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Paying for Access: Are Tutoring Contracts Focused on the Right Things?
Tutoring contracts cannot address all the take-up and implementation challenges associated with academic interventions. They also cannot ensure that all students catch up from COVID losses. Districts and vendors both need to find ways to build momentum, capacity, and, in some cases, urgency among teachers, students, and families to make these programs work. But contracts can create incentives for vendors to focus on session attendance, tutoring dosage, and results; on the margin, such incentives might get vendors to pay more attention to the student outcomes that districts care about most.
If school systems are going to deliver the academic support necessary for recovery, they need clear-eyed assessments of their current catch-up efforts. And if they are working with an external partner, they need agreements with incentives that put everyone’s attention and effort on what matters most: delivering academic support to help students catch up from the chaos of the last three years. Although there is not much evidence yet about the impact of different contract provisions, we should all be paying attention to whether contract language focuses vendors on ensuring that students receive the services that districts are paying for.