Future Forward Program Description
Part D. Maximizing State-Level Funds to Support Students
The Department recognizes that States have an extraordinary opportunity to address the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on underserved students through the ARP Act’s required State set-asides to address the academic impact of lost instructional time, provide summer learning and enrichment programs, and provide comprehensive afterschool programs. In this section, SEAs will describe their evidence-based strategies for these resources.
Academic Impact of Lost Instructional Time: Describe how the SEA will use the funds it reserves under section 2001(f)(1) of the ARP Act (totaling not less than 5 percent of the State’s total allocation of ARP ESSER funds) on evidence-based interventions to address the academic impact of lost instructional time by supporting the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning or summer enrichment, extended day, comprehensive afterschool programs, or extended school year programs, and ensure that such interventions respond to students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. The description must include:
i. A description of the evidence-based interventions (e.g., providing intensive or high-dosage tutoring, accelerating learning) the SEA has selected, and the extent to which the SEA will evaluate the impact of those interventions on an ongoing basis to understand if they are working;escription of Evidence-Based Intervention
Extensive research from many universities and the U.S. Department of Education has identified high-dosage tutoring as an evidence-based intervention to address lost instructional time. Research proven one-on-one tutoring has been shown to be the most effective method to accelerate reading achievement. Proven tutoring models that provide tutors with structured materials, training, and ongoing guidance and professional development have demonstrated greater effects on student achievement than any other strategy, including summer school, after school and extended day programs. Future Forward is a unique literacy intervention serving struggling kindergarten through third grade readers with intensive one-on-one tutoring from paid, professional tutors coupled with intensive family engagement efforts to bring caretakers and families into a child’s learning process. Future Forward tutors are supervised by a certified teacher or youth-serving professional, and the program is freestanding, using customized curriculum and dedicated staff, yet has the full collaboration of school administrators and classroom teachers. The program works with a child’s home and learning community toward the ultimate goal for all students to read at grade level by the end of third grade. The program is managed and disseminated by the non-profit data and research company Education Analytics, Inc.
Future Forward tutors are paid, professional team members extensively trained in our proven curriculum, with prior experience working successfully with young children. Tutors are trained and supervised by Program Managers, who are state-certified educators or youth-serving professionals who support high-quality lesson planning and program implementation through observation, data collection, and regular ongoing professional development. Additionally, Family Engagement Coordinators work with every child enrolled in the program and are a coequal part of our program model, aligned with research indicating increased caregiver engagement in children’s schooling is connected to early literacy gains and significant decreases in chronic absenteeism. Family Engagement Coordinators promote literacy in the home and in the community, providing a safe, supportive space for students to develop confidence and self-esteem. They are in regular contact with caregivers through events, home visits, social media, written communication, phone calls, and any other method of outreach a family prefers.
Future Forward was designed for students from kindergarten through 3rd grade who are reading below grade level. Students work one-on-one with a dedicated, trained tutor for 30 minutes three times per week. Families are also connected with a trained Family Engagement Coordinator who provides supplemental support material, conducts monthly family literacy events, and assists and supports the school/ family relationship.
Future Forward is not technology dependent. We have a variety of technology resources to support student learning, however, and are able to serve students virtually if that is preferred for a school community. Program management and data tracking occurs through a customized online administrative platform that allows prompt access for administrators to monitor learning throughout a student’s engagement with the program.
Future Forward’s curriculum is aligned with the science of reading and focuses on building phonological awareness in our earliest emerging readers. Our program model introduces and reinforces each of the essential components of reading through a systematic, explicit, engaging scope and sequence based on each child’s individual mastery and need for reinforcement with each skill. This direct instruction is reinforced through family engagement, which bridges learning with natural, fun, home-based activities.
Students in Future Forward begin their engagement with the program with a brief literacy survey (Renaissance Learning’s STAR Early Literacy screener) to benchmark their growth. Throughout their engagement with the program, tutoring sessions regularly assess student fluency and comprehension through natural, embedded formative evaluations including regular running records, “spell checks” that verify alignment to and mastery of material, writing activities, and tracking of skills.
Future Forward is embedded in the school learning community, requiring a dedicated learning space for tutors to work one-on-one with their students. The Future Forward classroom is a fun, exciting, special place for students to meet with “their” tutor, with whom they quickly build strong relationships. All lessons are designed to promote growth mindset, and tutor engagement with students focuses on the child’s skills, mastery, ability, and progress without highlighting deficits. This emphasis is also a key part of our family engagement, where caregivers are explicitly given support in various social-emotional skills they can promote naturally in their homes. All engagement with families emphasizes our core values that parents are a child’s first, best teacher and all families fundamentally want what’s best for their children. Our team is trained to look for success and lift up good practice even if families may not have identified their own actions as explicitly supporting their child’s literacy.
Professional Development, Progress Monitoring, and Follow-up
All Program Managers and Family Engagement Coordinators receive 40 hours of initial training from national staff, either in-person or virtually. Regional Coordinators help hire, train, and provide ongoing management, professional development, and programmatic support for Program Managers, Family Engagement Coordinators, and Tutors as needed. Local team members can be hired directly by schools/ districts, in partnership with a community partner of the school/ district’s preference, or directly by the national Future Forward team. Throughout the program, lessons and student progress are tracked through the online management platform and used to monitor progress and appropriate curriculum delivery. Regular observations are conducted and used along with student engagement and implementation monitoring data to provide ongoing support and professional development for tutors.
One study of Future Forward met ProvenTutoring standards for low-achieving students (Jones 2015). This randomized study, published in the School and Community Journal, took place in schools mostly serving Black students in Milwaukee, and found an effect size of +0.51 for reading achievement. A second randomized study, including a different set of students, examined impacts for all students, not just low achieving students. This study, published in the Journal for Students Placed at Risk, also found strong impacts (ES = +0.23). Other promising results come from both a follow-up study looking at impacts 5 years after program participation, where students maintained a sustained impact on reading achievement (ES = +0.19). A more recent randomized study also found significant impacts on student attendance for low achievers, with students participating in FutureForward tutoring attending school more often than comparison students (ES = +0.13).
Extend to Which Future Forward Will be Evaluated on an Ongoing Basis
All students involved with Future Forward begin the program and end their engagement with a brief reading level assessment from Renaissance Learning, the STAR Early Literacy screener. This reliable and validated, computer-adaptive assessment is designed explicitly for young learners and is used for progress monitoring throughout each student’s engagement in the program. Additionally, Future Forward’s structured curriculum integrates regular formative reading assessments in each week’s tutoring. In their initial tutoring session, students are given reading passage and comprehension assessments are given to determine their appropriate reading level. Tutors have students read passages and answer questions about the passage until a student’s instructional reading level is determined. The child regularly assessed as an embedded part of the lesson on their instructional reading level, the highest level at which a reader is not independent, but has adequate background knowledge for a topic, and can access text quickly and with only a few errors. In Future Forward, a fluency score between 90-94% as assessed by running record is considered instructional. The score on the comprehension questions must also be considered when determine a student’s reading level. A score of less than 80% on the comprehension may mean the concepts in the text are too complex and a lower reading level is needed. Each child’s instructional reading level is recorded and tracked every week.
How the evidence-based intervention will specifically address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on certain groups of students
The one-on-one structure of Future Forward coupled with its entirely customized and individualized curriculum for each student allows tutors to identify and address the unique needs of every student. Future Forward has demonstrated disproportionate success among most disadvantaged students, with studies indicating Black male students from low income households significantly more impacted particularly with regard to school day attendance.
Data sources the SEA will use to determine the impact of lost instructional time
All students enrolled in Future Forward receive an initial assessment using the valid and reliable STAR Early Literacy screener. Additionally, their instructional reading level is regularly assessed by their tutor. These serve as the primary baseline data points tutors use to build their skill and adapt instruction to meet each child’s unique learning needs. Ongoing assessment continues throughout the program to ensure students are progressing or practicing skills that need reinforcement depending on their individual growth; all of this is regularly shared with each child’s caregiver and classroom teacher by dedicated Family Engagement Coordinators and Program Managers. Before a child exits Future Forward, they again complete a STAR Early Literacy assessment to benchmark and ensure they have met proficiency gains sufficient to maintain their progress as grade-level readers (or beyond!).
The extent to which the SEA will use funds it reserves to identify and engage 1) students who have missed the most in-person instruction during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years; and 2) students who did not consistently participate in remote instruction when offered during school building closures.
Future Forward’s individualized approach to serving students and regularly and engaging with families in a dedicated, methodical manner make it an ideal program for serving students who have missed the most in-person instruction. Future Forward has been proven most effective at serving the most struggling readers, including those referred by their families and/ or classroom teachers who are best positioned to identify children’s challenges with reading. Children enrolled in Future Forward demonstrate significantly improved school day attendance and reduction in chronic absenteeism, effectively addressing one of the key needs of young people who missed significant amounts of schooling during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. Additionally, a challenge of remote instruction for many struggling young readers exists around making and maintaining meaningful connections through the computer screen. Each child’s dedicated one-on-one tutor is trained in growth mindset and relationship building, leading to a sense of joy and excitement around the learning process that encourages school day attendance and engagement with learning. Further, as connections between school, Future Forward, and home are strengthened, caregiver engagement in student attendance increases, helping ensure children are present for significantly more school days.