All Articles Education Edtech How a Title I school drove significant reading growth with high-impact virtual tutoring

How a Title I school drove significant reading growth with high-impact virtual tutoring

High-dosage, 1-to-1 virtual tutoring with the same tutors, strong assessments and willingness to adapt helped our students' scores soar.

6 min read


Rear view of a elementary age girl studying watching online classes for article on virtual tutoring

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Literacy is a gateway to improving self and society, and that belief is part of our identity at Ione Olson Elementary in Marina, Calif. Our school enrolls 375 students; 62% are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and 9% are homeless. Looking at our students’ needs, especially coming out of COVID-19, we thought that 1-to-1 virtual tutoring in reading could be beneficial. 

headshot of Drew Coleman
Coleman (Ione Olson Elementary)

Research shows that high-dosage tutoring can produce learning gains for a wide range of students. It is also one of the most effective ways to increase achievement for students from lower-income families. To yield these gains, the tutoring must be implemented correctly — with a high-quality curriculum, high-quality tutors, frequency and consistency. 

However, one challenge here — and in districts across the country — is staffing. It has been very difficult to recruit and retain high-quality staff to serve a large number of students. 

Virtual tutoring helps with staffing challenges

With the help of a technology-enabled platform and virtual tutors over the last year, we have been able to provide our students with the personalized support they need to get back on track to be at grade level, and our data shows that our approach is working. 

Here is how we designed and launched a high-impact virtual tutoring program to meet our students’ diverse needs. 

Start with the data

In fall 2021, we partnered with Littera Education to provide 1-to-1 high-impact tutoring in reading. After analyzing data from multiple measures — including the i-Ready Diagnostic, Fountas and Pinnell reading records, and our state assessment — we selected several students in grades three through six to participate in the tutoring. 

Students began working with the virtual tutors and their tutoring management system in January 2022. The digital platform automated scheduling and tutor-student matching, simplifying program management for us. With this solution, we can now serve more students and at a higher quality than before. We can schedule 35 students with 35 tutors, all at the same time or at different times. We would never be able to replicate that on our own

Make it seamless

From January to April, students met with their tutor three to five times a week, either during or after school. The reading tutoring curriculum that we chose to be delivered by the tutors is the same reading curriculum we utilize every day, so it is a seamless transition. 

Students work with their tutor in a secure virtual classroom with embedded lessons, live audio and video, and an interactive whiteboard. I monitor student progress with real-time data, including attendance, skills progression and tutor feedback about each session. I also make this data available to our school’s acceleration learning specialist and the academic coaches and classroom teachers who work with each student. Having this information easily accessible takes a major burden off our teachers, which is critical. 

Focus on relationships

We also have the flexibility to personalize each student’s experience. We have a very diverse student population. To have a tutor who looks like you or has similar life experiences or interests makes a difference in the overall experience for each student. 

Students are paired with the same tutor for every session. The tutors get to know our students and build relationships and connections. Students enjoy that consistency. After their first few sessions, several students thanked me for their tutor and asked if they could also get a tutor for math. This told me that the virtual tutoring was a positive experience. Students could see the progress they were making, and they felt more confident and empowered about their learning.

Analyze growth data, adjust as needed

In May 2022, we analyzed our data to compare the progress of students who had the tutoring to those who did not. Of all of the programs we provided across our school, the students who participated in the tutoring made the most growth — and they only participated for about 40% of the school year. Our sixth-graders had 200% growth, which was more than any other group. We accelerated their learning and put them on track to be at grade level as they moved on to middle school.

Based on our data, we decided to modify our tutoring program for the 2022-23 school year. Since we already have an acceleration system to support foundational literacy skills, we decided to shift our focus to reading comprehension and target students in grades four through six. 

We also moved our virtual tutoring after school, four days a week for 45 minutes a day. We believe that adding an extra 45 minutes to the learning experience is a win-win for students. They get to experience everything during the school day and have an additional, positive learning experience after school. Once the data shows that a student no longer needs the extra 1-to-1 support, we can offer that spot to a new student and get them to grade level.

Eliminate barriers, commit to equity

Another change is that this school year we began offering transportation to eliminate any barriers to participation after school. We partnered with the city of Marina and Monterey-Salinas Transit bus service to provide access to transportation for any student who needs it. 

This collaboration with our tutoring partner and our community partners is helping us provide greater access to support and ultimately greater success for our students. In our school district, equity is a high priority. With our virtual tutoring program, we are creating truly equitable experiences that provide individuals with everything they need to be successful. We are designing personalized learning experiences that are dynamic and that can meet students’ needs no matter where they are or where they need to go. Our results demonstrate that our program is having a positive impact. We are providing a world-class experience for our students, and we are excited for the future.


Drew Coleman is the principal of Ione Olson Elementary in Marina, Calif. The Title I school is part of the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District. The school uses virtual tutoring platform Littera Education and assessment tools from i-Ready Diagnostic and Fountas and Pinnell.

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own. 



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