The Case for a National Student Tutoring System

Education Next

The substantial learning loss wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic has spurred calls for scaling tutoring programs to catch students up, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

What if we used this moment to make tutoring a permanent part of the public-school landscape?

After all, tutoring is among the most effective education interventions ever studied. The average effect of tutoring programs on academic achievement is larger than roughly 85 percent of other education interventions and equivalent to moving a student at the 35th percentile of the achievement distribution to the 50th. Private tutoring services now constitute a $47 billion industry in the United States, one analysis shows. Yet access to tutoring remains inherently unequal because it is only broadly available to those who can afford it.

What would it take to create equal access to tutoring for students regardless of family income, race, or ethnicity? In a new working paper, we envision one approach to scaling tutoring nationally. Our idea is to extend the K-12 school year for students by 100 hours, or 30 minutes a day, and use this additional time to accelerate students’ learning in reading and math with tutors working with two to four students.


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