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FEV Tutor’s new CEO Jim Tormey shares the power of a “high dosage” approach to tutoring, the potential for impact on educational inequality, and why he’s energized to join FEV at a time when the company is poised for growth. FEV Tutor is a K-12 market leading research and evidence-based online tutoring platform and an Alpine Investors-backed portfolio company.
By Jim Tormey, CEO
Education in the U.S. is broken. Only 34% of 8th graders scored at or above proficient in math and reading, and those numbers are lower for students in underserved and high poverty areas, according to the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress. And as reported by The Wall Street Journal last month, unprecedented drops in reading and math scores—the lowest since the 1990s—indicate a post-pandemic learning deficit that could resonate for years and weigh on economic output.
While educational inequity is not a new issue, widespread awareness of students left behind combined with an openness to virtual learning has inspired a slew of digital tutoring solutions in the past several years. Most of these solutions draw on traditional, on-demand tutoring to connect with students. But for schools that serve majority disadvantaged populations, like high-poverty schools that lack the resources needed to close the achievement gap, driving change requires a more systematic approach.
Impact on Those Who Need it Most
Enter high-dosage learning: tutoring performed one-on-one or in small groups with a consistent tutor multiple times per week, personalized via individual learning plans, and connected to lessons in the core classroom. Data-driven, targeted, and aligned with academic standards, this approach to tutoring accelerates learning outcomes, especially for students without a strong support system at home. Tutoring is most likely to be effective when delivered in high doses with three or more sessions per week or intensive, week-long, small-group programs taught by talented teachers, according to research from the Annenberg Institute at Brown University.
Effective and equitable, high-dosage tutoring is driven by data on students’ academic need areas and goals that teachers and schools already have. More affluent families can “opt in” to need-based lessons individually, perpetuating systemic inequities in education by serving those with the time and flexibility to manage a changing schedule. But according to the same research from the Annenberg Institute, high-dosage tutoring can produce large learning gains for students who have fallen behind academically.
Picture this. A student struggling in fourth grade multiplication regularly attends (2-3 times per week) scheduled tutoring sessions for six weeks, all in line with his classroom lessons. Rather than seeking out tutoring to help with one-off assignments, he’s plugged into an organized program that draws on what he’s learning in his regular classroom to design a custom tutoring curriculum that helps him keep up with assignments. His grades improve and his parents aren’t burdened with scheduling one-off tutoring sessions every time he fails a math test.
And the numbers on high dosage tutoring speak for themselves. The Annenberg Institute’s research highlighted a study of daily two-to-one tutoring sessions during the summer break with low-performing students in 12 Chicago public schools. In addition to improved math test scores, students’ grades moved from a C- average to a C+. Students were 50% less likely to fail their math course and 28% less likely to fail a non-math course.
A Company Built to Solve Learning Challenges
In 2009, Ryan Patenaude and Anirudh Baheti founded FEV Tutor to address educational achievement gaps by pioneering a high-dosage tutoring service for public schools around the country. Today, the K-12 online tutoring platform employs more than 5,000 experienced tutors and has supported more than two million students with one-on-one, live professional academic support.
Since its founding, FEV has always focused on connecting tutoring to a students’ core learning environment as much as possible. We aim to march toward the same outcome goals as school districts and students, from teacher retention to parental support. We don’t think tutoring should exist in a silo.
We’re a level two ESSA evidence-based intervention, which means that everything we do is grounded in evidence and research connected to the U.S. Department of Education’s Every Student Succeeds Act. As an EdTech company with a focus on data, we analyze the impact of our tutoring and can provide meaningful data to school districts and ultimately to students. We aim to show the return on investment for each tutoring hour to help key decision makers understand how to allocate future resources.
We recently partnered with The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University to conduct research that demonstrated that when properly designed and implemented, high-dosage tutoring accelerates learning outcomes for students from low-income families. You can read more about how our practices stack up to their research here.
An Eye to the Future
Joining Alpine Investors’ portfolio enables FEV to make further impact by taking its offering to many more schools and districts around the U.S. While the COVID-19 pandemic posed significant challenges to educators, it also proved the importance—and necessity—of online education solutions. The past two years have shown that students can log in and learn outside of classroom hours. Education has changed forever, and I believe that FEV is well-positioned to serve students with consistent, digital learning support today and far into the future.
Education has changed forever, and I believe that FEV is well-positioned to serve students with consistent, digital learning support today and far into the future.
I’m energized by the chance to join FEV as CEO at a time when achievement gaps are wider than ever. We’ll do everything in our power to drive improved outcomes from students, including investing in our product – to create the best-in-class experience in online tutoring – and our people – to better support our school district partners as they roll out FEV Tutor resources to students across the country.
FEV will also gain access to Alpine’s PeopleFirst playbook and resources, which will help with recruiting and training top-flight talent, as well as continuing to build and improve company culture.
FEV and high-dosage learning as a whole may have only scratched the surface of their potential. Learning loss won’t be solved through a bunch of haphazard tutoring hours. This is a long-term issue and virtual tutoring should supplement what’s going on in the classroom, serving as an extension of our wonderful teachers. We believe that this is the way of the future. As we continue to grow and adapt our services to a changing educational landscape, we continue to focus on sustained, long-term outcomes rather than easy wins or quick growth. We know that solving educational challenges at the systems level – and delivering positive outcomes for students above all else – will not only amplify our impact, but it will also drive purchasing decisions and strong customer relationships for years to come.
About Jim Tormey
Jim Tormey is the Chief Executive Officer of FEV Tutor. Before FEV Tutor, he was President and CEO of MidAmerica Administrative & Retirement Solutions. A graduate of Yale University and Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Tormey now lives in Tampa, Florida.