How to use the OST Playbook


What is the purpose of the OST Playbook?

This Playbook aims to help OST providers design and implement high-impact tutoring programs for K-12 students. This Playbook is designed to support both launching a new high-impact tutoring program and improving an established one.

Who is the intended audience for the OST Playbook?

This Playbook is designed for OST providers currently offering or interested in offering high-impact tutoring programs. While OST leaders and staff are the primary audience, school district leaders, state education officials, and school administrators will also be able to leverage many of the resources in the Playbook.

How did we design the OST Provider Playbook?

This Playbook builds upon the National Student Support Accelerator’s District Playbook, Tutoring Toolkit, and Higher Education Institution Playbook and draws from research and the deep knowledge of experts from out-of-school time providers, 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.


This Playbook has four sections and a tool appendix:

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

Section 2: Program Implementation: guidance for putting your program’s model into practice effectively with sections on Tutors, Data Use, Instruction, and Learning Integration with Equity, Safety and Cohesionare woven throughout

Section 3: Challenges and Recommendations: description of typical challenges and solutions to implementation

Section 4: Sample OST Provider Tutoring Program Profiles: examples of a variety of OST high-impact tutoring programs

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

Suggested Use

If You are Launching a New Tutoring Program

Start with Program Design:

  • Review Model Dimensions to understand the types of decisions needed when designing a new high-impact tutoring program.
  • 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 your students attend. The tools will guide you through developing a value proposition and logic model designed to address the program focus you identify.
  • Estimate costs and choose the remaining model dimensions to create a cohesive and effective high-impact tutoring program.

Move to Program Implementation:

  • Implementation resources are organized according to the elements of high-impact tutoring and are available in the Tutoring Toolkit and with additional OST specific resources in this Playbook. Implementation resources can be used in any order depending on your program’s needs.

If You are Improving an Existing Tutoring Program

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 OST Playbook.

Priority Sections by Program Model

Depending on the model of your OST high-impact tutoring program is developing or growing, this Playbook has sections that may be more helpful than others. Below is a list of sections that are likely most relevant to each OST high-impact tutoring program model:

Tutoring as part of a multipurpose out-of-school time program

High-impact tutoring as part of a multipurpose out-of-school time program – in this model, multipurpose OST providers (providers that offer multiple programs within a consistent after school program serving students) provide high-impact tutoring as a component of their existing programming.
Priority Playbook Sections:

Tutoring provided by a third-party tutoring provider

High-impact tutoring provided by a third-party tutoring provider – in this model, a third-party tutoring provider offers tutoring during the time outside of the traditional school day. In many cases, these third-party providers also offer tutoring during the school day in order to provide more consistent access to all students.
Priority Playbook Sections:

Tutoring provided by a district and/or school

High-impact tutoring provided by a district and/or school – in this model, the school district or individual school develops and operates their own high-impact tutoring program outside of school hours.
Priority Playbook Sections:

A Note about Standards

Throughout this Playbook you will find reference to Tutoring Quality Standards. An Advisory Group developed these standards based on what research and practice shows creates effective tutoring programs and updates them regularly to reflect new learnings.

The standards are also the basis of the Tutoring Quality Improvement System (TQIS) 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 tutoring programs to use the TQIS as they develop their program and as a tool for continuous improvement.

If your organization is currently using NPSS Voluntary Quality Standards, the High-Impact Tutor section (page 4) highlights the tutor-specific standards in the “Key Program Components” section.

A Note on Safety, Equity, and Cohesion

This Playbook has a separate section 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.

Below is an overview and the related standards for each of the foundational elements:


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 and resources for supporting student safety.

Safety Standards

  • 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. Note: This standard, as all others, is applicable for both in-person and virtual tutoring programs.
  • 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 tutoring programs 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 practice.

All sections of the Playbook prioritize equity, including making foundational choices of program design, building intentional and authentic relationships with families and caregivers, selecting qualified tutors who reflect populations of students being served, providing training and support related to cultural competency, determining data measures and collecting feedback from students and their families, and 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 throughout their program.

Equity Standard

  • 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 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 programs differently depending on their design decisions. Tools are interlinked across sections, making it easier to identify ahead of time when decisions in one aspect of a program will shape (and be shaped by) decisions and choices in another.

Cohesion Standards

  • 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.

FAQs for Out-of-School Time High-Impact Tutoring

High-impact tutoring is tutoring that has directly demonstrated significant gains in student learning through state-of-the-art research studies or tutoring that has characteristics proven to accelerate student learning. High-impact tutoring responds to students' individual needs and complements their classroom curriculum.

High-impact tutoring programs share certain key model elements:

  • Tutors use high-quality instructional materials in high-frequency sessions (a minimum of 3 times per week, for a minimum of a semester and preferably a full school year), with three or fewer students in each session;
  • Tutors are engaging and reliable, receive ongoing coaching, and are well-trained, including on issues of equity and safety;
  • Tutoring is built into the school day and engages teachers and caregivers;
  • The tutoring program uses data to individualize instruction and continuously improve program design.

More information about these key elements can be found here.

For the purposes of this toolkit, NSSA defines out-of-school time programs as those programs that occur either before school, after school, or during non-school days, such as summer programming. In the context of tutoring, this may include, but is not limited to, community-based programs that provide multipurpose, specialized, or academic instruction for students; district-run programs that rely on teachers and other caring adults to provide instruction; or provider-led programs that occur outside of the core instructional day.

Successful OST high-impact tutoring programs can take many forms as long as high-impact tutoring research-backed elements as outlined here are included. Different contexts across OST providers, states, and district affiliations lead to different optimal choices for each tutoring program. Our research identified three primary partnership models:

  • High-impact tutoring as part of a multipurpose out-of-school time program – in this model, multipurpose OST providers (providers that offer multiple programs within a consistent after school program serving students) provide high-impact tutoring as a component of their existing programming. Multipurpose OST providers create a high-impact tutoring program by leveraging their existing infrastructure and systems (i.e., hiring, conducting background checks, dedicated space, etc.). Multipurpose providers frequently have a pre-existing relationship with their local school districts and national affiliates that can provide academic resources for high-impact tutoring. 
  • High-impact tutoring provided by a third-party tutoring provider – in this model, a third-party tutoring provider offers tutoring during the time outside of the traditional school day. In many cases, these third-party providers also offer tutoring during the school day in order to provide more consistent access to all students. In this model, the tutoring program may occur within an existing multipurpose out-of-school time program or as a stand-alone tutoring program. This model requires the provider to develop their own infrastructure to recruit students and to hire, train, and support tutors. 
  • High-impact tutoring provided by a district and/or school – in this model, the school district or individual school develops and operates their own high-impact tutoring program outside of school hours. Following a “Grow Your Own Program” model, the district and/or school pays tutoring program staff (who can be existing school or district staff or additional staff) to provide high-impact tutoring immediately before or after the regular school day, or during the summer. This district or school-led OST tutoring program is typically a smaller portion of their full high-impact tutoring model that also provides tutoring during the school day. 

Homework help typically requires students to work independently and request specific support and group size often depends on how many students opt-in on a given day. The homework help supervisor may be different each day as long as they can answer student questions. The goal is completion of homework assigned during school. 

High-impact tutoring requires a group size of four students or less working with a consistent and trained tutor multiple times per week, using student data to inform content. The goal is to accelerate learning in a specific content area (usually math or literacy). 

This Out-of-School Time Academic Program Continuum provides greater detail on different types of academic programming offered during out-of-school time. 

High-impact tutoring is not the right fit for every OST program. This Out-of-School Time Academic Program Continuum identifies how various academic programming can support students academically. Communicating which type of academic support your program intends to offer is important to ensure student, family, and caregiver expectations for impact are clear. To determine whether your OST program should offer a high-impact tutoring program, use this resource in the program readiness section of the toolkit. 

While all districts have a unique organizational structure, there are some common terms and job functions to use when seeking opportunities to connect with your local school district personnel. 

  • Your local school board representative can serve as a helpful connector and advocate to connect with school district personnel. The contact information for your school board representative can be found on the district Board of Education homepage. 
  • If you do have a relationship with staff at the school your students attend, ask the school leadership team for help connecting with district personnel. While they may not know the exact point of contact you need, they may be able to connect you with a district staff member who can support you further. 
  • For support with finding and/or using instructional materials, search the district website for the appropriate content area personnel or academic staff. 
    • For supplementary mathematics materials, search for the math director or equivalent role. 
    • For supplementary literacy materials, search for the literacy director or equivalent role. 
    • For supplementary materials in multiple content areas, search for the academics or curriculum and instruction (also known as C&I) contact on the district website.
    • For support with accessing information about available formative assessments connected to or embedded in the supplementary instructional materials, search for the assessment contact on the district website. 
  • For support with finding and accessing student data from available assessments, search for the data or evaluation team contact information. 
  • Review the resources under “OST-Specific Tools” in the Formative Assessment section of this toolkit for guidance on How To Leverage Community Relationships While Protecting Student Privacy (see pages 7-9 for the School Official Exception, including an example of when a school may use the School Official Exception for an after-school tutoring program)