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.

Balanced Collaboration and Autonomy

For eight years running, Tutors for All programs have achieved jaw-dropping results for Boston kids and the organizations that serve them.

How have our programs accomplished this?  While each program in our history has its own unique story, we believe that seven key elements unite them and offer a road map to follow.

MGH Spring 2014 Report

  1. High 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 few months, we’ll be spending some time discussing each of them.  Our goal: a conversation among experts and beginners on how effective programs can work.

Today’s topic: Balanced Collaboration and Autonomy

Although there are many reasons for Tutors for All’s success, one key factor is its strong partnerships with the schools and community organizations in which it works. Tutors for All has worked with a wide variety of partners: district schools, charter schools; high schools, middle schools, elementary schools; organizations like the YMCA and Mass General Hospital. Each of these institutions has its own set of standards and expectations for the students it serves. Tutors for All works needs to collaborate to produce a smooth, collegial environment in which to pursue academic success. At the same time, Tutors for All programs need autonomy in order to instruct each student individually, building on his/her unique combination of strengths and areas for growth.

Upon partnering with a school, the Tutors for All Program Manager spends considerable time molding Tutors for All’s model into a program best suited for that school and the needs of its student population. The Program Manager works with a designated liaison to integrate the standards of behavior into the Tutors for All expectations. This can involve learning how to use a school’s system of merits and demerits, or using the same language when speaking about the academic expectations (e.g. an oft-repeated motto, “Everybody learns here,” acronyms, “Let’s see that SLANT”, or nomenclature, “welcome Bicentennial Scholars!”) Where possible, a program manager will work with teachers to gain insight into students’ learning styles and align curricula appropriately. The program manager and the liaison have regular weekly meetings to check in on norms, expectations and learning goals. It is critical for Tutors for All and school/community partner to represent a united front. An effective Tutors for All program is smoothly integrated within an academic environment. Students are encouraged, supported, and accountable, fairly and equally by everyone invested in his or her academic success


At the same time, however, Tutors for All operates as a “school within a school.” We have our own instructors (tutors), our own curriculum, and our own administration (coordinators and program managers.) The academic content of a tutorial is not determined by daily class or homework, but instead by a student’s progress mastering the skills necessary for the independent completion of that work.  The pace of the lesson is determined by the students needs, and disciplinary infractions are handled by program administration. This level of individualized instruction and intervention (where necessary) in a student’s learning allows a classroom teacher to then focus on the class as a whole, and to follow the grade level content assigned.


This balance of collaboration and autonomy between partner school and its Tutors for All program allows for a united front of tutor, teachers, and administrators working towards providing our students with the most individualized education possible. With the support of the partner schools, tutoring becomes legitimate and incorporated into the school schedule as a mandatory class, rather than a stigmatized, remedial program. With the support of Tutors for All, students are taught and teachers are freed from reviewing and re-teaching remedial skills to students.  The result: students are prepared for and teachers can focus on grade-appropriate content, with “college and career preparedness for all” no longer just a saying, but now an achievable goal.

Element #3: 1:1 and/or 1:2 ratios


1:1 Ratios

At Tutors for All we are fortunate enough to boast extremely successful programs. We believe much of our success can be credited to the organization of our programs and what we call “The 7 Conditions for Effective Tutorial.” This is a closer look at the third condition: 1:1 tutor-student ratios. One-on-one (and sometimes, less ideally, one-on-two) tutoring holds many advantages over traditional classroom learning and even group tutorial.


Tutor-student relationship: One of the major advantages of one-on-one tutorial is the rapport built between student and tutor. The direct and unabridged interaction between student and teacher does wonders for the scholastic ability and outlook of students. The tutor can become something of an academic mentor, and students can look at their mentor and be inspired by his or her educational success. As student and tutor learn and grow together, the student becomes more comfortable and communicative, often asking questions and voicing concerns they would otherwise be hesitant to voice.

Skills for future success: It may be surprising for some people to know students enrolled in tutorial programs perform better in all subjects, not just those addressed in tutorial sessions. This happy symptom of successful tutorial manifests because although tutorial sessions may focus on one or two subjects, the skills a student acquires apply to all learning. In tutorial, students learn to break down material, study effectively, manage their time and expand their capacity for reasoning. These skills diffuse through all present and future learning.

Student Confidence: Confidence, non-academic and academic, can play a deceptively large role in a student’s learning and performance. Often struggling and even successful students struggle with low confidence, second guessing their answers and giving up too easily when faced with challenging material. Together, tutor and student set rigorous, high academic standards, and as the student improves and works towards these lofty goals, supported and encouraged by the tutor, he or she becomes more intellectually sure footed.

Individual and Undivided focus: Students all learn in different ways; are they being taught in a way that is best for them in a classroom? The answer is most likely not. A teacher’s responsibility is to a classroom, while a tutor’s undivided focus is on an individual student. Very quickly, after just one or two sessions, a tutor can identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses, learning styles and pitfalls and orient lessons accordingly. Similarly, the pacing of lessons in a classroom may not be optimal for an individual. One-on-one tutoring addresses this as well, moving as quickly or slowly as a student requires. In a group or classroom setting, it is easy for a student’s lack of preparedness to not be exposed, affirming and encouraging the academically harmful practice. In tutorial sessions, students are unable to hide. Together, tutor and student share a greater obligation toward learning.


There are many criteria that must be met to run a successful tutorial program (seven to be exact), one-to-one tutor to student ratios is an essential piece of the academic puzzle. Tutors for All’s expansive and supportive educational supplement would not enjoy the same success without one-on-one tutor-student ratios.


Kickball for All!

Kickball for All 2015 was a smashing success!   This year’s event was multi-generational with players ranging from toddlers to tutors to T4A supporters!  And we hit our goal of being able to fund 1000 hours of tutoring for Boston Youth!  That’s definitely a record!  If you weren’t able to make it out on Saturday or if you would like to relive the day, here’s a rundown of the event!

The TeamsThis year, we saw a few familiar teams out on the field along with some new ones.  The Test-Takers were back and ready for the competition under the fearless leadership of Andy, Shane, and Bryan.  The Young Tobins (Youngbloods and Team Tobin) had an incredible representation of four Tobin Tutors thanks to the triumphant leadership of Soriya. The Oldies but Codmans (Oldies but Goodies and Codman Squared) threw us a curveball with two of their players on the field under 5 years old and some wise leadership from Mark Destler and Liam Day.  And last, but not least, Team Rainbow brought us many surprises under the shining leadership of Jennifer Zavala and Naomi Muchiri.

Kickball could not have been successful without our hardworking Team Captains. They not only fearlessly led their team on the field, but they also led them through a successful fundraising campaign on Crowdrise. They also brought lots of spirit to the stands and field!

The Champions

Team SpiritThis year, we wanted to encourage lots of positive energy on the field and in the stands so we introduced the Kickball for All Spirit Award for the first time ever.  We asked all the Teams to come up with a cheer and Team Tobin truly blew us out of the water with their cheer and positive spirit throughout the whole afternoon.  We were very excited to be able to present the award to their team.


Bridge Builder AwardThis competition may have been the fiercest of the three.  The Bridge Builder Award is given out every year to the team that raises the most funds for Tutors for All. The Test Takers were neck and neck with The Oldies but Goodies in the weeks and days leading up to Kickball for All.  The Test Takers made an impressive leap on the day of the competition raising $1300 on Saturday and jumping ahead of The Oldies but Goodies to win the coveted trophy!

Tournament ChampionsThe championship game was between The Young Tobins and Team Rainbow

Some quotes from the attendees

“Everyone was in good spirits, and it was really heartening to see how much certain community members care about what T4a does. For some reason I wasn’t expecting that level of excitement and commitment from the older folk” -Maria Cassidy, Tutor Extraordinaire

“Thank you for a good time for a good cause.” -Brian Leblanc

And finally…a word from our sponsors!

We would like to wholeheartedly thank our sponsors who gave at all levels.

Professionalization of Tutors: We Treat our Tutors Like Teachers

For eight years running, Tutors for All programs have achieved jaw-dropping results for Boston kids and the organizations that serve them.

How have our programs accomplished this?  While each program in our history has its own unique story, we believe that seven key elements unite them and offer a road map to follow.

  1. MGH Spring 2014 ReportHigh 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 few months, we’ll be spending some time discussing each of them.  Our goal: a conversation among experts and beginners on how effective programs can work.

Today’s topic: Professionalization of Tutors

Tutors for All treats tutors as teachers, and teachers are professionals. Tutors are expected to dress professionally, attend every single tutorial and communicate professionally about absences. They are held accountable for their own lesson planning and expected to continually perfect their practice. We are invested in developing tutors as thoughtful and skilled educators who feel confident in their ability to deliver content.

In order to professionalize our tutors in this way we focus on comprehensive pre-program training, prioritizing reflection, planning and feedback and creating opportunities for growth with the organization.

The Tobin Team of Lead Tutors

The Tobin Team of Lead Tutors

Prior to tutorial tutors are trained in 6 key areas:

  • Student Accountability
  • Professionalism
  • Curriculum
  • Pedagogy
  • Collaboration
  • Cultural Competency

This kind of depth of training sets the expectation that tutors are not only skilled in their subject area, but also well versed in student engagement, effective pedagogy and creative lesson planning. Tutors continue to receive professional development in all 6 areas throughout the semester during the reflection time built into Tutors For All’s programming. Professional development lessons have included positive framing, making math games meaningful and relationship building with students.

We additionally create a culture of reflection, planning and feedback by setting aside preparation and reflection time and observing tutors at work. Tutors arrive 30 minutes before tutorial in order to spend time preparing for their daily lesson. Tutors will use this time to review content, create expansion materials or troubleshoot a challenging student behavior with a co-worker. This built in time requires tutors to plan thoughtful, engaging lessons that meet their students’ needs.

Emily MGHFollowing tutorial, tutors spend 30 minutes reflecting on their lesson or developing skills in one of the 6 T4A focus areas. During this debriefing time, tutors have the opportunity to receive feedback, share highs and lows and collaboratively problem solve with their peers. Debriefing questions have included, “What have you learned about your student’s learning habits and how you are going to modify your lesson plan to accommodate their specific needs?” This practice holds tutors accountable to continued improvement of their practice.

One way we prioritize feedback is by holding individual conferences once a semester to discuss tutors’ strengths and areas for growth. In these meetings tutors have a chance to set professional development goals as well as give the Program Manager feedback about the program. Andreas Wolfe, lead tutor at Tobin, wrote the following about a tutor’s strengths: “she consistently uses inquiry based learning—she does not provide her student with the answers, instead questioning him to figure out the answers himself.” Another tutor received the following area for growth:  he can change the tone and pace of instruction to be more engaged and enthusiastic about material.” This kind of targeted observation and feedback helps us hold our tutors to high standards as professional educators.

Tutors for All is a program that offers a variety of professional growth opportunities for tutors. Former tutors have been promoted to lead tutors, coordinators, curriculum specialists and managers. In these positions tutors are able to gain leadership and facilitation experience as undergraduate students.

Our tutors are professional educators. We work hard to set high expectations, develop their skills and show them they are valued with leadership opportunities.

Hannah DeAngelis, Program Manager

A Farewell Interview with Hannah and Liz

In the last week, we said goodbye to two of our Staff Members: Hannah DeAngelis and Liz Marshall, who are off to new adventures.  Before they left, we had the opportunity to talk with them about their experience working at Tutors for All.


Hannah and Liz at Kickball for All on Saturday

What has your role been at T4A?

Hannah: ”I have been the Program Manager for the Tobin and YMCA programs.”

Liz: ”I have been the Tutor Support Coordinator managing tutor recruitment, marketing, and tutor support for the organization.”

What drew you to work with Tutors for All this past year?

Hannah: “I was looking for a position where I could be a partner to schools and get to build meaningful relationships with both adults and students. As a former classroom teacher, I really believe in the power of building one on one relationships in order for students to get the academic and personal support they need. I really believe in T4A’s ability to provide this support through tutor/student partnerships.”

Liz: ”After being accepted into the Life Together program (a social justice fellowship for young adults based out of the Episcopal Church) last Spring, I interviewed with several justice focused organizations in the Boston area.  In college, I studied education and worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters.  Through both of those experiences, I saw the importance of individualized academic and emotional support for kids and working at Tutors for All seemed like the perfect fit for my interests!  T4A’s model of instruction really excited me from the beginning and has continued to impress me throughout the year.”

Do you have a favorite moment from this year?



Hannah: ”One of our Tobin tutors worked with a middle school student all year who presented some challenges in terms of attendance, skill level and attitude. The tutor showed up every single day and was consistently positive and encouraging towards his student, regardless of her demeanor or tendency to skip class. When asked to list her tutor’s strengths on the end of semester evaluation this student wrote, ‘he doesn’t give up on me.’”

Liz:  “As the person who was in charge of tutor recruitment and marketing for the organization, it was really important that I understand our tutoring programs and one of the best ways to do that was by tutoring at Tobin.  This spring, I worked with an 8th Grade Tobin student named Jean who struggled with his multiplication tables so we started practicing and timing them every day.  Our goal was to be able to do 25 multiplication tables in under five minutes.  On the first day, it took him 11 minutes to get through 25 multiplication problems.  By the third day, he did 25 tables in 4 minutes and 30 seconds.  He told me that he had gone home and practiced them over and over so that we would be able to reach our goal.  And that put a huge smile on my face!”

How do you think you have grown working with us? Have you learned anything about education or working at a non-profit?

Hannah: ”I have absolutely grown in my management abilities. I have learned a lot about how to build strong teams of tutors who are excited about developing their skills as educators and learning from each other.”



Liz:  “I have grown so much in my ability to communicate and manage several different projects at once.  It has been so valuable to understand all the different aspects that go into running a non-profit and have had hands-on experience working on many of them.”


What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

Hannah: ”Dance with my lovely Spontaneous Celebrations dance folks. And hike around in the best home state in world, Maine.”

Liz:  “As part of the Life Together program, I live in intentional community. And I absolutely love when our community cooks and eats delicious food together every week!  I also love to sing, dance, kick-box and have recently gotten into Pilates.”

What are your plans and goals for the next chapter of your lives?

Hannah: ”I am in the middle of a move to Maine to be the Assistant Program Director of Refugee and Immigration Services, a huge shift for me and a position where I will put those management skills into practice! 5 year plan I am looking to be in schools for the long haul, either as a counselor or social worker.”

Liz: ”I am staying on for a second year in the Life Together program as an Emmaus Fellow, which means that I will work part-time doing capacity building for Life Together as an organization (specifically fundraising) while working almost full-time at St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church in Quincy.  St. C’s houses the Episcopal Chinese Cultural Center for Boston so I am going to be spending some time teaching there along with working for the church itself.  I’m discerning whether I want to go to school for a dual Masters in Social Work and Divinity so this will be an awesome opportunity to explore that.”

Meet an inspiring T4A Alum and Donor: Deejay

IMG_2671Deejay Robinson worked at our Codman, Prospect Hill Academy, and Dever Programs from 2011-2012 as a member of the Massachusetts Commonwealth Corps.  He got his Bachelors in Music in Vocal Performance at Milikin University in Illinois and then his Masters in Music for Vocal Performance at Longy School of Music in Cambridge.  He is now teaching in Boston and going to Boston University for a Masters in Music Education.  Deejay’s passion for education continually inspires us and we are excited to share our recent interview with him.

What are you doing these days?
Deejay: “As far as work goes, I have been teaching K-5 music in Boston Public Schools for 3 years now.  I teach at the Thomas Edison K-8 in Brighton.  I have grown the music program during my time there in the quality of the repertoire of what students are singing and concert attendance by parents.  There is an overall excitement for music and music education.  Next year, I’m leaving BPS and I’ll be starting a job at Buckingham Brown and Nichols teaching music for Kindergarten- 2nd Grade. I will graduate BU in 2016.  I am focusing my studies on the intersection of race and music.  Right now, I’m doing research.  BB&N has a great mission that will allow me to do more research.  I’m also hoping to involve their community.”

How well did Tutors for All prepare you for your work now?
Deejay: “T4A prepared me better than student teaching because when you student teach, you really only take over a class for a week.  A lot of that experience is really getting your feet wet.  At T4A, I was able to work individually with students who were deemed as needing improvement.  Through that, I was able to get creative and think through numerous strategies and techniques.  That gave me the springboard to be creative in classroom as I had already developed a tool box of things.  T4A also put me in contact with BPS.  I stayed at Dever for an additional semester after T4A stopped working there and tutored one student.”

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Conditions of Highly Effective Tutorial Programs: 1. High Quality Oversight

For eight years running, Tutors for All programs have achieved jaw-dropping results for Boston kids and the organizations that serve them.

How have our programs accomplished this?  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. Award's Night #2High 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 few months, we’ll be spending some time discussing each of them.  Our goal: a conversation among experts and beginners on how effective programs can work.

Today’s topic: High Quality Oversight.

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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.


Meet our Talented Coordinator and Tutor: Harrison

We first met Harrison, a Teach for America Alum, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education Internship Fair back in August.  This year, he has contributed significantly to Tutors for All as the Humanities Coordinator at Codman Academy and as a Lead Tutor at our MGH Program.  His passion for working in the field of education continually inspires us and we hope that this interview with him inspires you too!


What got you interested in working in the field of education?
Harrison: I was lucky enough to have teachers who helped me love what I learned and the process of learning itself. They inspired me to stay in the classroom to try and spread that passion.
How did you come to start working with Tutors for All?
Harrison: Tutors for All had a table at an internship fair that I visited. It was great to find an organization that would help me stay in contact with students during my studies, and the Tutors for All model is one that I immediately supported.
What has been the most memorable moment during your time working as a Codman DSC_7335Coordinator and an MGH Lead Tutor?
Harrison: The first few times that I experienced Saturday tutorial at Codman were breathtaking. Seeing so many students enjoying working with their tutors on a Saturday morning is more than enough to make most educators smile.


What was your favorite childhood book?
Harrison: The Lord of The Rings was my gateway into fantasy. I still love it.
When you are not working with us, what do you like to do for fun?
Harrison: I typically try to stay active, but this past winter in Boston made me spend much more time reading.
What words of advice do you have for our tutors?
Harrison: Dedication to helping other people is impressive. Make sure that you make the most of that time. Be prepared and help your students have fun.
After you finish your degree at Harvard Graduate School of Education, what’s next for you?
Harrison: I’ll be joining the English department at Northfield Mount Hermon, a boarding school in Massachusetts.
Is there anything else about yourself that you would like us to include in your story?
Harrison: Thank you so much to Luisa and Mark for their guidance at MGH and Codman, respectively. It’s been a pleasure to be a part of your programs.

A Successful Spring Break!

When you hear “College Spring Break,” what do you think about?  Relaxing on the beach?  Watching netflix on the couch?  How about continuing to bridge the achievement gap?

DSC_7731Even with many of our tutors gone on their college spring breaks, we were able to keep our programs fully running and continue to meet the needs of our students.  Several of our tutors chose an alternative Spring Break and put in extra hours at our four programs.  We also teamed up with Boston Cares (the area’s largest volunteer mobilizer) to find one-time volunteers to jump in at our programs!

To Kick-off Spring Break, T4A tutors and staff gathered at the NonProfit Center on Friday, March 6th DSC_7711to celebrate!  Anna’s Taqueria catered and we played a few games that brought lots of laughter into the room!

A huge thank you to all listed below who showed their commitment to our programs and to bridging the achievement gap in Boston!


Our Spring Break Tutors: Na An, Shelley Bertolino, Joel Betke, Maria Cassidy, SeungJoo Cha, Conan Chan, Den Chiww, Zoila Coc-Chang, Kaydee Donohoo, Jacinta Dyke, Tabi Fink, Tyra Flounory, Bennett Hadley, Jessalynn Hudgins, Victoria Glover, Sarah Lafleur, Yifei Li, Meghan Lowney, Denise Matte, Rohit Matthew, Eleanor Morse, Paul Mykos, Weeraya Orwatthana, Makaylin Randall, Wilner Renaud, Phoebe Rogers, Tina Safford, Asad Siddiqui, Robert Staulo, Lakshmi Venkatraman

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