March 14, 2024

What We’ve Learned: Building Accelerate’s 2024-25 Call to Effective Action Portfolio Brings in Focus the Work of Our Current Grantees

By: Jennifer Bronson

With the Accelerate team busy reviewing priority-deadline applications for the 2024-25 Call to Effective Action (CEA) Grant, now is the perfect time to reflect on the work of our current portfolio of CEA grantees and all they have already accomplished this school year. With an incredibly diverse group of high-dosage tutoring providers and programs working across regions, content areas, and grade bands, we continue to learn so much from our grantees about what it takes to ensure implementation fidelity and robust program evaluation.

Accelerate’s 2023-24 Call to Effective Action Grantees 
Accelerate’s Call to Effective Action is designed to identify highly effective tutoring models that can be scaled, empowering innovative, individualized instruction and tutoring methods that have the potential to substantially impact student reading and math outcomes, especially in historically underserved communities. Emphasizing evidence, every CEA grantee is required to complete a rigorous evaluation of program impact and/or implementation.

Our 2023-24 grantees include 37 high-dosage tutoring organizations spanning the country, with total student enrollment exceeding 140,000 – with 23,000 students in more than 80 school districts funded directly through Accelerate. While the majority of grantees are focusing their efforts on students in grades K-6, it should be noted that our 2023-24 CEA grantee portfolio reaches every grade level, Pre-K to 12th. About 40% of grantees are tutoring exclusively in ELA and about a third are dedicated to math, while the rest offer tutoring in multiple subject areas. Half of grantees are delivering fully in-person tutoring. All of this year’s CEA cohort deliver tutoring during the school day, and none employ a tutor-to-student ratio larger than 1:5.

Insights from our 2023-24 Grantees (So Far)
Accelerate’s 2023-24 Call to Effective Action grantees have made significant strides in implementing innovative, high-dosage tutoring models during the 2023-24 school year. Here, we delve into their progress to date – underscoring certain insights from our report with Mathemetica: delivering adequate dosage requires planning; building partner relationships helps guarantee program fidelity; and tutor quality is improved by mission-alignment and training.

  • Adequate dosage is only achieved through deliberate planning and effort
    First, ensuring students receive consistent and sufficient tutoring dosage during the school day is challenging but not insurmountable – and is critical to driving student impact and closing gaps. According to existing research (Kraft & Falken, 2021; Nickow et al., 2020; Robinson et al., 2021), high-dosage tutoring is (i) individualized, with a low student-to-tutor ratio, (ii) intensive (e.g., 3-5 sessions/week, typically 30-60 minutes/session), and (iii) is sustained for 50 total hours or more. Our 2023-24 grantees are employing a variety of strategies to guarantee tutoring is delivered in amounts that make a meaningful difference. For instance, they are setting up consistent, predictable schedules for tutoring and avoiding scheduling sessions when students are less likely to be present, like the very beginning of the school day. Several grantees report overscheduling sessions, which accounts for school-year activities and interruptions.

    This year, CEA grantees are averaging 3.4 sessions per week of 31 minutes per session. A mean of 63.4% of Accelerate-funded students are receiving the intended dosage of the program at the midpoint of the school year – before schools tackled the challenge of sustaining adequate dosage through the many mid-year holidays and breaks.

    Collecting and tracking real-time data on tutoring attendance and dosage allows providers and schools to be responsive and adaptive. Many report making course-corrections in specific schools and classrooms to increase uptake heading into this final quarter of the school year; one grantee reports sending a weekly “digest” email to school leaders to provide a quick attendance overview and following up with targeted phones calls, while another developed an administrators’ tutoring dashboard to easily compare classroom and student level data and progress. Not only does data sharing and analysis enable better in-the-moment implementation, it positions all stakeholders for a successful program evaluation, which is a cornerstone expectation for all CEA grantees.

  • Student-centered partner relationships are critical to the success of high-dosage tutoring
    Anyone working in schools knows that relationships matter, and tutoring is no different. When reflecting on the impact of partnerships between tutors and students, tutors and teachers, or tutoring providers and school leadership, it is clear that the best program implementation and evaluation is happening where a lot of early effort is focused on establishing meaningful, ongoing relationships.

    For instance, when tutoring providers forge partnerships with principals on the front end to secure their buy-in, it allows for greater tutoring customization and intentional adaptation to that school’s context. One CEA grantee has a twice-annual conversation with partnering principals to identify and set expectations regarding the scheduling conflicts to be prioritized over tutoring (e.g., district-wide testing) and which will not (e.g. classroom level assessments). Another used its deep credibility with school administration to overcome concerns about program evaluation and student randomization in order to successfully position their program for a randomized controlled trial (RCT) this school year. RCTs are the gold-standard for determining the causal impact of a program on student learning, and a critical part of generating reliable evidence. Building trust and consistently prioritizing students in discussions with school leadership can result in strong implementation and research, which ultimately translates to outcomes for students.

    Additionally, communicating with teachers early – or better yet, well before the tutoring program launches – helps develop collaborative tutoring partnerships with teachers. Teachers’ support for tutoring typically results in higher-quality implementation and can reduce one barrier to conducting research. As an example, a secondary math-focused 2023-24 CEA grantee reports that, “Upon the start of the school year, our Site Directors meet weekly with teachers in the math department, as well as meeting at minimum biweekly with the designated school administrator … With teachers specifically, we collaborate to align our curriculum with what teachers are working on in class on a weekly basis, so that students feel the connectivity between those two avenues of math learning.” This same provider is building the partnership foundation in 2023-24 to conduct a large-scale RCT in 2024-25. Cultivating partner relationships with teachers is central to implementation and evaluation.

    However, strong tutor-student relationships are at the core of good tutoring. There isn’t a singular profile for an effective tutor; a variety of tutors, including retired teachers, volunteers, and near-peers, can establish rapport with their students, laying the foundation for effective tutoring. The tutors employed by Accelerate’s 2023-24 CEA grantees are incredibly diverse, but share a primary focus on engaging and encouraging students to reach grade level expectations.

  • Tutor quality stems from mission-alignment and improves with training
    Our 2023-24 CEA grantees employ over 23,000 tutors, with nearly 6,000 funded in whole or part through Accelerate grant dollars. Most frequently, our CEA grantees are employing college students as tutors or directly recruiting and hiring tutors based on some minimum required qualifications (e.g., high school diploma, four year degree, tutoring experience). Many grantees also employ certified teachers and paraprofessionals as tutors. Less frequently, grantees are sourcing tutors from volunteers, peers, and parents.

    When describing who makes an effective tutor, 2023-24 CEA grantees often note that the best tutors are those who are motivated to make a difference for their students. Several explicitly use a candidate’s motivation for applying to become a tutor as a screening tool when deciding who to interview and, eventually, hire. Mission-aligned tutors are perceived by our grantees as being more impactful.

    Training and coaching also improves and maintains tutor quality and program implementation. For example, a 2023-24 CEA grantee working exclusively with early learners has Coaching Specialists on staff to observe tutors in the classroom at least twice per month and have regular communication with the classroom teachers, “Coaching Specialists give feedback and guidance to tutors on how they can tailor their interventions to make them as effective for each student and class as possible.” Unsurprisingly, the tutoring providers in our portfolio typically personalize the content and intensity of tutor training and coaching, mirroring the expectation these providers have of their tutors to individualize instruction for students.

Looking Ahead: Accelerate’s 2024-25 Portfolio
Accelerate’s CEA grant program has witnessed remarkable progress over the last year, with participating organizations overcoming challenges to deliver impactful tutoring initiatives and evaluate their tutoring models. Despite some implementation challenges, several organizations maintained their commitment to rigorous research methodologies, with 12 currently engaged in a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT). Another 13 current grantees are completing impact studies using quasi-experimental or correlational designs. Finally, twelve grantees have designed evaluations on implementation metrics and inputs.

As Accelerate’s current grantees continue to push the field of high-dosage tutoring forward, uncovering what works to close achievement gaps, we eagerly anticipate what lies ahead. The 2024-2025 Call to Effective Action grant application window closes Friday, March 15 – already, we have received several promising early applications. With Accelerate’s focus on scalability, research, equity, implementation readiness, and data collection, this application pool will be our most competitive yet.


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