Category Archives: Tutors for All Blog: One Student At a Time

One Student At a Time

Tutors for All believes that the achievement gap will be closed in the trenches, one student at a time. This blog builds on our experience running individualized education programs for the last 8 years in district, charter, and parochial schools.

First Alumni Networking Night at the Good Life Bar

Good Life Boston Basement

On Monday, March 24th Tutors for All hosted our first Alum Networking Event at the Good Life Bar in Downtown Boston. It was a success! We were able to reconnect with around 30 former tutors and staff. It was a great reunion, as well as a networking event.

We were housed in the basement, a very cool space (pictured above). It was perfect for the amount of people that we had, around 30 (or, since we are in the education sector, a large classroom’s worth). Good Life deserves major kudos for donating the space and being very accommodating, both before and during the event.

We were also able to get some video testimonials from some more of our great alums. Look out for them!



Fall 2013 Volunteers Made An Impact

Volunteer Hours Fall 2013 GraphWe are at the “beginning of the end” of the Spring 2014 semester here at Tutors for All. So, we’re taking a moment to reflect on how much tutor volunteers have contributed to our programs during this academic year.

During the Fall 2013 semester, volunteers served 946 hours. By choosing to volunteer, these tutors provided approximately $11,350 worth of work! We are genuinely thankful to our volunteers – their generous contribution of their time and skills make a huge impact towards bridging the achievement gap.

In particular, the Civil Engagement Program (CEP) at Northeastern provided an invaluable number of volunteers. CEP grants students scholarships for their community service engagement and is meant to “educate students for a life of fulfillment and accomplishment …and to meet global and societal needs.”

We’re looking forward to seeing how the graph for Spring 2014 looks in comparison to last semester. Will we have more hours? Will the school breakdowns be the same? Are there ways we can increase volunteerism (from colleges and beyond)? We shall see.


Connecting with Superstar Alums, Colby Jackson…and you!

Today is the day! Our First Alum Networking Event is kicking off tonight at the Good Life! RSVP for the event here.

Superstar tutor alum Colby Jackson came by to talk to us about his experience working with Tutors for All, and also helps us promo our first Alum Networking Event. Hope to see you there! Details:

Good Life Bar
28 Kingston St, Boston, MA 02111
Monday, March 24
6pm – 8pm

Featuring: Colby Jackson, Chris Baginski
Camera work: Samantha Murray
Video editing: Esther Gonzalez

Interview with Kwabena, Our Newest Program Manager


DSC_3904You might recognize Kwabena as a former T4A Lead Tutor and Program Coordinator. Kobe has risen through our ranks and become an integral member of our team. He sat down with us earlier this week so we could get to know him better.

T4A: What is your full name?

KBA: Kwabena Boaten Adusei

T4A: Which partner school are you working at?

KBA: Currently I work at the Tobin School, as well as Codman Academy.

T4A: Where did you go to college?

KBA: I’m a Senior at Tufts University, graduating in May.

T4A: Congratulations! That’s a great school. What did you study?

KBA: My two areas of focus as an undergrad are Clinical Psychology and Spanish.

T4A: What’s your hometown?

KBA: Kumasi, Ghana. But my American hometown is Springfield, MA.

T4A: When did you start working with Tutors for All?

KBA: I came on-board as a Lead Tutor in the fall of 2012. I stayed on in that capacity for the full academic year. Then I worked in the Bicentennial Scholars program at MGH over the summer. I continued on to be a Program Coordinator at Jackson Mann, and now I am a Program Manager at Tobin.

T4A: That’s quite a rapid rise! So, who do you draw inspiration from in education?

KBA: {Chuckles} Teachers. Because teachers have the hardest job. Kids aren’t held to the same standards as adults. And you know, not only do teachers have to do the business of teaching kids, they also have to deal with behavioral issues and emotional issues that aren’t really in their job title.

T4A: Do you have a favorite quote?

KBA: Yes! And it’s in Spanish: “Poco a poco, se va lejos.” And it translates to “little by little one gets far.” That, and a stitch in time saves nine.

T4A: Nice! Totally appropriate as a Program Manager!

KBA: Oh yeah, absolutely! That’s something my mom always said to me.

T4A: Favorite band / musician?

KBA: I would say Dave Matthews Band is my favorite band, but my favorite musician is Jay-Z.

T4A: What’s one interesting fact about you?

KBA: I currently write Spanish poetry. I also am hugely into sports, and would have played soccer in college, but I chose academics over athletics, which everyone should!

T4A: So did you play club or varsity sports?

KBA: I played soccer all four years in high school as well as baseball and basketball until junior year of high school. Then I started focusing on track, which I continued through my sophomore year of college. I still play soccer in the summer- a bunch of friends of mine put together a men’s league, so that’s been fun.

T4A: What’s your favorite thing about Tutors for All?

KBA: The impact! Our mission is to Bridge the Achievement Gap and as a Program Manager you always feel like there are things to get done, or things to change, but then you see the enthusiasm in the students and you hear from the teachers and the administrators at schools. Well, they’re always excited and love how things are playing out and that immediate impact is what matters the most.

Anyone Can Succeed in Academics. Here’s How.

Tutors for All achieves huge gains in Literacy with a new approach to learning. This fall, T4A debuted our “Meta-Cognitive Framing Activities” approach for the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Youth Scholars Program. The participating Youth Scholars are Boston Public High School students. Students who took part in the program grew an average of three grade levels in reading comprehension from Spring 2013 to the December 2013, the equivalent of getting three years of education in one calendar year. The following is adapted from the final report we submitted to MGH’s Center for Community Health Improvement in December 2013 detailing the results of the program:

“Traditional discourses about improving student performance focuses on increasing standards and providing high-level coursework. However, while providing quality content area instruction is essential, there is little evidence to suggest that this–in and of itself–can lead to the gains in high school and college degree attainment for which we are striving. Therefore, recent research has begun to look toward other nonacademic factors that play a role in a Scholar’s schooling experiences. These nonacademic factors, often called “noncognitive factors”, such as persistence, self-regulation, motivation, work habits, organization, and learning strategies, have been shown to have a demonstrated effect on education outcomes.” (Farrington et al., 2012) (Emphasis added.)

Source: University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, Literature Review, June 2012

Source: University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, Literature Review, June 2012

In response to the growing body of research that highlights the importance of non-academic factors such as academic mindset and self-regulating academic strategies in student success, Tutors for All designed a new tutorial format to directly address these “non-cognitive factors” alongside direct skills-based instruction. Our tutors are trained and equipped to enable their students to move from being passive recipients of academic content to becoming active, conscientious, and productive scholars.

This semester at our MGH program, all tutorials were focused around a ‘Metacognitive Framing Activity’ (MFA). The MFA’s are strategies designed to help students internalize knowledge and self-regulate learning. While the MFA’s primarily provide examples for how they may be used to supplement the acquisition of literacy skills, they can be modified to support learning in other content areas. MFA concepts include: Think Aloud, Visualization, and Three-Step-Reading. Tutors and students integrated these activities into their sessions as they read a section of the student’s text book, reviewed the students notes, or other provided classroom material that addresses the content students need to learn. The second section of the tutorial, the skills section, would then use the MFA to practice whatever skill/assignment/project/problem that student is struggling with a specific content area. For students struggling with Reading Comprehension the results were tremendous. Click the graph for a larger view of the specific numbers:

Note: Student’s 7 and 8 did not take the GRADE assessment in spring 2013. Therefore we have omitted their fall 2013 tests scores from the overall growth calculation. All students were in 10th or 11th grade at the time of the second assessment.

We look forward to posting our Spring semester results in May!

- Chris Baginski

…One Donor at a Time

Tai_SLThe fight against the achievement gap takes place on many levels. Some of it happens in the political arena, where programs are drafted, debated, and, with luck, enacted and rolled out over many years. Such programs bring arguable improvements to the lives of inner-city youth across the country, but recent years have shown that the fate of such programs, and the youth they serve, lies entirely on surviving the next round of budget cuts or the latest political wrangling in Congress.

I chose to work for education equality on a different level. As part of Tutors for All, I worked with students one-on-one to raise their MCAS scores and improve their academics to a level they didn’t think was possible. I witnessed firsthand how effective the grassroots model can be when it is led by passionate and dedicated men and women. And when I graduated and moved on from the education field, I knew that this was a cause that I still wanted to be a part of. That is why I contribute to the Tutors for All Annual Fund.

Small-scale programs like Tutors for All do so much with so little that any contribution, no matter how small, will make immediate and tangible gains towards bridging the achievement gap. The donations you and I make today will go directly towards hiring tutors, making sure they have the materials they need, and ensuring that another generation of young Boston scholars will receive the opportunities they deserve. With funding for school programs at critical lows, it’s more important than ever that we step up and support those who work for a more equal future, day by day, one student at a time.

- Tai Sassen-Liang

Tutors for All Alum 2006-2009

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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Rethinking Effective Teacher Preparation

Earlier this week, the Boston Globe published an article, “Too Many Teachers, Too Little Quality,” highlighting the inadequacy of teacher preparation programs in preparing teachers for the rigors of 21st century classrooms.  Because we work with so many college students preparing to be educators (and as a former teacher myself), the title caught my attention.

As a nation, aren’t we always talking about how we need more young people to choose a career in teaching?  Isn’t that what is so great about organizations like Teach for America?  Here at Tutors for All, we often pride ourselves on giving more young people exposure to work that will increase their investment in education.

However, according to the article, more is not the problem; there are more than two education school graduates for every opening in the United States.  The problem is that  very few teachers enter the profession adequately prepared to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population.


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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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