How to Use the Higher Education Institution Playbook


What is the purpose of the Higher Education Institution (HEI) Playbook?

This HEI Playbook aims to help HEIs understand and prioritize the critical elements of the design, planning, and implementation of high-impact tutoring programs for K-12 students while also providing resources and tools to help with common challenges that programs face in implementing these practices. The Playbook is designed to support both launching a new tutoring program and improving an established one. 

Who is the intended audience for the HEI Playbook?

This Playbook is designed for HEI’s currently partnering or interested in partnering with K-12 schools and districts to implement and/or improve high-impact tutoring programs. While HEI faculty and staff members are the primary audience, school district leaders, state educational officials, and school administrators will also be able to leverage many of the resources in the Playbook. 

How did we design the HEI Playbook?

This HEI Playbook builds upon the National Student Support Accelerator’s District Playbook and Tutoring Toolkit and draws from research and the deep knowledge of experts from higher education institutions, districts, tutoring programs, and elsewhere across the country. Although this Playbook and the linked resources are fairly comprehensive, the Playbook will evolve regularly to include more tools and reflect new learning. If you have feedback or questions on the Playbook please submit them here

Suggested Use

Guidance for Designing and Implementing a New Tutoring Program

If your higher education institution (HEI) is starting a new tutoring program, the following steps may be helpful:

  1. Program Design
    We designed the resources below specifically to support the development of tutoring programs. Each recommendation includes links to our Tutoring Toolkit: 
    • Begin by reviewing Model Dimensions to understand the types of decisions needed when designing a new high-impact tutoring program.
    • With the model dimensions and considerations in mind, you are ready to define your Program Focus (the grade levels/content areas) through conducting a landscape analysis to better understand the strengths, resources and needs of the district and schools with whom you intend to partner. The tools will guide you through developing a value proposition and logic model designed to address the program focus you identify.
    • Your program focus, the needs of your K-12 partner and initial model dimension decisions will provide the foundation and context needed to then estimate costs and choose the remaining model dimensions that will result in a cohesive and effective high-impact tutoring program.
  2. Program Implementation
    • With a clear program focus, value proposition, initial model dimension decisions, and cost estimate, you can begin implementation. Each of the seven elements of High-Impact tutoring has specific implementation guidance and tools. The Tool Appendix within the Tutoring Toolkit gives the full range of tools associated with tutoring programs broadly, though this HEI Playbook provides resources specific HEI needs.
    • Because the order in which a particular program will need implementation guidance and tools will vary based on its program focus, local community, and the resources already in place, you can use this Playbook in any order that supports the implementation of your specific program

Guidance If You Seek to Improve an Existing Tutoring Program

Many HEIs currently operate tutoring programs for local school districts. While these programs provide benefits for both students and tutors, we encourage existing programs to use the Tutoring Quality Improvement System (TQIS) self-assessment to understand where your program can more closely align to Tutoring Quality Standards. Your self-assessment report is available immediately and will provide specific guidance, examples and templates for improving your program. For additional resources to support specific areas of improvement, review the relevant sections of the Tutoring Toolkit and this HEI Playbook.

Priority Sections to Use by Partnership Model

Depending on the model of tutoring partnership your HEI is developing or growing, this toolkit has sections that may be more helpful than others. Below is a list of sections that are likely most relevant to each model of HEI tutoring partnerships with K-12 institutions: 


This Playbook has four sections and a tool appendix:

Section 1: Program Design: This section contains guidance for making decisions about your program’s model and determining its focus.

Section 2: Program Implementation: This section contains guidance for putting your program’s model into practice effectively. It is subdivided into the four of the model-specific elements of high-impact tutoring: Tutors, Instruction, Learning Integration, and Data Use. The foundational elements of Equity, Safety and Cohesion are woven throughout the four model-specific elements and an overview is included in its own tab above.

Section 3: Challenges and Solutions: This section describes some of the typical challenges that arise and how programs overcome those challenges.

Section 4: Sample Higher Education Institution Tutoring Program Profiles: This section contains profiles of existing HEI Tutoring Programs to provide examples of the range of possible high-impact tutoring partnerships.

Tool Appendix: This is a comprehensive list of all the tools available, organized by the elements of high-impact tutoring.

Safety, Equity and Cohesion

This Playbook has a separate section that includes relevant quality standards for each of the model-specific elements of Tutor, Data Use, Instruction, and Learning Integration. The foundational elements of high-impact tutoring - Safety, Equity, and Cohesion - are woven throughout all sections of the Playbook. 

We provide an overview and the related standards for each of the foundational elements below:

Maintaining student safety is a top priority for any tutoring program. Programs should follow local, state, and federal laws to ensure student safety, as well as develop the capacity in staff and tutors to create a safe environment for students. Throughout this Playbook, you will find tools designed to support tutoring programs with ensuring student safety, from guidance for conducting background checks on prospective tutors to best practices for online tutoring and student data privacy. The Tool Appendix provides tools that highlight specific aspects of student safety.

Tutoring Quality Improvement Standards: Safety
Safety Protocols: The program has health, physical safety, and emergency management protocols in place to provide an environment conducive to learning and fosters awareness and understanding of the protocols.

Data Privacy and Security: The program has reasonable data security infrastructure and data privacy policies and practices in place in order to keep student information safe. 

Effective tutoring programs work toward equitable outcomes for students. Equity requires individuals at all levels of the tutoring organizations to critically examine their own biases and work together to create actively inclusive environments. Decisions regarding access and participation should also be rooted in equity. Throughout this Playbook, you will find tools designed to help programs put equity at the center of their practices. 

All sections of the Playbook prioritize equity, whether in the foundational choices of program design, by selecting qualified tutors who reflect diverse communities, through providing training and support related to cultural competency, when determining data measures and collecting feedback from students and their families, or through providing rigorous and accessible instruction to all students. The work of striving for equity is never done, so we continually update our tools and resources to help programs embed equity in their decisions.

Tutoring Quality Improvement Standards: Equity
High-impact tutoring programs embed equity throughout their program; therefore, equity-related quality standards are included within each of the elements rather than as a stand-alone set of equity standards.

Cohesion refers to both the innovative leadership and high quality execution required to have a well-run organization and to the alignment of a tutoring program design with its vision and mission. In the Program Focus section of the Playbook, you will find resources to conduct a community landscape analysis, develop a value proposition grounded in equity, and ensure that the program’s practices are aligned with its vision. Throughout the Playbook, tools consistently refer back to programs’ Model Dimensions, providing insight into how their guidance might apply to different programs differently depending on their design decisions. Some tools support programs with specific Model Dimensions. Tools are also interlinked across sections, making it easier to identify ahead of time when a program team’s actions and practices in one aspect of their work will shape (and be shaped by) their decisions and choices in another. 

Tutoring Quality Improvement Standards: Cohesion
Program Design: The program is designed to successfully meet the needs of the community it serves. 
Leader Role Clarity: The program has clearly defined roles and responsibilities for the leadership team, with particular attention to clearly defining tutor coaching responsibilities. 
Leader Professional Development: Program leaders receive support to implement their roles with fidelity. 
Organizational Culture: The program has a defined mission, vision, and set of organizational goals; and these guiding documents are aligned with the broader context and well understood by stakeholders. 

A Note about Standards

Throughout the Playbook you will find reference to High-Impact Tutoring Quality Standards. A team of researchers and practitioners developed these standards to align with each of the elements of high-impact tutoring. The Playbook includes standards related to each element. The standards are also the basis of the Tutoring Quality Improvement System which is a free tool for tutoring programs to assess how closely their program aligns with the standards and also provides recommendations, examples, and templates to help programs align their program more closely with the standards. We encourage all programs to use the TQIS as they develop their program and as a tool for continuous improvement.