Proof Points: Tutoring isn’t wasted on teens

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By Jill Barshay

Everyone is worried about the year of lost learning but there’s less consensus among politicians and policymakers on what to do about it. Academic researchers keep finding evidence that daily tutoring might be the best way to help students catch up after the pandemic.
 
Previous reviews of research have shown more promise for tutoring elementary school aged children. Yet the latest study, “Not Too Late: Improving Academic Outcomes Among Adolescents,” released March 8, 2021, found giant gains in math for Chicago high school students.
Read the column
Key Findings 
  • High school students can learn two to three times as much math as their peers from a daily dose of tutoring at school in addition to their usual algebra class.
  • That’s enough to bring a ninth grader who entered high school with only a seventh grade math level back up to grade level.
Teacher Takeaway 
  • “It’s not once-a-week homework help,” said Jonathan Guryan, an economist at Northwestern University, one of the study’s authors.
  • Tutoring appears to be effective if it’s every day or almost every day; if it’s during the school day rather than after school, and if there is a detailed tutoring curriculum. Tutors are trained, coached and monitored.
  • In the study, the tutoring cost less than $4,000 per student because the tutors were recent college grads rather than certified teachers.
Lit Review 
  1. Jonathan Guryan, Jens Ludwig, Monica P. Bhatt, Philip J. Cook, Jonathan M.V. Davis, Kenneth Dodge, George Farkas, Roland G. Fryer Jr, Susan Mayer, Harold Pollack, and Laurence Steinberg (March 2021) Not Too Late: Improving Academic Outcomes Among Adolescents National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 28531
  2. Andre Nickow Philip Oreopoulos Vincent Quan (July 2020) The Impressive Effects Of Tutoring On Prek-12 Learning: A Systematic Review And Meta-analysis Of The Experimental Evidence National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 27476
  3. Slavin, Robert. A Synthesis of Quantitative Research on Programs For Struggling Readers in Elementary Schools (submitted for publication, posted on the Best Evidence Encyclopedia website)
  4. Slavin, Robert. Effective Programs in Elementary Mathematics: A Meta-Analysis (submitted for publication, posted on the Best Evidence Encyclopedia website)
  5. Carly D. Robinson, Matthew A. Kraft,  Susanna Loeb, Beth E. Schueler (February 2021) Accelerating Student Learning With High-dosage Tutoring.
  6. Fryer, Roland G., Jr. “The Production of Human Capital in Developed Countries: Evidence from 196 Randomized Field Experiments,” NBER Working Paper No. 22130, issued in March 2016.
  7. Roseanna Ander, Jonathan Guryan, Jens Ludwig (2016) Improving Academic Outcomes for Disadvantaged Students: Scaling Up Individualized Tutorials. The Hamilton Project.
  8. Roland G. Fryer J, Howard-Noveck M. High-Dosage Tutoring and Reading Achievement: Evidence from New York City. Journal of Labor Economics. Forthcoming.
  9. Bloom, B. S. 1984. “The 2-Stigma Problem: The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as Effective as One-On-One Tutoring.” Educational Researcher 13 (6): 4–16.
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