Authored by: Kate Cochran, National Partnership for Student Success, Shaunna Finley, Communities in Schools, Nicki Patnaude, MENTOR, Tracy Terranova, MENTOR

Our schools and communities have faced unprecedented challenges since COVID-19 first disrupted our K-12 schools in March 2020. In the pandemic’s wake, longstanding inequities were exacerbated as chronic absence ballooned and mental health worsened among our nation’s students.

Despite the heroic efforts of educators, parents, and communities, the most recent window into student achievement from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed substantial declines in math and particularly in reading, which saw the most significant drop since the 1980s.

In response, President Biden has called for an effort to recruit more than 250,000 Americans who can provide critical support to our nation’s students. As tutors and mentors fan out across the country in both paid and volunteer roles — and as thousands more continue their work to boost student achievement — it’s vital that all stakeholders have a shared definition of quality programming and implementation. 

That definition needs to be rooted in the latest research and a strong evidence-based approach, with goals encouraging continuous improvement in both the long and short term. And it also needs to align with each community’s needs and be flexible enough to apply to various types of programs.

That’s why in July 2022, the administration launched the National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS) to meet President Biden’s call to action. This public-private partnership, which involves over 120 education and youth services organizations, supports K-12 school districts, states, and communities as they create plans to ensure that students emerge resilient and academically prepared despite the devastation of the pandemic. Its work begins by developing voluntary standards to help guide work within five distinct categories of academic supports: tutors, student success coaches, wrap-around support coordinators, post-secondary pathways coaches, and mentors. For each of those categories, the NPSS offers common elements that high-quality programs share in these areas:

  • Recruiting
  • Training
  • Key program components
  • Developmental contexts
  • Student/family connections
  • Essential conditions
  • Data and privacy 

These standards will never be used to evaluate or penalize volunteers who don’t yet meet the standards. They’re about shared aspirations and providing educator’s with clear signals about what evidence and research have pointed to as effective elements of programming.  

The NPSS’s work is grounded in a belief that a shared definition of quality can accelerate existing programs’ scale and fuel new ones’ development. They reflect a commitment to balancing access with an emphasis on quality. The standards are designed to encourage a culture of continuous improvement and a continued effort to gain a deeper understanding of what works, for whom, and under what conditions. Ultimately, they’re about translating evidence and research into practice.

Over time, we hope the standards will assist school and district leaders as they help students recover and thrive from one of the most difficult periods in modern history by making smarter, better-informed investments in tutoring and other student supports. 

The standards were developed by the NPSS with collaboration from leading national organizations and draw upon existing quality standards and improvement work based on years of research. Key collaborators include: 

  • Accelerate 
  • Camp Fire National 
  • City Year 
  • Communities In Schools 
  • Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University 
  • Knowledge to Power Catalysts 
  • National College Attainment Network 
  • National Student Support Accelerator 

Additional input was also provided by AmeriCorps, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Girls Inc, Horizons National, InnovateEDU, National 4-H Council, U.S. Department of Education, and YMCA of the USA. This work also builds upon the significant contributions towards the understanding and improvement of quality programming made by the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality (Forum for Youth Investment), Search Institute, National Afterschool Association, National Summer Learning Association, and Science of Learning and Development Alliance, among others.

Reference to any non-U.S. government organization, event or product does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation or favoring of that organization, event or product and is strictly for the information and convenience of the public.

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