England is launching a national tutoring program. Could the U.S. follow suit?


By Matt Barnum

The English government has set aside “catch-up” funds for schools, including 350 million pounds — or about $450 million — for a national tutoring program targeted at students from low-income families. That money would fund recent college graduates employed by public schools and also existing tutoring organizations.

The tutoring is expected to be conducted both virtually and in person. It’s appealing to policymakers now because there is plenty of both supply (recent college graduates and others looking for work) and demand (students who lost learning). It’s also appealing because research really does back intensive tutoring as a way to help students make big learning gains, though notably, most studies look at in-person rather than virtual tutoring.

It’s not clear how many students England’s program will actually serve or precisely how the funds will be targeted. The tutoring funding amounts to roughly $50 per student in the country’s state-funded schools.

“It’s a huge investment, and they are light years ahead of where our federal government is,” said Matt Kraft, a Brown University professor who has studied tutoring. But, he said, “It’s not going to buy you anything close to high-dosage tutoring for anywhere near a sizable chunk of the population.”

That’s prompted criticism that the English government hasn’t allocated enough money for its catch-up campaign. By comparison, the U.S. federal government hasn’t provided any money specifically for this purpose. Negotiations in Congress over additional funding for schools fell apart last week, at a time when many states are already cutting education budgets due the pandemic recession and districts are scrambling to figure out what the next school year will look like.

“I think, frankly, most districts and states are overwhelmed with the task of simply figuring out how to open schools safely if at all,” said Kraft.


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