Growing Your Own Program: Designing Your Tutoring Model

Overview: What does Model Design involve?

Model Design involves several steps including understanding the needs of your district by conducting a District Landscape Analysis< developing a logic model to map how your program will address these needs and then making a series of consistent and coherent choices along various model design dimensions based on this information. Conducting a District Landscape Analysis is covered in Section 1: Lay the Foundation.

How do you develop a Logic Model?

A Logic Model is a roadmap for thinking through how to create a desired change or outcome. Your program’s Logic Model should explain how the program itself, the community supports, and the stakeholders will all interact to produce the results that you aim to achieve for students. Every Logic Model has five ingredients:

  • Needs: Areas identified in your Landscape analysis where your district has insufficient resources or capacity
  • Inputs: Requirements needed for the program to function: e.g., students, tutors, instructional materials, etc.
  • Actions: Recurring core components of your program: testing students, training tutors, leading sessions, etc.
  • Outputs: Immediate, quantifiable results: number of students whose GPAs increased, average increase, etc.
  • Impact: Overarching changes you aim to achieve in your district (short-term, intermediate, and long-term) for all stakeholders (students, teachers, and caregivers) on all levels (learning, skills, and conditions)

A high level of clarity and detail in the Logic Model ensures that everyone knows what the organization is working towards and facilitates well-aligned goal-setting and progress monitoring at all levels. It makes communicating your program’s value to external stakeholders easier and more consistent, while also helping internal stakeholders prioritize the highest-impact drivers of success and continuously improve the program.

How do you design a cohesive tutoring model?

Once you understand your district’s needs and have a clear logic model for how your tutoring program will meet them equitably, your goal is to make choices along several Model Design Dimensions that synergize with each other, address your district’s needs, and align with your program’s logic model. Use the Model Dimensions Planning Tool to help make consistent decisions and understand the considerations at each step. Guided by your District Landscape Analysis and informed by existing research, you will need to choose:

  • Which students will receive tutoring?
  • What subjects/grade levels will be tutored?
  • Where and when will tutoring take place?
  • Will tutoring be voluntary or mandatory?
  • What skill/experience level will tutors have?
  • Will tutoring be in-person or virtual?
  • How often will tutoring sessions take place?
  • How many students will each tutor work with at the same time during each session?
  • Will each student work with the same tutor each time they come to tutoring?

Model Design: What best practices does the most recent research support?

We recommend kicking off your design process by choosing optimal defaults for a few key decisions. You can deviate from these design elements and still succeed —across all models, tutoring consistently provides students a boost equivalent to jumping from the 50th percentile to the 66th — but these defaults offer the best chance of the greatest impact.


  • Tutor Training and Coaching: Develop and deliver high-quality pre-service and ongoing coaching. Research shows many types of tutors can be effective as long as high-quality training and coaching are in place. Ensure that topics related to equity and student safety are included in the training and support.


  • Session Frequency: Provide at least three 30 to 60 minute sessions per week (50+ hours/year). Students derive little benefit from short, sporadic sessions. Schedule a minimum of three sessions per week, keeping each session long enough to cover a lesson’s worth of content (30 - 60 minutes).
  • Tutor Consistency: To foster strong relationships, match students with the same tutor every time. Student-tutor emotional connections are critical for motivating students to attend sessions and persevere through challenging academic content.
  • Tutor-Student Ratio: Tutor students in groups of three or fewer. Inexperienced tutors will require additional support to tutor more than one student at a time. Even experienced educators will see rapidly diminishing returns if the group size is larger than three.
  • Session Content: Use High-Quality Instructional Materials. Session materials should be aligned with state standards and research on teaching and learning.

Learning Integration

  • Session Schedule and Location: Embed tutoring in the school day. Tutoring during the school day is the best way to ensure tutoring actually happens, and it makes sessions easier to monitor. It also helps avoid inequitable self-selection problems. If students must choose between attending tutoring and working after-school jobs or caring for younger siblings, not only will attendance fall, but it will fall most for the most economically disadvantaged students, entrenching the inequities your program was meant to disrupt.

Data Use

  • Data Use: Personalize the content of each session for each student. Formative and regular, ongoing assessments should inform tutoring session content. Different students struggle with different topics and skills. One of the key drivers of the effectiveness of tutoring is its ability to provide each student with the specific support they need most.

Once you have developed your Logic Model, consider splitting your Task Force into separate teams for data systems and continuous improvement, tutor recruitment and selection, and tutor training and support. The following sections of this Supplement will guide each team through an overview of the best practices in each area.