Aligning Tutoring Curriculum to School Curriculum

Tutoring Curriculum Overview 

While tutoring programs vary greatly in the content that is focused on during sessions, tutors should have a standards-aligned, rigorous, and grade-level appropriate curriculum to use during sessions. Having an established curriculum for tutors to follow ensures that tutors’ planning time is spent optimizing implementation and building deep content knowledge, not creating tutoring session plans. Some tutoring program curricula respond directly to what students are working on in class during tutoring sessions by using the same curriculum as the classroom, and simply providing extension materials, while other programs may design their own curriculum to complement classroom instruction. 

Example Tutoring Curriculum

Saga Sample Lesson and Activity: In the Saga Education tutoring model, the first half of each tutoring session focuses on addressing students’ skill gaps with materials based on Saga’s own curriculum. The second half of each session focuses on what students are learning in their classrooms. In this sample lesson and activity from Saga Education, you can see an example of a tutoring lesson that is provided to tutors. Notice how the materials are robust so that tutors can adjust them to meet the specific learning needs of their students. 

What is curricular alignment?

Curricular alignment is the degree to which the curriculum used in tutoring is aligned to the student’s classroom instruction. In tutoring programs with higher levels of curricular alignment, tutors use the same terminology and methods that the teacher uses in class whenever possible. While further research is needed to definitively say that tutoring interventions that are aligned to classroom curriculum make greater gains than those that are not, there is anecdotal evidence that successful tutoring programs make efforts to align their curriculum. 

Why align your curriculum?

Aligning the tutoring curriculum with students’ school curriculum accelerates learning and improves retention of skills and content both in school and at tutoring. Particularly if your Target is not Universal (you are not serving all students in a given population), your program exists to support what students do in school — either for particular students struggling to meet grade-level benchmarks (Problem-Driven Target) or at critical moments when students tend to fall behind in school (Curriculum-Driven Target). So to take the guesswork out of planning for tutors and boost the value of time spent at tutoring for students, leverage students’ classroom curriculum to tweak your own.

Curriculum Alignment Checklist

This document provides suggestions that programs and tutors can take to align the materials they use with a school’s curriculum. Tutoring Programs that partner directly with schools will likely have staff members who can liaise with the school or district in order to ensure that the curriculum is aligned. However, even for programs not partnering with schools directly, there are simple ways tutors can try to stay informed of classroom content in order to make connections during tutoring. 

This checklist will help you understand students’ school context, gain access to school curricula, and design your own curricula.

Build a relationship with your students’ teachers, school administrators, and/or families.

  • If your program is not already embedded in a school, reach out to the school and get in touch with a person who can either access classroom information on your behalf or put your tutors in contact with their students’ teachers. 
  • If school communication proves challenging, tutors/programs can also ask parents about curricula, textbooks, or materials.
  • For summer or virtual programs, aligning your curriculum with the school district’s is an optimal default.
  • Providing schools, teachers and families with a rationale for why the program needs instructional materials and other classroom information makes information sharing easier and faster. 

Request relevant instructional materials.

  • Scope and Sequence: A detailed timeline of the topics, information, and skills covered over one school year. This can help tutors see the long-term arc of student learning, avoid overlap, and narrow down the content. Tutors can also use this information to determine what remediation of prerequisites students might need before more complex topics come up in class.
  • Unit Plans: A detailed explanation of the content covered within a single unit. Units typically last 4-6 weeks and end with a cumulative summative assessment. A Unit Plan typically includes the standards covered in the unit, the lesson plan objectives and their order, a calendar, and the unit assessment. Unit Plans can help tutors identify the prerequisite skills and knowledge that students need as well as the grade level knowledge being taught. 
  • Lesson Plans: A detailed explanation of exactly how a teacher will instruct on a particular standard or learning goal. If lesson plans are available in advance, they can be useful for tutors to internalize and mirror terminology, review the content their students are learning, and see what their day-to-day learning experiences are like.
  • Textbooks: Textbooks can sometimes serve as the entire curriculum for a classroom. If so, tutors will have access to all materials in one place! If the classroom is using multiple textbooks, asking for a teacher's scope and sequence as well will help the tutor focus on the parts of the textbook the class will cover (and in the right order).

Align your curriculum by reverse-engineering from classroom curriculum:

Depending on the design of the program, a program staff member will often support tutors in implementing a tutoring curriculum that is aligned with the student’s classroom curriculum. However, involving tutors in the alignment process can help to build their content knowledge. Here is a list of steps to take to make adjustments to already established tutoring materials in order to ensure alignment with classroom instruction: 

  • Consider two fundamental questions when considering how to use school curriculum in planning:
    • What are the foundational skills students need to be successful in this curriculum?
    • What are the most important standards that students are learning in class?
  • Adjust the tutoring scope and sequence to align with classroom curricula.
    • What prerequisite skills might students need to engage with upcoming content? Remediate ahead of time!
    • What skills or concepts are students learning in class right now? Provide opportunities to practice and apply them!
  • Create supplemental materials based on students’ classroom curricula.
    • Tutors should get feedback on materials from teachers or program staff to help ensure appropriate rigor.
    • Tutors should pinpoint likely misconceptions that students may hold about concepts or terminology within their classroom curricula and address these misconceptions preemptively during tutoring sessions.
  • Pull out specific academic language and models used in students’ classrooms and build them into tutoring content.
    • Prioritize terminology around conceptual understanding and academic behaviors to maintain expectations.