Summit Academy Akron Elementary School students are thriving in their reading skills thanks high-impact tutoring program, which is capturing national attention.

Summit Academy Akron Elementary School’s thriving student readers are receiving an academic boost from high-impact tutoring. National education policy influencers want to know more.

This week, FutureEd’s Liz Cohen visited the school to get a firsthand look at its tutoring program. Cohen, who is the policy director for Georgetown University think tank FutureEd, identified Summit Academy as the first special education-focused school she has visited. Cohen and her team are traveling to K-12 schools across the country — Texas, Louisiana, New York, D.C. and now Akron, Ohio, thus far — examining the common threads in successful tutoring programs centered on new literacy curriculum, e.g., the science of reading.

Fifth-grader Treyshon engages in a lively virtual reading lesson with his Amplify tutor.

Summit Academy Akron Elementary’s high-impact tutoring is provided by Ohio Department of Education and Workforce-vetted Amplify tutoring services. Administered three days a week to 20 students at the school, the intensive instruction aligns with the students’ core content for English Language Arts, says Curriculum Administrator Jessica Hahn.

Hahn and Cohen joined Principal Dawn Presley, Instructional Coach Lindsey Durbin, Curriculum Administrator Rebeca Tyner and Amplify Senior Program Manager Tricia Crafton to examine separate groups of third- and fifth-grade students as they engaged in live tutoring lessons. The sessions featured an upbeat, interactive tutor on one screen teaching a small group of students in a reciprocal fashion.

“When done in conjunction with evidence-based research, high-impact tutoring can work,” says Cohen, noting that the high-dose instruction emerged after education pivoted to remote learning during the 2020-2021 COVID-19 school shutdown.

Summit Academy Akron Elementary School fifth-grade students (l-r) De’Riha, Garrin, Treyshon and Jamilarose participate in high-impact tutoring as FutureEd Policy Director Liz Cohen, Amplify Senior Program Manager Tricia Crafton and school officials observe.

No longer supported by COVID dollars, the specialized tutoring has resulted in student achievement and engagement and even heightened attendance. Such is the case at Summit Academy Akron Elementary School. Cohen and her team are looking at successful programs and exploring creative avenues to keep them going.

“The way we think about who and how we do that tutoring moving forward is really important,” she says, describing the tutoring as an accidental natural experiment resulting from post-pandemic academic catch-up efforts.

Education leaders (l-r) Liz Cohen, Tricia Crafton, Lindsey Durbin, Rebeca Tyner, Jessica Hahn and Dawn Presley gather for a briefing after examining two intensive ELA tutoring sessions for Summit Academy Akron Elementary School third- and fifth-grade students.

Policy pros at FutureEd are determining solutions for implications ranging from school budgeting for tutoring to expanding the pool of qualified tutors. Advocacy for tutoring at the state level is one hurdle to clear. The other is a mind shift, says Cohen. She explains how schools of education at colleges and universities are weaving tutoring into their educator prep programs. Consequently, tutors may more likely enter and stay in teaching roles, thus addressing and potentially remedying yet another issue: a teacher shortage.

At Summit Academy Akron Elementary, Presley plans to continue to seek options for maintaining her school’s successful tutoring program, which has served her students amply since its October 2023 start, she says.

“We are here to help a population in need. We care about our kids immensely,”  Presley says.