Principal’s Corner: Tutoring Program that Works for Your School and Students

Academics, Homework, Principal, Tutoring / /

This week, a trending question from parents is after school tutoring. Most of this blog is designed to help schools put on a tutoring program and plan – but parents, scroll to the bottom to see suggestions for how you can support your child if your school doesn’t have tutoring resources available.

A tutoring program can be the last thing on a principal’s mind at the end of a long day, but it is a way to make large gains for students who need a little extra push with important content.

Here are my thoughts on three FAQs about tutoring programs on school campuses – and if you want to schedule time to partner on this together, email me at

Students being tutored

How do you choose which students participate in your tutoring program?

  • Use Data: Make sure you and your teachers are using some kind of data to choose groupings of students to attend tutoring. Ideas for helpful data would be district assessments, unit tests aligned to a state-standards based exam, NWEA MAP testing RITs, AP benchmarks, or prior benchmark state assessments.
  • Choose Groupings or Organizing Principles: Often, you need to think about how you can meet all students needs through tutoring. Do you want to focus on your most struggling students? Might you focus on students who are right on the cusp of mastery but still struggling? Could you create an extension tutoring to differentiate for your highest students?  Do you want to try to create a space for any student who wants additional support? These are just a few questions to consider as you’re planning your tutoring schedule. There isn’t a wrong answer, but make sure you’re choosing students intentionally and progress monitoring their data to ensure effectiveness.
Special note: A tricky consideration for schools is how to handle students who have behavioral issues in class.  On the one hand, some may feel that if students aren’t taking advantage of the opportunities during class (and furthermore are disrupting) that they don’t deserve the option of extra tutoring support.  On the other hand, some students are misbehaving in class because they are far behind (or far head) and are struggling with some aspect of the traditional class (whether it is pace, content or size).

As such, we typically recommend students get a fresh and new opportunity to be successful in tutoring sessions.  If students are disruptive during tutoring, schools should definitely consider a different option.  But some students who are disruptive during traditional class do better during tutoring.

 How do you communicate to parents the logistics of your tutoring program?

  • Quarterly Calendars for Parents: At the beginning of every quarter, provide teachers with a data set (chosen from the ideas above) that will allow them to create intentional tutoring calendars. One trick I found helpful is to have teachers fill in a pre-made excel document with dates and student names attending that tutoring program and mail-merge a notice to parents. Send that tutoring calendar notice out at the beginning of each quarter. You could also do this manually or via other school communication modes. If you send it out quarterly, it allows parents to know far in advance when their student has tutoring. If any changes need to be made to that calendar, it is extremely important to communicate those far in advance to parents. It can be very frustrating for parents when changes occur since they’ve already made a plan for their student pick up.
  • Have a Tutoring Campus Contact: Tutoring can be an undertaking to plan, so have a point person (an assistant principal or grade level team leader) handle some of the logistics. The principal should assist with high level planning, teacher accountability measures, and sending out any mass parent communication necessary. If there are one-off tutoring questions, they can go directly to the campus contact or teacher. This takes some lift off of you as the principal.

What happens during tutoring?

  • Tutoring Exit Tickets: Parents, teachers and students want to make sure this tutoring program is a great use of time. Just like you do with assessing classroom lessons to ensure alignment and student mastery, the same should be done with tutoring. Teachers can give an exit ticket at the end of tutoring aligned to their objective/standard they were going over. This can also be an accountability measure for teachers.  They can hand in their tutoring exit tickets to you or you all can analyze student work together.
  • Curricular Resource: If you have funds, it may be helpful to purchase a proven curriculum to utilize for after school tutoring. This takes the planning away from the teacher and provides a research-based tool to help students during tutoring time. Here are some examples to start from:
  • Behavioral Expectations: As we shared above, behavior and academic learning do interact.  As such, tutoring should have the same expectations as in a small group in the classroom. After school tutoring is much more effective if teachers keep cultural aspects the same. For example, students shouldn’t have phones and there should be a consistent structure and rules.
  • Fun: Remember, tutoring doesn’t have to just be a redo of the classroom, and it certainly shouldn’t feel like punishment for students or teachers.  While behavioral expectations should be consistent, a smaller group can afford more personalization and even a little more risk taking.Sometimes students are struggling with the conceptual understanding of a concept. Consider spending time, in addition to giving students lots of opportunities to practice, the opportunity to spend more time conceptualizing (for example, why is it that dividing two fractions works the way it does? How can we show that in action using real-life objects?). Or what other information or visuals can I give to my students about the book we are reading in class that is going to build their prior knowledge and context so the book we are reading about an ancient civilization seems even more relatable?If tutoring is after school, a little snack can help students feel more ready to focus. And create a community and culture around your students who are there for tutoring.  Creating a community helps students feel excited to be known and part of tutoring.

What if the School Just Can’t Offer Tutoring?

We know some schools just don’t have the resources to offer tutoring.  There can be multiple constraints: funding, facilities, etc.  If that is the case we wanted to offer a few tips:

  • Help Teachers Lead: Some teachers like to run tutoring programs, even if not a formal offering of the school.  If teachers want to do this, make sure they are holding tutoring sessions at an easily accessible, public and safe place with more than one child and adult present.Teachers have shared some of their preferred places. Preferred places include: a local library, a local community center, a nonprofit partner organization, a coffee shop, the common area at an apartment complex where many students live, or at school with students from multiple teachers in the same grade level, etc.Teachers should never be forced to tutor, especially if they aren’t being paid.  Teachers should get the opportunity to support their students’ success and be supported to meet their student’s needs.
  • Help Parents Lead:  Parents can also try to find supports when tutoring isn’t available.  Many after-school programs offer a tutoring or homework help element. Give parents additional practice sheets or books they can take to after-school tutoring.Also, give parents the log-in information for some of the online resources and tools students use during the day.  Many students have specific accounts they are using to do online learning during the day.  This can be a helpful resource for parents to see what their child is learning, and where their child has additional learning opportunities.Finally, use plain language when describing what skills students need to master at home.  A line like “measuring geometric objects” might sound intimidating to a parent.  However,  “give your child a tape measure and have them measure things around the house” sounds more accessible.

Want a partner in putting together your after school tutoring program?  Reach out to

Do you know what your parents need?  Possip can help you identify what your students and parents need.  You can visit us to learn more about Possip.