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Reimagining Reading Intervention in Idaho

High-dose tutoring offers holistic benefits for students who need extra support.

At a time when schools across the country continue grappling with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, Teach for America’s Ignite Fellowship program is making a significant difference for struggling fifth-graders at MOSAICS charter school in Caldwell, offering a blueprint for academic recovery.

Ignite fellows, college students from around the country, work remotely with MOSAICS students, as Principal Anthony Haskett explains, offering not just a tutoring program but a transformative educational initiative that seeks to address the lingering effects of the pandemic on student learning.

Ignite is a high-dosage remote tutoring program aimed at helping elementary school students whose reading skills are lagging catch up, especially in the wake of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is national in scope but is administered separately by each TFA region.

It’s also a pipeline for college students interested in becoming TFA corps members after graduating. Nationally, just over half of Ignite tutors who are college seniors apply to become TFA corps members. And they are accepted into TFA at a rate four times higher—about 80 percent—than the average applicant.

Launched in the fall at MOSAICS after planning that began in May, the program was designed to enhance reading support for fifth-graders at MOSAICS who are in the second-lowest quartile of readers at the school. Those in the bottom quartile need even more intensive support.

Ignite tutoring is woven seamlessly into the school day, replacing the conventional intervention block with a more targeted and engaging form of support.

“Across the board, we are seeing a lot of growth in confidence.”

Anthony Haskett

Principal, MOSAICS Charter School

One unanticipated benefit of the program, Haskett said, is that it frees up teachers to work with other students, resulting in a significant number of kids in the middle of the pack in terms of reading becoming more proficient as a result of the additional attention.

“Across the board, we are seeing a lot of growth in confidence” among struggling readers, Haskett said. “We're able to meet the needs of everybody better because we're partnering with TFA and Ignite.”

Another unexpected bonus, Haskett said, is that students who might not have thought of themselves as “college material” are developing relationships with their college-student tutors, many of whom are people of color, and beginning to see college as a possibility for themselves.

TFA Idaho has made Ignite financially viable for MOSAICS by subsidizing the cost. "This is a program that without TFA Idaho's support would have been tough for us to have gotten off the ground," Haskett said.

Haskett said he hopes to expand the program into middle school math next school year and is in discussions with TFA Idaho about how to make that happen.

“It has been a successful model for us and the partnership has been really good,” Haskett said. “I want to give a shout-out to TFA for looking for new ways to innovate and support kids in their learning that you wouldn't traditionally find in a school setting.”