In a partnership between Pearson Assessment and the Frankfort Independent School District in Kentucky, this six-week summer program pairs young professionals with students in grades K–2 who need additional support in math and reading. After an equity-centered training in social-emotional learning practices, these tutors work with teachers and district leaders to co-create student interventions that are aligned with the district’s curricular plans.
“We're trying to make a difference for the whole child, one student and one professional at a time,” says Llana Williams, Vice President of School Assessment at Pearson. “You want kids to love going to school, so we want to create an environment where they can be a part of the community and feel respected. To learn, they have to know their social and emotional needs are met.”
Design and launch
Since 2019, Pearson has been planning a tutoring program in the Commonwealth of Kentucky to address two needs: 1) a growing teacher shortage in many of the state’s districts and 2) differences in third-grade math and reading assessments for students of color and low-income students.
After reviewing data from across the state, they invited the Frankfort Independent School District to participate in piloting the program. “Frankfort is classic Americana,” Williams says. “It has the familiar imbalance in learning outcomes for students and all the situations that go into that, which are representative of the American school.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of schools delayed the launch of the summer tutoring program while at the same time making the needs more acute as more teachers left the profession and many students experienced increased social isolation.
Frankfort’s program, JumpStart, launched in the summer of 2021. It initially served 30 students with three trained tutors, and in 2022 expanded to 65 students with seven trained tutors. Williams and her team hope to see the pilot expanded to more buildings in Frankfort and to more districts in Kentucky. “We’re moving into the evaluation phase now and expect to be able to tell future partners that this is a successful evidence-based program that can really help meet your students’ needs.”
One early sign of success is that district leaders in Frankfort would like to train teachers to carry on with the same interventions throughout the school year.
In addition to addressing learning gaps, the second goal of JumpStart was to expose young professionals to teaching careers by hiring them as classroom tutors to use social-emotional learning practices in support of academic progress.
“Since this is a diverse student population, we are striving for diversity in the tutors, so there would be a better opportunity for the children to see teachers who look like them,” Williams explains. “That can sometimes be a struggle when there is a big difference between the demographic of the student population and the demographic of the teacher population.”
The program recruited through historically black colleges (HBCUs) and universities in Kentucky and nationally, and the tutors so far include college and graduate students from teacher preparation programs as well as students from other disciplines who are considering teaching.
“We do pre- and post-reflections about what they expect to contribute to the program, and it has had a positive impact on everyone who participated,” says Williams. “Some weren’t necessarily striving to go into the profession, but knowing that they've had an impact in a positive way in a student's life, they start to envision themselves as teachers.”
Raising issues of equity
One observation made after the first pilot year of JumpStart was the need for more explicit training about equity. In the second year the program used Ohio State University's Kirwan Institute Implicit Bias Module Series and Harvard’s Implicit Association Test as a prompt to discuss implicit bias.