Category Archives: Mark Destler

Conditions for Effective Tutorial

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor eight years running, Tutors for All programs have achieved jaw-dropping results for Boston kids and the organizations that serve them.  Settings have varied — High school/Middle School (and now Elementary School!); charter school/district school/community agency; during school/after-school – but the story has remained the same:

  • Students come into Tutors for All program years below grade level in fundamental skills;
  • Students receive high-dosage tutoring from Boston-area college students;
  • Students catch up with, and at times even surpass, their suburban peers.

How have our programs accomplished this?  What’s our “special sauce”?  Can other schools and programs replicate our success?  While each program in our history has its own unique story, we believe that seven key elements unite them and offer a roadmap to follow.

  1. C-23High Quality Oversight
  2. Professionalization of Tutors
  3. 1:1 or 1:2 Ratios
  4. Balanced Collaboration and Autonomy
  5. Regular Assessment and Progress Monitoring
  6. Tutors for All (not Some)
  7. Leveraged Subsidies for Service

Over the next two months, we’ll drill down into each element, sharing what it means from a theoretical and practical standpoint.  If you’re hungry for more now, take a look at this.


Five Reasons Why Tutoring is Crucial Teacher Prep

Much ado about teacher preparation these days.  Just last Wednesday, the New York City Department of Education released Teacher Preparation “scorecards” that raise questions about some highly-regarded programs.  This comes on the heels of the Teacher Prep Review in June by the National Council on Teacher Quality that caused so many reactions – see T4A Director of Programs Aimee Mott’s post for one of the more thoughtful ones.

While reasonable minds may disagree with the ratings and prescriptions each study offers, teacher preparation clearly needs to improve.  The persistence of the achievement gap, the primacy of teacher quality in the achievement of underserved students, and the correlation between teachers’ first-year success and their long-term efficacy provide a combination of opportunity and moral urgency rarely seen in the public policy arena.

One under-rated strategy for teacher preparation – tutoring.  For a host of reasons (five, in fact!), we at Tutors for All believe that leading tutorials can and should be a central part of teacher preparation programs: a pre-requisite for student teaching. We are not alone.  Here are our reasons.

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As Individualized Instruction Goes National, What Do We Know?

Individualized instruction has gotten a lot of good press over the past month. Check out this piece in the Times about Nick Ehrman’s Blue Engineers, and this one in the Chicago Sun-Times about Match Education’s partnership in Chicago.

This press is well-deserved; if anything, it’s overdue. What started almost eleven years ago as a Match “summer high school” on the MIT campus has grown into arguably the highest leverage intervention out there. To quote the piece on Blue Engine, “Gains like this are not often seen in education … it’s worth taking notice.”

As the movement has grown, Tutors for All is increasingly being asked to offer counsel to schools and community organizations starting their own programs. It’s a gift of an opportunity; far more kids are in need of the practice than twenty Blue Engines, Match’s and T4A’s could serve. As we do so, however, it becomes clear that our counsel (and, for that matter, the advice of companion organizations) is based on our particular philosophy and history of success more than on a more general research base.

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