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Major Gift Supports OU’s Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education in Tutoring for Oklahoma Students

Major Gift Supports OU’s Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education in Tutoring for Oklahoma Students

December 20, 2021

The University of Oklahoma Transformative Tutoring Initiative, a two-year pilot program providing select high school students with high-dosage math tutoring aimed at closing learning gaps, has received nearly $3 million from Randall and Lenise Stephenson. The gift funds both the tutoring implementation, which began in fall 2021, and research analysis of its results.

“This generous and groundbreaking gift from Randall and Lenise Stephenson embodies the spirit of our university’s life-changing purpose,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “Because of their vision, so many Oklahoma high school students will now have access to a robust tutoring program at a critical time in their educational journey, helping open doors of opportunity and changing their lives for the better.”

Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education Dean Stacy Reeder is overseeing the pilot and its evaluation.

“Our goal for this project over the two years is two-fold,” Reeder said. “First, is to develop the best tutoring program we can, combining our expertise with that of our school partners. Second, is to study the impact of the tutoring program on student learning outcomes. We want to know at the end of the two years what a high-dosage tutoring program might look like for Oklahoma schools, with the hope it can be scaled up to include a larger number of students across the state. Students across the nation, and especially in Oklahoma, struggle in mathematics. The impact will be profound if we find that this tutoring intervention is the thing that can make a difference.”

The Stephensons – both Oklahoma natives and products of Oklahoma’s public education system – are committed to doing their part to ensure Oklahoma students continue to experience the wide-open opportunities available only through quality education. OU’s TTI pilot is based on a similar program implemented by the University of Chicago’s Education Lab, which the Stephensons shared with Dean Reeder.

“When it comes to investing in education, the resources have traditionally been directed into the area of early childhood education,” Randall Stephenson said. “However, we do not have the luxury as a society to simply ignore those students in the ninth, 10th or 11th grades who have fallen behind due to the pandemic or other reasons. This problem has become too big to ignore and time is of the essence. The TTI is all about finding scalable cost-effective approaches to helping Oklahoma schools accelerate the learning process and ensuring all students leave prepared for the workplace or college. We are so excited by the work Stacy Reeder and her team are doing in this area.”

Based on needs and Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education partnerships, Santa Fe South High School, a charter school in urban Oklahoma City, and Noble High School, a nearby rural public school, were identified to be included in the pilot program. The differing demographics of these schools allow for a broader scope of research.

“The tutoring initiative provides our students with hands-on support at a 2:1 ratio, which would be virtually impossible in a public school setting without this partnership,” said Mary Mazariegos, Santa Fe South High School principal. “We are grateful to OU, the generous donor family who has made this possible and the college students who have chosen to invest in our students.”

Cristina Moershel, director of tutoring for the Transformative Tutoring Initiative’s pilot program, is leading the classroom implementation. She aims to have 60 tutors working with 120 high school students in the first year. In the second year, an additional 40 tutors and 80 students will be added, for a total of 100 tutors working with 200 high school students across the two schools.

“As a previous urban high school math teacher, I would have loved for my students to have this opportunity to work with tutors,” Moershel said. “The small-group setting has benefited all the students, and we have really seen a change in the math language students have been using and the confidence to ask questions. The individualized attention provides a great opportunity for students to grow and recover time lost to COVID-19. I am excited to see how much growth the students show in the spring.”

Throughout the summer of 2022, OU Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Assistant Professor Daniel Hamlin and two faculty researchers from the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education will review data collected during the first year of the pilot program and report on initial findings.

“Few math interventions during high school have shown as much promise as high-dosage tutoring has,” Hamlin said. “The Transformative Tutoring Initiative is an exciting opportunity to conduct a fairly large, randomized controlled trial of high-dosage tutoring in ninth-grade math in Oklahoma. The results of the study have the potential to be a springboard for statewide tutoring initiatives targeting high school students in need of academic support.”

A final report summarizing outcomes from the two-year trial will be finalized by early 2023. If the trial returns statistically significant and positive results, or if the trial reveals a promising yet different educational intervention for high school students, the OU TTI team and the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education will work to secure additional funding and support for a more robust and sustainable program.

About the University of Oklahoma

Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. OU serves the educational, cultural, economic and health care needs of the state, region and nation. For more information visit

About the University of Oklahoma Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education

The Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education aspires to become a diverse and inclusive community of learners who engage in transformative scholarship with and in communities to advance justice and promote human dignity. To learn more, visit

About the University of Oklahoma Foundation

The University of Oklahoma Foundation is an independent not-for-profit corporation that encourages and supports charitable giving for the benefit of the University of Oklahoma. The Foundation acts as the principal organization through which those gifts are made and administered for the benefit of the University. The sole reason for its existence is to serve the University of Oklahoma and the generous donors who support the University. To learn more about the University of Oklahoma Foundation, visit