progress, tutoring is an option that schools and districts are now considering. During “High-Impact Tutoring: An Equitable, Proven Approach to Accelerate Learning,” Dr. Susanna Loeb, Director of the Annenberg Institute and Executive Director of the National Student Support Accelerator at Brown University, explained how education administrators can implement effective and equitable tutoring programs.

Dr. Loeb cited a recent study by McKinsey & Company showing that due to the pandemic, students on average were four to five months behind where they should have been, and for Black and Hispanic students, the learning lag was even larger.

Data-Driven Tutoring

The research on tutoring’s impact is extensive, and Dr. Loeb also cited a meta-analysis that included 150 different studies, which found that tutoring can result in substantial additional learning across grade ranges and subject areas, with the potential for students to make up several additional months of learning in just one year.

One of the key characteristics of programs that achieve these types of results is that their tutoring is based on data that is used to determine each student’s individual strengths and learning needs and to develop sessions and strategies that meet those needs. The student’s progress is then evaluated over time, with adjustments being made if appropriate.

Another data-driven characteristic of high-impact tutoring is a low ratio of three students to one tutor or less. This ensures that each student can receive personalized instruction and also have time for the sort of relationship building that can lead to re-engagement in the learning process and motivate additional achievement. Working consistently with the same tutor is another important part of this process.

Tutors should also be observed and evaluated by a supervisor during tutoring sessions, and have time to meet with team leaders to discuss the progress that is occurring and any issues that may have arisen. As part of some programs, a tutoring supervisor also meets with school or district administrators on a regular basis to review the results and discuss plans for further improvement.

Additional aspects of high-impact tutoring include the training and support tutors receive and the quality of the instructional materials they work with. The duration of tutoring sessions can vary depending on the content and the age of the students, but one factor found to be important for effectiveness and equity was to have tutoring sessions take place at school, either before, during, or after the school day.

School-based tutoring can result in higher attendance by students because they are already on site. Closer coordination between tutors and other educators working with the same students is more likely to occur for the same reason. Tutoring at a school, especially finding ways to have tutoring occur during the school day, can also make tutoring more likely to be available to students who have difficulty going to a separate location or logging in remotely.

School Staff Supplementation

As schools struggle to find qualified personnel, another benefit of tutoring is that it can help to fill staffing gaps, as well as gaps in students’ learning. With the right training and materials, schools can use para-professionals and trained volunteers from local organizations to provide tutoring, especially with younger children who may be less capable of working online or going to a different location.

Some districts and schools are partnering with teacher training programs at local colleges and universities. The pre-service students in those programs are already interested in teaching and have received some of the training needed to make them effective. This approach also benefits the pre-service students, who gain valuable experience and opportunities to consider the types of students and content they may want to work with.

With increased funding now available for pandemic-related learning solutions, and a strong research base available to identify best practices, school-based tutoring is proving to be an effective way to help students recover from COVID-19 disruptions and resume their forward progress.

Learn more about this edWeb broadcast, “High-Impact Tutoring: An Equitable, Proven Approach to Accelerate Learning,” sponsored by Varsity Tutors for Schools.

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