ASSISTments Foundation is Awarded $8 Million Federal Grant to Scale and Expand Tutoring Technology for Pandemic Recovery

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Worcester, Mass. - Jan 14, 2022 The ASSISTments Foundation (TAF) - in partnership with Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), WestEd and The Friday Institute - has been awarded an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program to support learning acceleration and recovery from COVID-related learning-loss among K-12 students.

This five-year grant, led by TAF Co-Founder and Executive Director Cristina Heffernan, will be used to further develop ASSISTments’ innovative tutoring technology, which leverages teacher- and student-facing tools for core instruction. This project will focus on high-needs middle school math students and their teachers at more than 150 schools. 

ASSISTments is a math practice and assessment tool essential to the effective implementation of high-quality core math curriculum. The platform supports students with immediate feedback during independent practice. It also provides teachers with robust and actionable data, empowering them to target class instruction, monitor learning, and intervene quickly to keep students on track. 

ASSISTments experienced dramatic growth in demand and teacher users since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching more than 20,000 teachers and 550,000 unique students across all 50 states during the 2020-21 school year. The ASSISTments team has expanded the platform’s capabilities to support tutoring, ensuring tutors have access to real-time learning data to plan sessions targeted to student needs and aligned with core curriculum and instruction

The EIR grant will allow ASSISTments to drastically scale up the reach and impact potential of human tutoring, which is the single most talked about evidence-based intervention to help alleviate COVID-19 learning loss, while working to improve the user experience and develop new product features. TAF will extend its tutoring infrastructure with features to support program administration, enhance tutoring sessions with artificial intelligence (AI) support, and train tutors on intervention methodology to increase student autonomy.

“We are excited and humbled to support schools across the country, particularly in high-need areas, to recover from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic and accelerate student math learning. This grant will allow us to expand cutting-edge intervention technology and support the adoption of high-quality curriculum with tutoring aligned with core instruction,” Heffernan said.

As part of this grant, TAF is collaborating with WPI, which will lead the development of artificial intelligence features; WestEd, which will direct program evaluation; and The Friday Institute, which will develop and evaluate professional learning for tutors.

TAF was founded by the husband-and-wife team of Neil Heffernan, William Smith Dean Professor of Computer Science at WPI, and Cristina Heffernan, a former math teacher. The organization was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 2019 after more than 16 years of incubation and sponsorship by WPI, where Neil Heffernan has been the recipient of more than $50 million in federal grants.

Human tutoring is limited by high costs, a required investment of oversight and administrative time, and difficulties aligning intervention with core instruction. There is no existing program like ASSISTments that is focused on connecting tutors to core curriculum and providing AI-enabled support for tutoring driven by data from teacher instruction and previous tutoring sessions.

ASSISTments is one of only a handful of proven interventions in the United States for math. A 2019 federal research review found an independent efficacy trial of ASSISTments met the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) standards “without reservation,” earning the tool a Tier 1 rating from Evidence for ESSA. The study showed with consistent teacher use over two years, students experienced a 75% increase in learning. A follow-up WWC report released in January 2021 highlighted ASSISTments as one of only four top rated programs for distance learning. 

About the ASSISTments Foundation

The ASSISTments Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 2019 with generous funding from the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative and Schmidt Futures, and sponsored by Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). The organization is dedicated to scaling the reach and impact of ASSISTments in classrooms nationwide, driven by the belief that every student deserves the opportunity to be good at math. The ASSISTments Foundation works with WPI to conduct cutting edge research on the learning sciences.

Media contact:
Kristyn Manoukian

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