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Opinion | Michigan students need help. But not all tutoring is created equal

The need for effective tutoring is dire in Michigan, as highlighted by the 2023 M-STEP results: 56.1% of third through seventh-grade students are not testing as proficient in reading and 65% are not testing as proficient in math.

Ample research underscores the effectiveness of high-impact tutoring in addressing achievement gaps for students lagging in reading and math skills. Even The White House identified high-impact tutoring as one of three evidence-based strategies it endorses for broader adoption by schools and districts.

Holly Windram headshot
Holly Windram is executive director of the Michigan Education Corps.

Fortunately, recent legislation has been passed that awards funding to schools that will partner with a tutoring vendor, marking a significant milestone in Michigan education. Unfortunately, schools and districts implement what they believe or label “high-impact tutoring” when their practice does not meet the definition.

High-impact tutoring adheres to specific implementation features and practices supported by experimental research and peer-reviewed publications. These include:

  • Small group settings (typically fewer than four students)
  • High-dosage sessions (minimum of three times a week for at least 30 minutes)
  • Tutoring during regular school hours
  • Consistent tutor with specialized training and ongoing coaching
  • Individualized, data-driven instruction tailored to each student's learning needs
  • Regular progress monitoring and data review to inform instruction
  • Ongoing evaluation of tutoring fidelity through direct observation and feedback. 

The MI Kids Back on Track legislation was crafted to ensure that tutoring interventions meet evidence-based and high-impact standards. These funds, combined with federal American Rescue Plan dollars, provide crucial support for implementing effective tutoring programs statewide.

Along with funding support, it includes an evaluation component to gauge its impact statewide. 

Why is this evaluation component so important? Because proven models of high-impact tutoring will become diluted unless there’s intentional leadership and data to show that proven high-impact tutoring was implemented consistently with all research-based features.

Lessening the burden on schools to implement high-impact tutoring is critical to ensuring longevity and results. 

Hope Network’s Michigan Education Corps (MEC) programs were created by educators, for educators long before researchers and state leaders began asking why these programs were so effective. 

They reach across all demographics, are low-cost, and THEY WORK. Specifically, in the past 12 years, MEC has delivered high-impact tutoring to over 22,225 students across 649 schools with an overall program fidelity of 97%.

To close achievement gaps effectively, selecting tutoring programs with proven efficacy is imperative. This requires rigorous evaluation and a commitment to data-driven decision-making. 

While any tutoring is beneficial, there is a difference, and Michigan’s students rely on us to make informed, impactful decisions. There is a clear and distinct difference, and I encourage you to follow the data. 

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