By Public Impact, January 27, 2022
We, like Opportunity Culture educators, believe that students can make dramatically more learning growth than they typically do—with the right instructional approaches and adult support. So we continuously look for new, research-based ways to achieve this vision.
Here’s an approach that meets our high bar: providing students with more small-group tutoring, delivered by both teachers and paraprofessionals. Many studies* in recent years show the very positive learning impact of tutoring by both teachers and paraprofessionals. Small-group tutoring does not mean forming fixed-ability groups, but instead grouping and regrouping students often, based on current learning needs. Some great teachers have used this strategy, sometimes with teaching assistants, in their own classrooms for decades.
But the efforts studied haven’t scaled up to reach millions of students in need—and Covid has magnified the urgency.
How can Opportunity Culture models maximize the research-proven power of tutoring? With multi-classroom leaders (MCLs) guiding their teaching teams, Opportunity Culture schools can scale up effective small-group tutoring by paraprofessionals and team teachers, helping reach all students with personalized attention.
MCLs can employ tutoring to make the best use of everyone’s time: respecting all that paraprofessionals have to offer to students, when provided with lessons and student groupings; easing the burdens on individual teachers; and giving all students—not just those in schools with special tutoring programs—the academic help they need, when they need it, during the school day.
Small-group tutoring through MCL teams may prove especially valuable for new and less-experienced teachers, who could struggle to meet all students’ needs. And teachers of all experience levels could struggle to organize a tutoring program on their own; with MCLs leading the way, this becomes more likely to happen schoolwide and district-wide.
Working with small groups more often may allow teachers and paraprofessionals (reach associates or others) to create stronger emotional bonds with students, which students need even more as they recover from Covid trauma.
Tutoring by the paraprofessionals and teachers already on MCL teams is financially sustainable long term, and would only require reimagining schedules. That allows schools to use Covid funds elsewhere, such as for mental health and social-emotional learning support, or to temporarily hire even more tutors.
We plan to publish more on this in the future, but here are some starting guidelines.
To maximize results for all students, MCLs will need to lead their teams in determining and balancing:
- Which students receive tutoring and other instructional support each week, based on formative assessments
- How many students are in each tutoring group; while studies vary, they indicate very positive effects in group sizes of three to six students (formative assessments can guide this, in part)
- Who identifies the content for each tutoring group (based on formative assessments) and prepares paraprofessionals to deliver high-quality tutoring
- How long each tutoring session/series of sessions lasts (30 minutes is typical but not uniform)
- How much tutoring time each student receives weekly—the more tutoring each student receives weekly, the larger the impact, but more days per week is better than longer sessions
- The total number of students reached by tutoring
- Which paraprofessionals and teachers provide small-group tutoring, or other support, for what portion of work time. Students should have the same tutor(s) as consistently as possible, so tutors may get to know students and form motivating relationships.
Watch this video of an MCL describing the benefits of having a Reach Associate to help her reach more students with small-group tutoring.