Consider Equity when Evaluating Evidence-Based Education Interventions for your Learning Community

Will schools go big on tutoring to make up for pandemic losses? According to LinkedIn’s Big Ideas 2023, high-dosage tutoring is a promising solution. But what promises are necessary for students and their families to benefit from this evidence-based education intervention?

Let’s agree on this:

  • The pandemic disrupted learning for students, and disproportionately for those who’ve been historically and systematically underserved.
  • Students can benefit from individual and small group instruction when teachers or other learning facilitators have the time, opportunity, and resources to implement effectively (e.g., protected instructional time, relevant training and practice for how to instruct, tools to support instructional delivery).

In my 20+ years in education designing learning and coaching teachers and school leaders, I have consistently observed schools across the country to have

  • Inequitable funding systems due to historical racist policies (e.g., redlining). A high-resource intervention in a low-resourced community is a failed intervention.
  • Competing interventions, which lead to conflicting goals, unclear implementation strategies, and strained resources. Murky visions dilute impact.
  • Gaps in achievement (e.g., racial disparities in reading), access (e.g., low internet bandwidth), and capacity (e.g., insufficient personnel).

Given the realities of our US education system, we cannot assume that evidence-based interventions will be effective in all learning communities. We must investigate what is necessary for an evidence-based intervention to be adapted and implemented in an equitable and effective manner.

Even when evidence suggests that a particular education intervention has the potential to improve student achievement as defined by national and state standards, there are many factors that facilitate or limit effectiveness and impact (e.g., how and with whom this evidence was generated or how this intervention can be adapted to varied school contexts).

As schools or districts roll out high-dosage tutoring or other promising education interventions, education leaders must commit to understanding the needs of their learning community and engaging in equity-driven processes. For example

  • Make the funding process transparent, including contributing sources, plans for sustainability, and communications with stakeholders (e.g., students and their families, teachers, administrators, and community partners). 
  • Conduct an equity audit to make visible how resources (e.g., devices, personnel, equity-driven professional learning) have been distributed to schools and families -AND- which instructional practices have fostered inclusive, responsive learning experiences for students.

What other commitments are necessary to ensure that evidence-based interventions meet the needs of every student, no matter their circumstances?

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