Ten Questions Districts Ask When Considering a Tutoring Program

Ten Questions Districts Ask When Considering a Tutoring Program


The school districts I speak with are often struggling to find the best path towards learning recovery for their students. They all have one thing in common: They’re seeking to offer students a “just-right” course of action, which is a great place to start. 

In our conversations, we usually start out by acknowledging the current state of affairs: 

  • There are no quick fixes: The multi-dimensional and lasting effects of the pandemic on students’ social, emotional, and cognitive well-being require a thoughtfully planned long-term response.  
  • We’re just starting to realize the impact on students: Some of the effects are deeper than initially thought and may take years to overcome. Effective responses are planned with the whole child in mind.     
  • There’s no time to waste on unfocused interventions; districts are seeking intentional experiences customized to students’ needs.
  • One size doesn’t fit all: School districts’ approaches to delivering education during the pandemic are as varied as the needs of their students. It’s a matter of working together to find a program that works for all involved (educators, parents, and students).

As I work with districts that are considering tutoring as an intervention, ten common questions arise. I've included some best-practice answers below, but welcome engaging with districts in this worthwhile work. To request a free consultation to set up high-impact tutoring that's customized to your district, don't hesitate to reach out. We're happy to help.

1. What does my district performance data say about how COVID-19 school closures affected learning? Which data should we use?

  • Select students by examining multiple measures or performance such as, but not limited to, district-determined formative measures, recent state summative assessments, and teacher recommendations.  
  • Districts that maintain early warning systems can leverage that data, as well.

2. What focus areas and grade levels should we consider?

  • Program designs that focus on literacy and numeracy skills underpin and strengthen performance in all subject areas. 
  • Early literacy and middle and upper grades mathematics appear to be the most impacted areas according to national data. 
  • A special emphasis should be placed on firming up the skills for students transitioning to new levels of learning demand: grade 2 to 3, grade 5 to 6 and grade 8 to 9.

3. How do we connect students to a teacher or tutor who can provide a  consistent and supportive learning environment?

  • Students benefit from a consistent relationship with a skilled tutor providing tutoring a minimum of 3 hours per week in a program offered over the course of a semester.
  • Littera supports the tutor-to-student matching process by applying group size recommendations and reducing the operational load for the school district or school. 

4. How can we best meet each student’s individual needs?

  • Just as the teacher: student ratio is an important factor for in-school teaching and learning, the tutor: student group size is equally important. 
  • Intentionally designed tutor group sizes of 1:1 to 1:4 are optimal depending on the content
  • Student placement should be determined by the needs of each student with consideration for group composition. 

5. Given current resources, how can we serve many students at once so they get back on track as quickly as possible?

Working with Littera, districts can: 

  • Operate centralized programs focusing on the needs of students in a particular content area across a number of schools,  
  • Decentralize tutoring by administering the program using a school-by-school approach or 
  • Operate a combination of the two. 

High-impact tutoring programs offer trained tutors to districts to support the number of students identified as needing tutoring.

6. How can we group students so that they are pacing with peers who need support on the same skills?

  • Use data sources like those recommended in #1 to identify the standards, objectives, and skills students need. 
  • Littera allows districts to group students by skill-level, and apply the just-right group size (1:1 to 1:4). 

7. How can we provide an intervention that is connected to the classroom content without adding more work to our already hardworking and overtaxed teachers?

  • An intervention program that is disconnected from the classroom teaching and learning ecosystem must be avoided. 
  • Tutoring programs that enable the use of the school system’s curriculum or other available standards-aligned resources selected by the district or schools ensure that the program manager can guide a coherent and integrated experience for students participating in tutoring.

8. How can we find time during the school day to offer intervention?

  • Many districts offer tutoring intervention during the instruction of math and/or reading blocks.  
  • In particular, schools that offer a 90- to 120-minute instructional block will create a rotating intervention block across the entire block because the most vulnerable students are present to participate. This allows for 3 to 4 30-minute sessions per instructional block.

9. How can we leverage our after-school program to provide additional time for focused interventions rather than offering homework help?

  • Using the districts’ curriculum resources or selected standards-aligned content, Littera tutors use the after-school program time to extend classroom instruction. This gives students a more focused and targeted after-school experience and extends the reach of the classroom teacher. 

10. How will we know our tutoring intervention is working?

Littera’s real-time reporting will show you who’s tutoring, when, and how well it’s working. Periodically reviewing Littera’s reports with school system data helps school improvement teams, classroom teachers, and administrators know whether the tutoring sessions are making a difference.

High-impact tutoring provided by a consistent, highly-trained tutor with standards-aligned grade level content is a gold standard for meeting the intervention needs of students.

We’re here to help school districts take a systematic approach to answering these questions based on their unique attributes and circumstances as they seek a high-quality tutoring partner.

Dr. Janet Wilson has served in instructional and administrative roles in school districts ranging in size from 4,000 to 165,000. She most recently served as the chief of teaching learning and schools and as superintendent of schools.  She leads the Littera Design Services Team, which helps districts plug high-impact tutoring into their current instructional programming.

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