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.

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

DSC_7680 (1)



Tutor and Student Spotlight: Cathy and Halima

IMAG0141This month’s Tutor and Student Spotlight features Cathy from Simmons College and Halima, a 10th Grader from the MGH Youth Scholars Program.  Last semester, Halima grew 5.2 grade levels on her GMADE (Group Mathematics Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation) and is now testing at grade level.  Halima showed the most growth of all the MGH Youth Scholars last semester.

Why do you tutor?

 Cathy: “To improve a student’s knowledge.”

 What have you learned from Cathy during tutoring?

 Halima: “Multiplying and dividing fractions, factoring, and improper and mixed fractions.”

What have you learned from Halima in tutorial?

 Cathy: “I admire Halima’s dedication to use after school time to learn and use her math skills.”


IMAG0138What do you like the most about tutorial?

 Halima: “The fact that I get helped with a subject that I need to improve on.  And that it is one- on-one.”

 Cathy: “Being able to work one-on-one with a scholar.”

Has Cathy ever done anything creative or really funny?  What was it?

 Halima: “Something creative that she does is that she teaches me in a way that is fun and enjoyable (which I rarely experience outside of tutoring).”

Has Halima ever done anything creative or really funny? What was it?

 Cathy: “I would always quiz her on factors and try to trick her.  By the end she wouldn’t back down, even if I tried to see if there was another factor.”

What are your favorite things to do outside of school?

 Halima: “Hang out with friends, go to the movies, and shopping.”

What else would you like people to know about you?

 Cathy: “I enjoy working one-on-one with people, and that’s a reason why I am in college for physical therapy.”

Excellent Tutor Coaching Leads to Growth at Tobin

The Tobin Team of Lead Tutors

The Tobin Team of Lead Tutors

Last semester, Tutors for All students at the Maurice Tobin School showed an average growth of 21.6% on their Show What You Know exams.  This was in part due to the excellent instructional coaching that tutors were given throughout the semester.  I sat down with Hannah DeAngelis, the Tobin Program Manager, to hear about student growth and tutor coaching.  Here is what she shared with me:

We were able to observe tutors with their students and compile a lot of constructive feedback that we gave to tutors during mid-semester conferences.  This held tutors to a high standard of professionalism and high rigor in their lesson planning.  That made the Tobin a very academic setting.  It’s easy when you’re tutoring to do what your student wants to do like playing games.  Tutors were expected to share their lesson planning ideas with their teams which ultimately made tutoring more academically rigorous.

In our coaching, we emphasized how important relationship building is with our tutors and students. It is essential for tutors to be advocates and allies for their students and care about what they are doing.    When tutors notice things like student attendance and bring it up to us, it is extremely helpful to the student’s growth.

We also relied on sharing student data with tutors.  Melissa (the Tobin Program Coordinator) did an amazing job of tracking how students were progressing and how their test scores aligned with what they were working on. We tracked a lot of data throughout the semester to find the gaps where students were struggling and were then able to coach the tutors in where they should be focusing in tutorial.

The overwhelming response from students on their end of the semester surveys was that they liked their tutors as people.  The students that gave the best feedback were the ones that had extremely consistent tutors.  The coaching combined with tutor commitment made for an excellent semester.

Mid-semester tutor conferences are coming up at the Maurice Tobin School and we look forward to seeing how they will influence the growth of students!

Tutor and Student Spotlight: Soriya and Jacquez

P1000961This month’s Tutor and Student Spotlight features Soriya (Ms. Peng), a Lead Tutor from Wentworth Institute of Technology and Jacquez, a 7th Grader from the Maurice Tobin School.  Over the course of last semester, Jacquez’s score on his Show What You Know Exams grew from 59% to 89% (30%).  Jacquez was one of the top five Tobin students who grew the most from tutorial last semester.

Why do you tutor?

Soriya: “I got into tutoring my freshman year of high school and was happy that I was able to find a tutoring gig here in Boston.  I love knowing that I can help further a student’s quality of education while getting to know someone new.  Being able to take part in someone’s development is always a good feeling.”

What have you learned from Ms. Peng during tutoring?

Jacquez: “Ms. Peng taught me how to multiply decimals better.  Ms. Peng taught me how to turn fractions into percentages.  Ms. Peng taught me how to turn fractions into decimals.”

What have you learned from Jacquez in tutorial?

Soriya: “Looking back at my years in middle school, it was pretty miserable and boring so I can relate to how he feels as we walks into yet another class. I think my job is to reiterate what he has learned, but in a more engaging way.  Jacquez is a really bright kid, but with so many students in this school, it’s hard to stand out and show everyone how great of a kid he is.”

What do you like the most about tutorial?

Jacquez: “At first I didn’t like it because I thought I knew everything but then Ms. Peng was cool and I started liking tutoring. Me and Ms. Peng started to get through work easily and Ms. Peng taught me a lot of new stuff. She’s a great tutor.”

Soriya: “With Jacquez, I’ve been able to track his growth because I was able to return this semester.  By seeing this commitment within each other, we are both comfortable with each other and know that we’re here to help each other.  Tutorial gives both the tutor and student an insight of our lives and enables us to create a professional working relationship.”
Has Ms. Peng ever done anything creative or really funny??  What was it?

Jacquez: “Ms. Peng did creative things like if I didn’t get a problem she would try to put it in other formations for me to understand the problem.”

Has Jacquez ever done anything creative or really funny? What was it?

Soriya: “I think mentioning just one of his really funny moments would be too hard! Jacquez is always creatively doodling in between me correcting his worksheets, so it’s nice to see his artistic side. Overall he’s just a really funny kid and I think that’s what makes our relationship and tutoring sessions so fun and relaxed.”

What are your favorite things to do outside of school?

Jacquez: “What I mostly do right after-school is go to Chacho’s (pizza) and then I go to the Tobin Community Center that’s where my Uncle Dorien works.  I go work out and then after work-out, I play basketball and my uncle trains me then I go home to my Grandfather (pop-pop) and do some homework with my dad. Then I watch tv and eat food and have ice cream and maybe play the game and go to sleep.”

What else would you like people to know about you?

Soriya: “I lost my native language of Khmer when I entered the American school system, so as one could imagine, school was pretty difficult as a kid. I don’t think I ever felt comfortable with an educator enough to even admit I didn’t understand something. Of course as I got older, this just made it more difficult and really made me realize how critical this stage is. With that experience and having four younger siblings, I would want someone besides family to be there for me and my educational development. Especially in a school with a larger student to teacher ratio, it’s really difficult for a student to get the attention they need to get a quality education. With Tutors for All, students get the attention they need and with Jacquez’s ridiculous improvement, it just shows how important this program is. I tutor because I know that’s what would have helped me. For any student out there, I’d say that if you reach out to any kid of any age, you’ll never regret it.”

Meet All-star Co-op Bennett Hadley


We are incredibly excited to introduce you to Bennett Hadley.  He will be working with us as our Northeastern Co-op for the semester.  The Northeastern Co-op program allows students to compliment their academic study with full-time employment in a position related to their academic and/or career interests.  I had a chance to sit down with Bennett on his first day of work and learn a little bit more about him and why he chose to serve with Tutors for All.

T4A: Bennett, what brought you to Tutors for All this Fall?

Bennett: During the volunteer fair this Fall, I walked right past Andreas (a T4A Coordinator/ Lead Tutor) and a few flyers fell out of his hand.  I picked them up and gave them to him and he asked, “Do you want to be a tutor?” and I was like, “I’m going to think about it.  No thanks.”   I was walking back to my apartment and thinking about it and I realized that I actually kind of did want to tutor.  So I walked back and said, “Yeah I want to do it.”  And I signed up.

T4A: What are you studying?

Bennett: I’m currently a Physics major, but I’m looking to switch it to math.  Last semester, I was kind of searching for what I want to do and I think I’ve settled for math.

T4A: Was that impacted at all by tutoring math?

Bennett: Maybe a little bit.  I’ve always enjoyed doing math and helping others with problems.  It was an easy transition.

T4A: What were your favorite moments tutoring at Tobin this Fall?

Bennett: I really enjoyed the days when I was working with my student and she got really into it.  She would ask me questions about what we were doing and why is the answer this and why am I doing this.  I really liked it when she asked questions and was interested in what we were learning about.

T4A: What made you interested in being a Co-Op with us and what are you the most excited about?

 Bennett: Last semester in the Fall, I really enjoyed my time tutoring.  I have thought about pursuing a career in education and that this would be the best way to explore that.

T4A: What was your favorite childhood book?

Bennett:  The Harry Potter Series.  I absolutely adored it.  I think I started reading them around the time that the third one came out.  I was still pretty young- like 7 or 8 maybe.  And I went to the midnight release of the last 3 books.  I read through the series several times.  I still love it.  Out of the Harry Potter series, my favorite book would have to be 3.

T4A: So when you’re not tutoring with us, what do you like to do for fun?IMG_0072 (1)

Bennett: I really like skiing.  I ski a lot.  I’m on the club team at Northeastern.  We do races and stuff.  It’s my favorite thing to do.

T4A: Growing up, who was your favorite teacher?

Bennett: I’ve had a few really great teachers.  My 7th and 8th grade homeroom teacher (whom I also had for a few classes) pushed me and my classmates.  I also had a great teacher for a class called “Writing the Prose,” which was basically 11th Grade writing and composition and grammar.  He was a quirky guy- quite old, but he was sharp.  Both those teachers were tough teachers.  They really challenged all their students and held high expectations, but were still really friendly and approachable.

T4A: As this semester is starting, do you have any words of wisdom or advice for tutors as they jump into tutoring?

Bennett: Come in excited with a lot of energy and don’t ever give up on your student.  Persistence is key.

T4A: Is there anything else about yourself that you would like to include in your story?

Bennett: I’m really into music.  I really like my music and am particular about my music.  I like alternative stuff or indie.  I like a lot of different stuff.  When I’m not doing anything or sitting around my apartment, I am always listening to music.

Elizabeth Marshall, Tutor Support Coordinator

MGH Program Continues to Produce Dramatic Results

DSC_7223This Fall, Tutors for All continued our partnership with the Mass General Hospital Center for Community Health Improvement by offering academic support in core subjects to scholars in 10th-12th grade who had been identified as needing extra academic support.  In addition, graduates of the MGH scholars program were given the option to continue receiving academic support from our coaches (MGH program term for tutors).

 Over the course of nine weeks, scholars were coached for two hours a week in math, literacy, or science.  Tutors for All used curriculum created in house and tailored to the specific needs of scholars by their coaches.  At the beginning of the Fall, scholars set goals for the semester with their coaches with the focus on improving their math skills, improving their reading skills, or improving their overall GPA.

At the end of the semester, scholars who had focused on reading or math skills took assessements to see how much they learned.  Six scholars took the math assessment (GMADE) and three scholars took the reading assessment (GRADE).  Scholars grew an impressive average of 2.23 grade levels on their exams.  We even had one student who grew 5.4 grade levels on her GMADE and is now testing on grade level as a 10th Grade student.

 This graph breaks down the growth by assessment. Scholars taking the math assessment began lower, with an average Grade Equivalency (GE) of 5.85 compared to 7.23 on the reading assessment. They also showed more growth, 2.37 grade levels compared to 1.97. Math assessment scores ended with an average GE of 8.22, and reading with an average GE of 9.20.

When we asked the scholars about why they grew so much, they talked about their coaches.  One Emily MGHstudent said, “I would like thank her a lot for all of these new methods and words. I appreciate all she has done for me and I really love being here because of her.”  Another student told us, “Thank you so much [to the coach] for having the time and patience with me.”

When I asked Luisa Baginski, the MGH Program Manager about the growth, she said, “I was privileged to witness consistent effort on behalf of scholars and coaches this semester, and I am proud – although not surprised – at the results they have achieved.”

We look forward to seeing more growth from our scholars this Spring.  If you have any interest in coaching an MGH Scholar this semester, there are still a few positions available so make sure to apply!

-Elizabeth Marshall, Tutor Support Coordinator

Preempting the Achievement Gap, One Second Grader at a Time


20141210_170158The Fall of 2014 brought a number of changes at Tutors For All.  Through a partnership with the YMCA, the organization began a new program at the Curtis Guild School in East Boston, and welcomed program director Hannah DeAngelis to steer the program, and take over Tutors For All’s successful Tobin Program in Mission Hill.

This Fall also brought another exciting new project, a 2nd grade program. The results of the program were astounding.  Between the first and second Show What You Know tests, the class average rose an average of 34%, with almost every student achieving at least 30% growth.

Working with Hannah, I had a chance to ask what her thoughts were when starting the 2nd grade program.  It was an easy choice.  Hannah told me, “We had more than enough tutors to meet the needs of the 2nd graders at the YMCA.”

SkillTracker_JumpGrade 2It took some time to develop materials for the program.   There was no second grade curriculum and no skill tracker developed.  However, working closely with 2nd grade teachers, YMCA and Curtis Guild Staff, the Guild team built new materials all within a week.  Tutorial skills ranged from counting to patterns and attributes to measurements.

During the last week of the program, I sat down with 2nd graders Davi, Juan and Gabrielly.  I asked what each of them liked about tutoring.  Juan was quick to chirp in, “Tutoring is hard.” When I pried a bit further, he clarified, “My tutor never gives up.  Even when I don’t know, she pushes me to learn.”

The YMCA program is still hiring a few spots for the spring semester, so apply now to make a difference.  Special shout-outs to all the 2nd graders, tutors, lead tutors, and to YMCA program coordinators Rachel Hemstock and Kevin DeCosta for helping this program reach its full potential.

Andreas Wolfe, YMCA Lead Tutor and Tobin Program Coordinator



Celebrating our Fall Programs

On Thursday, December 4th, over 25 tutors, coordinators, and program managers gathered at the NonProfit Center for our Fourth Annual Awards Night.  This evening was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the multitude of accomplishments from our tutors this semester!  Everyone enjoyed pizza (graciously donated to the event by Regina Pizzeria), talked to one another, and listened closely as the following awards were presented…


MVP: Caroline MartelAward's Night #3

Growth Mindset Award: Soriya Peng

Most Patient: Aiza Kabeer

Most Enthusiastic: Makaylin Randall

Most Hours Volunteered: Bennett Hadley

Rookie Award: Taylor Peck


Award's Night 1MGH AWARDS:Award's Night #2

MVP- Harrison Soebroto

Growth Mindset Award: Heer Patel

Most Enthusiastic:  Lauren Chaleff

Most Hours Volunteered: Cathy Baker



MVP:  Rebecca VilardoAward's Night #4

Growth Mindset Award: Lucas Dispoto

Most Patient:  Sylvia Sanchez

Most Enthusiastic: Sara Chaffee

Most Hours Volunteered: Tina Safford

Rookie Award: Mariana Bastarrachea



MVPs: Desiree Houston and Gina Jimenez

Morning Person: Elsie Mayo

Award's Night #5Growth Mindset Award: Joel Betke

Most Enthusiastic: Thien Le

Most Patient: Ben Moran and Tom Little

Most Hours Volunteered: Tim Sakharov

Infectious Positivity: Sam Robertson

Student Rapport Building: Lexus Williams

Student Flexibility: Phillip Jones, Ben Bolotin, and Jacinta Dyke


Congratulations to all the award recipients and to everyone who has tutored with us this semester!  We appreciate all the work you do to help us bridge the achievement gap!

Applications are open for Spring tutoring positions.  Remember that we reward any referral that leads to the hiring and successful placement of a work-study or volunteer tutor with a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate.

 Happy Holidays and we look forward to working with you again in the New Year!

Elizabeth Marshall, Tutor Support Coordinator