The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced December 7 that it has awarded a $1.8-million grant to Tutor.com for the creation of a new professional development model for middle- and high-school math teachers that offers ongoing online and on-demand professional development opportunities. Tutor.com is looking for school districts that want to be considered candidates for participation in the program in the first quarter of 2011.
“This new project will examine how ongoing, on-demand professional development coupled with students participating in online tutoring can improve teaching and learning,” said Tutor.com spokesperson Jennifer Kohn. The objective for teachers, she told American Libraries, is access to ongoing professional development from online teaching coaches to support classroom instruction—“robust data and insight into student learning that will impact day-to-day classroom instruction.” For students, she said, “expected outcomes include more relevant time on task, an extended learning day, and differentiated instruction.”
The Gates Foundation became intrigued by Tutor.com’s success in offering one-to-one tutoring to students through public libraries—so much so that they took the relatively rare step of funding a for-profit company because the foundation is “interested in extending the platform to offer one-to-one on-demand professional development to teachers,” Kohn observed. “The consistently high-quality tutoring we’ve been able to offer library customers is in large part due to our one-of-a-kind mentoring and professional development program. Our model provides a consistent feedback loop to our tutors–many of whom are librarians–to improve their interactions with students. This has resulted in a 94% recommend rate from more than 1 million post-session surveys. If we can do the same for classroom teachers, think of the positive impact for every child sitting in a classroom,” Kohn said. “There is truly no precedent for this type of professional development model.”
“In many ways, we can attribute the early success of our business to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” Kohn continued. “Right when we began selling our services, the Gates Foundation was in the midst of a three-year program to help get technology into libraries. Many libraries told us they had these great new computers and lots of kids, but not enough productive, educational programs to do with them. Tutor.com was a good solution for that problem.”