Selecting Students

Overview: Why should you create guidance for which students receive tutoring?

All students can benefit from high-impact tutoring, but you will probably need to prioritize which students receive this tutoring, at least in the short-run. Once you have chosen a focus area (subject and grade level) and identified partner schools for your program, the next step is to select which students at each school will receive tutoring. The district should create overall guidelines for schools to make these decisions. The goal is to help schools identify the students with the greatest need, enabling you to target your program’s support to the students who can derive the greatest benefit.

What criteria should you consider when selecting students?

Focus Area

  • Grade Level and Content Area. Only select students for your tutoring program who are in the grade levels you have chosen. If you cannot offer it to all students, select the students who need academic support the most in the selected content area.
  • Specific Skills. Will your tutoring program prioritize specific skill sets within its chosen Focus Area? This determination will help you gauge what data you need to collect to determine which students are eligible. For example, if your program will focus on early-grade foundational literacy, student lexile levels will be critical data points.

Provider Criteria (if partnering with a provider)

  • Student Profile. Some tutoring providers are not equipped or certified to provide certain types of support (e.g., for ELL students or students with IEPs). Work with your provider to ascertain the profile of student they can support best, and provide additional supports for students who need more than the provider can offer.
    • A provider might be able to help a subset of students from a special population, but not all; a student with dyslexia or difficulty reading English might fit the provider’s profile, for example, while a student who cannot see or cannot speak English may need more intensive support.
  • Best Fit. If your district partners with multiple providers, consider which provider’s program model is best suited to meet the unique needs of different student subpopulations and assign students accordingly.

Student Academic Performance

  • Failing Grades or Low Test Scores. Which students have already failed core classes or performed far below grade level on standardized tests? These are the most important determining factors for which students should receive tutoring. The students who have already fallen behind their grade level benchmarks have the most urgent need and the most room for academic growth.
  • Prerequisite Skill and Knowledge Gaps. What prerequisite skills and content knowledge will be necessary for success in current and upcoming core classes, and which students have not mastered this material based on pre-assessments?
  • Multi-Year Skill Deficits. Which students have fallen further behind across multiple successive school years? Slowing and eventually reversing this downward academic trajectory is important regardless of whether or not students have already crossed a particular hard boundary like failing a core class or state standardized test.
  • Chronic Absenteeism. Which students have missed a lot of school days and need extra support to catch up and engage in school? Look for patterns in student absences to schedule sessions on days when they are more likely to attend, and supplement tutoring itself with more holistic support to find and address the root cause of their absences.
  • At-Risk Status. Which students are most at risk of falling behind academically? This might include students at risk of missing grade-level reading proficiency benchmarks and those struggling with reading, students on a pre-track to need Special Education services, and students at risk of chronic absenteeism.
  • Teacher Recommendations. Consider asking teachers to provide a list of students who need tutoring and/or to refer students to tutoring throughout the school year. Sometimes students’ struggles do not show up in data at first; a good teacher can catch a student who is about to need support before it becomes an emergency.

Special Populations

  • Students Receiving Mandated Services. Decide on your program-wide philosophy from the outset: how will your tutoring program ensure accessibility for students receiving Special Education Services (such as students with IEPs or 504s) and English Language Learners (ELLs) without replacing or interrupting the support they receive from programs tailored to their specific needs?
    • This determination will likely depend on the level of overlap between these populations and the academic performance criteria established above, as well as what other supports are available to them.
    • If your tutoring program will serve ELLs or students receiving Special Education services, consider how this will influence other program-wide decisions:
      • For Special Education services: How will tutoring integrate with existing pull-out supports?
      • For ELL services: Will your students have access to bilingual tutors? Is there a specific level of English proficiency that students need to be eligible for this tutoring program?


  • Availability. Cross-reference your eligible students’ class schedules with scheduled tutoring sessions in their school. Which eligible students are available to attend tutoring on these scheduled days and times? If not enough students are available, reschedule your sessions (or their classes) and repeat this step.
  • Overlap. Cross-reference your list of eligible, available students with the list of students who receive support from other similar programs (at school or on their own). Prioritize students who receive no other support, both for reasons of equity and to avoid confounding variables when analyzing your pilot program’s impact.
  • Barriers. Review your list of eligible, available, otherwise-unsupported students and determine what barriers might prevent them from participating in tutoring. If tutoring is virtual, do they have the necessary technology to benefit from virtual sessions? Do they have the necessary language proficiency to benefit from sessions in English? If not, these barriers must be addressed prior to including these students in tutoring.