We’ve been working to reinforce and reinvigorate our after-school program with the goal of reaching more students who need it. Staffing shortages and not enough hours in the day have made it difficult for us to achieve this goal, but when we started using the FEV Tutor live, 1:1 virtual tutoring platform we realized that we had discovered the missing piece of our puzzle.
At the time, we were really ramping up our summer program and trying to create as much programming as possible for it beforehand. One of the sites integrated the virtual tutoring into its program for four weeks and we received good feedback from the staff, teachers, and students.
We took those results and ran with them, rolling the online tutoring platform out across all 21 of our school sites with a goal of reaching about 2,500 students in grades 3-8. We offer the tutoring in 45-minute, dedicated blocks of time and alternate between math and reading.
Here are five steps we took to ensure the best possible results with our virtual learning platform:
1. Use it to provide individualized instruction. It’s great to be able to offer students individualized learning opportunities that are tailored to the information that we get through our i-Ready assessment data. This is key because we know that learning is not one-size-fits-all.
2. Leverage the data from the platform. We love looking at the data whenever we can. We can easily see the positive impact that tutoring is having on our students. We can celebrate those successes within the school community and the greater community, and really understand what else is needed to help our students succeed in school.
3. Work together to figure out who needs it most. Our after-school program is open to all of our students but space is limited. We prioritize based on the data that we get from our i-Ready assessments. We get input from our schools’ social workers, guidance counselors, principals, and teachers. Ultimately, we want to make sure we’re reaching the students who really get the biggest return on their investment of time.
4. Get in some good learning time. Because the tutoring takes place after school the district is able to allocate a full 45-minute block to the virtual tutoring. That’s enough time for them to get situated, open their computers or Chromebooks, engage in the lessons and then wrap up and go on to the next activity. They can get acclimated quickly and really get in some good learning time with their online tutors.
5. Think beyond traditional lessons. Our online tutoring provider also helps improve educational equity by putting 1:1 tutoring into the hands of students who may not otherwise be privy to it. It also serves as an extension of the district’s support structure. For example, if a student is having trouble in eighth grade biology or science, she may not have time to stay after school for a teacher conference. However, that student can log into the online tutoring platform, input her questions and within 15 minutes she can be working with a tutor who can assist the student in gaining an understanding to address those science questions.
Set them Up for Success
Due to the pandemic, we’re seeing a lot of students who are one or two grades behind and struggling to catch back up. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough time in the day for every student to be able to work one-on-one with a teacher to achieve that goal. Our hope is that our virtual tutors will help them recapture that knowledge and get back on track. This is a golden opportunity and we’re hoping to see the results of our efforts in the spring i-Ready assessments.
At that point, we’ll be able to see that the tutoring made a difference for the cohort of students that went through the 21st Century program and/or participated in the tutoring during the school day. So far it feels like we’re doing the right thing for the students, and that we’re going the extra mile to set them up for success.