Lessons from TFA’s Virtual Tutoring Program in Battling Learning Loss

The 74

America’s students are in the middle of summer slide — learning loss that takes place each year over vacation. Research shows students forget 25% to 30% of what they learned the previous year during their summer vacation. The loss is especially pronounced for children from low-income communities and students of color.

This year, the summer slide comes on top of the adverse effects of two years of interrupted learning. One study found that as the school year ended a few weeks ago, students at high-poverty schools who stayed remote for most of the 2020-21 school year had lost 12 weeks — three months — of instruction. Black and Latino students lost four to five more weeks of learning than their wealthy white peers.

School districts must act urgently to ensure that all students can make meaningful progress this school year. One solution: high-quality, high-dose and small-group tutoring, a proven tool to accelerate learning and set students up for long-term success. Recently, the Biden administration announced an initiative led by AmeriCorps and the U.S. Department of Education to bring 250,000 tutors to American schools and new resources for local governments launching tutoring programs. As school administrators consider how to combat learning loss — and use available federal funds to support their efforts — they should put tutoring programs at the top of their list.

Teach For America, the organization I lead, launched a tutoring initiative in fall 2020 following research that shows that high-dose, high-quality tutoring is one of the most effective ways to combat learning loss. One study that looked at the impact of having a well-trained tutor meet three times a week with a group of up to four students found it came close to providing the equivalent of nearly five months of learning. A 2021 meta-analysis from researchers at Brown University concluded tutoring has a more significant effect on student achievement than smaller class sizes, vacation or summer classes and longer school days or years.


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