How much actual progress has been made in that time to find and retain these tutors?
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting to address learning loss as recent NWEA research found that pandemic recovery in reading and math during the 2022-23 school year is lagging even behind pre-COVID achievement trends.
The National Partnership for Student Success, a public-private partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Education, AmeriCorps and the Everyone Graduates Center, spearheads the White House tutoring initiative. We caught up recently with Kate Cochran, NPSS’ managing director, to discuss how far the organization has come as the tutoring effort wrapped up its first year.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
K-12 DIVE: It's been one year since the White House launched The National Partnership for Student Success, with a goal of adding 250,000 mentors and tutors in schools by July 2025. How much progress has been made in that time?
KATE COCHRAN: We're very excited by the progress that we've made, but there's still a lot of work to do to meet our goal — and to really create a system in which students have recovered from the pandemic and are thriving across the country.
A couple of things that I'll call out that I'm particularly excited about: AmeriCorps has made tutoring, mentoring, postsecondary transition coaching and other kinds of NPSS-aligned roles a priority in their last two Volunteer Generation Fund grant opportunities. That has directed a significant amount of funding to public and nonprofit organizations who are doing this work.
Something else that I'm excited about is the U.S. Department of Education in May issued a nationwide call to action, encouraging colleges and universities to either dedicate a higher percentage of their federal Work Study funding — ideally 15% or more — to compensate college students in tutoring, mentoring, or similar roles, or to set a goal to significantly increase the number of college students that they would place in these roles using any funding stream.
We've had quite a bit of interest here from colleges and universities, including a pretty diverse group of 27 institutions of higher education who have already signed on.
We issued 21 community collaboration challenge micro grants. That's from the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins, using private philanthropy, to 21 public or nonprofit organizations across 19 states, to bring together diverse groups of community stakeholders to think about how to get more evidence-based and people-powered support to young people in their communities.
We've grown our coalition to now over 135 organizations who are all committed to collaborating with each other as well as with others in their communities. We've also developed a set of voluntary quality standards in partnership with a working group of national experts. That will make a big difference as we think about how to move the field toward quality and ensuring this isn't just about additional tutors, but about additional tutors doing high impact evidence-based work.
From a numbers standpoint, I am curious if there is any measurement of how much progress has been made so far with tutors or volunteers.
COCHRAN: So the data on the number of people who are serving in tutoring and other NPSS-aligned roles at schools, community-based organizations and other places isn’t perfect. But we’re doing quite a bit of work to collect internal data from The National Partnership for Students Success network to understand the number of adults that they have in these roles or who they're planning to place in these roles in the coming year.
We're also examining a number of existing data sources that are publicly available that do include information on tutoring and other roles.
And finally, we're working with a third-party researcher, who included questions on NPSS roles and the number of adults in these roles on a recent nationally representative survey of school leaders to really help us answer this question. The survey is closed, and we're hopeful to be able to share the results very soon.
Do you think the 250,000 goal is still realistically within reach in the next two years?
COCHRAN: I do think that it's attainable. I think there are many people around the country — whether they're in the fields of P-12, higher education, youth development, or in the national service space — who are working extremely hard to support students. And they are thinking about how to recruit and operate now in a way that helps recover from the impacts of the pandemic, but also leverages some of the learning and innovations folks have experienced over the last couple of years.
How has NPSS worked to find and keep tutors and mentors in schools nationwide?
COCHRAN: We're working at a national level to support recruitment challenges by identifying large groups of people who might be able to be trained, supported and motivated as tutors, mentors, pre-college advisors, and other evidence-based student support roles. Beyond one-to-one recruitment, which would take quite a while, we're trying to think about where there are big groups.
So for example, college students. And really part of our work there was our work with the U.S. Department of Education on this recent call to action for colleges and universities to engage in this effort and get more of their students in community service roles with local schools or local out-of-school time programs.
A big gap is opportunities for folks within the fields to collaborate, learn about common pitfalls, learn about how others have addressed common challenges within their organizations. So we actually just launched a professional learning community for organizations that are engaging older adults in education-focused roles, primarily tutoring and mentoring, which we're pretty excited about.
Given that, folks often do not have the space and place in a world in which people are really busy in education, in youth development — and the work is urgent. So we're really trying to create those structures that make it easier for folks to collaborate, share information with peers, and learn from peers’ experiences.
Some districts are struggling to get students engaged in participating in their local tutoring programs. Are you seeing this on a national scale?
COCHRAN: I think anytime there's a new initiative it takes time for these things to develop and be implemented in a way that there is buy-in from the community, from students and from parents. But I do think a key piece here and what the evidence shows and what we've heard from folks in the field is that tutoring is successful when done in a way that prioritizes engaging students via relationships with caring adults or peers.
Also, removing barriers to entry — whether it's making sure that tutoring is either integrated into the school day or is easy to get to — does make a big difference in terms of uptake from students and families.