How Districts Can Keep High-Impact Tutoring Going After ESSER Money Expires

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The ESSER cliff is coming. Most districts and states that initiated high-impact tutoring using federal ESSER dollars are scrambling. Many believe they must eliminate or reduce the scope of their programs; but this is not the case. Here are six durable funding streams that could replace the ESSER dollars to help provide highly effective tutoring in new, cost-saving ways.

  • Title 1: Of all the federal Education Department’s funding streams, Title 1 is the best-known, the largest and the most appropriate for tutoring (although the others are also useful places to look). It was designed to target extra resources to high-need schools, specifically for math and reading. The good news is that a tutor is not needed for every student for every subject, so only a portion of Title 1 dollars is necessary. Tutoring is most important for students struggling with their coursework, including those who are not on track for proficiency in reading by the end of third grade or for passing Algebra 1 by the end of ninth. Students who meet these benchmarks are four times more likely to graduate from high school as those who don’t. Districts should look hard at how they are spending Title 1 dollars to help students reach these two goals, redirecting staff positions or funds to tutoring programs with demonstrable return on investment.
  • Multi-Tiered Systems of Support: Districts across the nation use Multi-Tiered Systems of Support to target appropriate interventions for students with learning, social, emotional, or behavioral difficulties. Many districts could improve these offerings by using a high-impact tutoring approach, making sure their interventions build relationships between students and educators that motivate, engage and target students’ growth areas using data and high-quality instructional materials. Schools can integrate high-impact tutoring with the funds already being used for MTSS by reallocating resources to more effective approaches.
  • AmeriCorps: One of the priorities of this 30-year-old program is to support effective tutoring for high-need students. AmeriCorps awards tens of millions of dollars in grant funding for tutoring and mentorship in early learning and K-12 schools. Districts can apply directly for federal funds through their State AmeriCorps commissions. These three-year grants can largely cover the costs of tutors and supervisory staff. Districts can also seek vendors that are AmeriCorps partners to provide tutoring, which brings a subsidy from the vendor directly into the district.
  • Work-study: This 60-year-old program enables lower-income students to work their way through college. Of the 20 million undergraduates in the U.S., about 600,000 receive work-study as part of their financial aid packages. This allows colleges to use federal funds to subsidize work by their students. Recent guidance has called on colleges and universities to spend at least 15% of those funds on community-based jobs, and tutoring is among the roles prioritized. With a district as a community partner, a college can subsidize up to 100% of a tutor’s wages.
  • U.S. Department of Education teacher preparation funds: The 60-year-old Hawkins Program is designed to increase the number of well-prepared teachers from diverse backgrounds. The focus is on the various aspects of the teacher preparation pipeline, including the recruitment, support and placement in underresourced schools with underserved students. This fund goes directly to higher ed; districts should partner with local colleges to design a tutor-to-teacher pathway.
  • U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeship funds: These can support apprenticeship programs for future teachers. State departments of education can help districts address teacher shortages by strengthening the pathway to the classroom through the real-world experience of tutoring in schools. New Jersey’s Tutor Corps, for example, has just become a federal apprenticeship provider.

Since school districts often lack the capacity to seek grants or manage compliance requirements, leaders could ask local philanthropies for help. They could also rethink some of their current procedures to save money in the short and long term.


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Mentioned Publication

Integrating High-Impact Tutoring with Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)
Integrating High-Impact Tutoring with Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)

Districts across the nation use Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) to target appropriate supports for each student. High-impact tutoring is the most effective research-backed academic support – consistently demonstrating from six months to over two years of learning gains for students across grade levels and content areas in a single year of tutoring.

Districts that have chosen to integrate high-impact tutoring with MTSS are finding that embedding this highly effective support into the fabric of their schools improves student outcomes, reduces implementation challenges, improves instructional coherence, and streamlines operations.

Interviews across a number of schools, districts, and experts in the field identified critical steps to successfully integrate high-impact tutoring with MTSS without long-term additional capacity. Action steps include state level efforts, such as reviewing and shifting any conflicting guidance in state policy, district level efforts, such as defining and setting expectations for alignment and implementation, and school level efforts, such as ensuring implementation with fidelity.

This brief details the benefits and action steps of integrating high-impact tutoring with MTSS. It includes:

  • A Description of High-Impact Tutoring
  • A Description of MTSS
  • The Case for Integrating High-Impact Tutoring with MTSS
  • Action Steps for States, Districts, and Schools
  • Examples of Implementation

Given the September 2024 deadline to obligate ESSER funds, now is a critical time for education agencies to plan for more effective support of students for the long run. Using high-impact tutoring as a delivery structure within a system’s MTSS framework could dramatically improve student learning and reduce inequities in students’ experiences and outcomes without substantial additional costs; yet, it requires careful planning, resource allocation, and ongoing monitoring.

Share your knowledge! Please submit any feedback, questions, or suggestions HERE.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does high-impact tutoring fit into MTSS?

High-impact tutoring can fit into MTSS as a Tier I, Tier II, or Tier III support depending on student needs and school context. For example, Baltimore City Public Schools chose to use high-impact tutoring for Tier 2 supports due to a lack of consistent school structure to target these students, while Grand Forks chose to use high-impact tutoring for Tier 3 supports to target students who most needed recovery of standards.

What should be cut out of the MTSS to make room for high-impact tutoring?

Each school or district designs their MTSS to provide the most effective interventions for their students based on their individual context. Schools and districts will reduce costs by integrating high-impact tutoring into MTSS rather than implementing both MTSS and high-impact tutoring separately. In general, the staff and resources to support less effective interventions can be repurposed to support high-impact tutoring.

How does high-impact tutoring within MTSS fit into a school day?

A significant benefit of integrating high-impact tutoring into MTSS is that time for MTSS is already built-in to the school day. When schools integrate high-impact tutoring into existing MTSS structures, it allows those already scheduled times in a student’s schedule to be used for high-impact tutoring.

What funding is available to prepare teachers implementing high-impact tutoring in an MTSS model?

Districts can leverage Title II, Part A of ESSA funds for teacher professional development. Title II funds can only be used for teachers and paraprofessionals on the school’s payroll. For more information concerning funding resources, please see the Funding for High-Impact Tutoring Brief.

How does a tutoring program find the personnel with the skills needed for tutoring?

Please see the Grow Your Own Program: Recruiting and Selecting Tutors from the District Playbook to learn more about finding tutoring personnel.

Where can I find more resources about MTSS?