Leadership Is Key, Autonomy Matters: Lessons in Why Tutoring Programs Work

The 74

Jackson Elementary School in Louisiana’s East Feliciana Parish District sits on a quiet street just outside the town of Jackson, population 4,130. It’s a 30-mile drive north from Baton Rouge, past open fields, small homes and the Dixon Correctional Institution. Principal Megan Phillips describes East Feliciana as “one of the poorest districts in maybe the poorest state in the country.”

Such is the region’s struggle to staff classrooms that half of Jackson’s teachers are unlicensed. Yet, in spring 2023, as schools nationwide struggled to stem a persistent decline in test scores in the wake of the pandemic, 81% of Jackson students participating in an ambitious new online tutoring program showed significant growth on their early literacy assessment after just 10 weeks. 

I spent the past year visiting Jackson and eight other schools across three states and the District of Columbia to understand how and why their successful tutoring programs work and the challenges they’ve had to navigate. Our FutureEd study also included dozens of conversations with educators, school district leaders, providers, researchers and others who have turned to tutoring to combat learning loss after COVID.


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