Making the Most of After-School with Personalized Tutoring

Learning, PreK-12

A partnership between Ascension Catholic School, K-12 Learning Solutions, and a funding partner focuses on personalizing learning – – and in doing so, has more than doubled expected student learning growth. The three organizations have come together to provide targeted after-school learning interventions for students.

The approach is innovative, personalized, and scalable – – and is a beautiful example of what can happen when students, teachers, tutors, administrators and community partners come together. A related example is found in Grant-Beacon Middle School in Denver, Colorado. Grant-Beacon extends and blends learning opportunities into after-school hours, providing a combination of skill building and enrichment.

Like Grant-Beacon, Ascension Catholic School – located in North Minneapolis – serves a diverse student population (96% students of color; 77% eligible for free and reduced lunch). Principal Benito Matias is dedicated to improved outcomes for his students and raves about what the after school model has done for learning.

He realizes that the student-centric partnership paves way for personalization,”Our partners at K-12 Learning Solutions consistently look for what’s best for the school and the scholars rather than just saying ‘this is what we do.’ That personalization at the student and school level is one of the reasons why we are continuing and extending our after school tutoring to meet the needs of more students.”

K-12 Learning Solutions brings expertise in the tutoring space, specializing in providing targeted instruction in a positive environment. CEO Cara Thorpe reflects, “Our partnership with Ascension is the culmination of over 20 years of work in the field and study of education and a true team effort. It is a joy to jump in and do what we do best, combining relationship and the art of teaching, to work with students to accelerate learning and close the achievement gap.”

This is all made possible through the generosity of the Friends of Ascension, dedicated to ensuring all students succeed.

The punchline is students saw gains more than doubled that was was expected.

How did they do it?

Partners worked together on the following:

  • Identification of students. Using student data and teacher recommendations, the students most in need of math and reading support were identified.
  • Grouping of students. Students were placed in tiered groups depending on where gaps and opportunities were. Those in need of the most support received the most frequent, intense and customized attention in small or 1:1 groups.
  • Creation of personalized learning plan. Based on assessment results, students were assigned math and/or reading groups and received instructions anywhere from one to four days per week.
  • Participation in tutoring sessions. Tutors made the work interesting, engaging, and fun, utilizing resources and processes that built upon learning from within the school day.
  • Fun while they wait. When not in tutoring sessions, students could participate in after school activities or games.

What were the learning results?

Academic growth was measured by NWEA’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP). Students significantly exceeded predicted growth as indicated below (based on fall-to-spring results).

What other benefits?

Outcomes Changed. In addition to the progress shown on the MAP assessment:

  • 85% of students improved their grades
  • 86% of students self-reported an increase in confidence

Habits Changed. Tutors emphasized persistence, learning how to learn, and self monitoring. Students themselves commented that they improved their habits such as:

  • Showing work
  • Reading and rereading a math problem
  • Trying something even though you don’t know it
  • Asking questions
  • Paying attention in class
  • Increased understanding of when to slow down or speed up
  • Completing homework
  • Knowing it is OK to struggle
  • Checking own work to find mistakes
  • Applying New strategies
  • Keeping a positive attitude
  • Setting goals

“Somebody Noticing” Changed. One of the best parts of tutoring is that there is another adult who knows the student and cares. The kids described their tutors:

  • They notice my effort
  • They are extremely knowledgeable
  • They related course material to learning
  • They cared about my progress
  • They answered questions extremely or very well
  • They were respectful in treatment

This model is promising for a variety of reasons. It is a great example of personalized partnerships, targeted support, and of schools leveraging outside resources to make a direct impact on learning gains.

Whether parents are the ones who seek out tutoring for young people or whether school leaders are looking for a key lever, tutors can make that boost happen. In a Smart Parents blog post, Cara described tips parents can take at home to personalize learning, whether they choose to go it on their own, or with the support of the school or a tutor.

Cara described the thoughts of the partners during a recent team meeting, “These results blew us away – the SCHOLARS saw the value of tutoring. What a huge return on investment in their future!”

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Mary Ryerse

Mary Ryerse

Mary is a Getting Smart Director of Strategic Design.


Matt /

Great story. Thanks.
Correction: Ascension is in North Minneapolis.

Caroline Vander Ark /

Thanks the edit has been made!

Julie Lineberger /

Sounds like a great program!

Roger Kramer /

Mistakes in “How they did it” / Participation in tutoring sessions: Has an incomplete last sentence.

In the achievement chart: 8th grade predicted and actual growth is backwards.

Mary Ryerse /

Thank you – this has been fixed!

Mary Ryerse /

Thank you, Roger. This has been corrected.