Back In Session and Back to the Basics
Kickstarting the 2023-24 school year with a refresher on our what, our why, and our how
Tutoring session at White Oak Elementary in Gwinnett County, Georgia.
by Kasia Ostrowski, October 20, 2023
Future Forward is implementing our program at sites in six states this year (Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia) and plans to serve 1,300 students and their families in 30 schools! We are excited for the opportunities this year brings for growth and learning – both in the lives of our students and their families, and within our organization itself. The start of the school year also prompts us to reconnect with what motivates us as a literacy education provider.
Future Forward seeks to develop close relationships with individual schools and school districts to implement our core components of one-on-one tutoring and family engagement. Tutors from the surrounding community meet with elementary-aged students who are struggling with reading three times per week for thirty minutes of tutoring at a time. The fact that tutoring occurs one-on-one is a unique and valuable part of our program. This structure allows us to meet individual needs of each student in a way that is simply not possible in a group classroom setting, especially when teaching such a crucial skill as reading. Tutoring sessions are rooted in the science of reading, which is a research-based approach to teaching reading that has been repeatedly demonstrated to be the most effective way for children to develop literacy skills. Family engagement extends beyond tutoring sessions – our Family Engagement Coordinators (FECs) establish mutually beneficial relationships with students’ families that are built on trust and honesty. Our program is based on a foundational belief that families are experts in their own children, so we are partners in the learning process, working together to support students as they progress in reading. Every child is different, meaning it is vital to personalize tutoring sessions to best meet their individual needs. FECs stay in regular contact with parents and guardians, sharing information and resources back and forth via text, call, and in-home visits. By joining evidence-based tutoring with family involvement, Future Forward delivers students and their families with highly customized assistance that feels personal and human-centered. Consequently, Future Forward students and families witness improvements not only in their literacy scores and student attendance but also in their overall school-related attitudes and self-assurance, as demonstrated by extensive research.
Based on decades of widespread, comprehensive research, it extensively understood how crucial a role reading proficiency plays in students’ academic success and workforce readiness. Students who do not attain a basic level of reading competency by the third grade are more likely to face academic challenges, have to navigate social and behavioral difficulties in subsequent grades, drop out of high school, and experience negative outcomes throughout their lives. This issue disproportionately affects students of color and those from families with lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The COVID-19 pandemic has also further exacerbated this problem by making it all the more difficult for students to learn and connect with their peers. Plummeting attendance rates and test scores make it hard for students to keep up, and we have not come close to recovering to pre-pandemic levels. Reading is a skill that can be effectively taught through direct foundational instruction, encompassing elements detailed in the science of reading including phonics, word recognition, phonological awareness, concepts of print, and fluency. Every year, new research on Future Forward’s program shows us that it is working to benefit entire communities. Every year, we seek to change the lives of more students and families as we broaden our national scope.
Future Forward is delivered by nearly two hundred team members, including over 150 employees comprised of staff at each program site; more than a dozen team members directly employed by school or community partners; and our seven-person national team. The majority of the team are highly-qualified tutors who work directly with students one-on-one. Tutors are paid for instruction planning and review time, and are supervised and guided by an Instructional Coordinator (IC) at their school. Family Engagement Coordinators are key leaders at schools, responsible for developing and maintaining positive relationships with all students’ families. The Future Forward national team manages the program as a whole, including funding, hiring, professional development, training, curriculum development, family engagement oversight, outreach, and communications. We also depend on district leaders and administrative staff in each school we partner with to provide classroom space and support. It’s an interdependent web of dedicated professionals who all have one goal in mind: to make a genuine difference in the lives of young readers and their families.