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Gates Foundation grants Annenberg Institute $999,260

Grant for the National Student Support Accelerator aims to increase access to tutoring opportunities for K-12 students

The Annenberg Institute received a $999,260 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last month to fund the National Student Support Accelerator. The NSSA research aims to strengthen and grow high-impact tutoring programs and opportunities for K-12 students nationwide. This funding will support the project for two years.

Director of the Annenberg Institute Susanna Loeb emphasized the importance of expanding tutoring availability. “We've developed the National Student Support Accelerator with the idea that every student in need should have access to an effective tutor who can champion and ensure their learning and success,” said Loeb, who is also the grant lead on the project. “Tutoring has turned out to be one of the clearest interventions or approaches in schools that can benefit students.”

The NSSA defines students in need as students living in poverty or from identities that have been systemically discriminated against in education, such as children who are from Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities. In particular, the project aims to focus most closely on students from these demographic groups who are behind in school. 

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shaped the Gates Foundation’s decision to support the project, according to Karen Johnson, senior program officer at the Gates Foundation. “Given the impact of COVID-19, there will likely be increased demand to offer tutoring for K-12 students,” Johnson wrote in an email to The Herald. “By funding the NSSA, the field will have an independent take that can build consensus on high quality tutoring.” 

“Higher income students often have access to tutoring, particularly during the pandemic,” while lower income students have lacked the same degree of access, Loeb said. “As a result, we have these real inequalities in access to good educational opportunities, and so we've been trying to develop an organization that can help schools and districts to implement tutoring at scale.” 

According to Loeb, the NSSA has four primary objectives for the next two years: creating consensus around tutoring standards along with providing tools for implementation; establishing a common research agenda focused on tutoring models that is disseminated field-wide; providing technical support for tutoring selection and implementation to state and local educational agencies; and crafting a plan for years three and four of the research. 

In addition to funding from the Gates Foundation, the NSSA also received significant funding from the Walton Family Foundation and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, Loeb said. 

Before this latest grant, the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation had supported the project in its earlier iterations, she added.

The foundations “were really instrumental because they gave us pilot funds in the fall of last year to develop a business plan for an organization which would help provide infrastructure to support districts and schools around the country implementing tutoring,” Loeb said.   

Charlotte Perez ’21 worked with Loeb on the project as a research assistant. She said that this work illuminated to her the lack of scholarly research on tutoring. 

“There's honestly not as much research out there on tutoring as I would expect, especially because a lot of education is changing with the pandemic,” she said. “A lot of the research that Brown University is putting out on the subject of tutoring is super unique. I'm doing some research on early literacy tutoring, and I'm not really finding that much research from most other places.”

Perez added that much of the other research she’s finding is by Associate Professor of Education Michael Kraft or by Carly Robinson, a postdoctoral researcher at the Annenberg Institute. The University “is really on top of producing new knowledge about tutoring. Everyone has a really strong passion and interest in the work itself for the sake of helping people have access to tutoring,” she said.

Loeb echoed Perez’s impression of the University’s position at the vanguard of this type of research. 

“Brown has been committed for a long time to equalizing and improving educational opportunities,” she said. “And this is an important moment, because we've had such increased needs during the pandemic, and the pandemic has increased inequalities that were already there.” 

“We suddenly have substantial funding for schools and for other social programs as well,” she continued. “So it's really a pivotal moment to try to come in and really make a difference in schools and in the history of Brown trying to improve public education. Annenberg is in a really good position to lead this kind of work.”



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