Do Teachers Support High-Impact Tutoring? A Survey Experiment

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, tutoring has increasingly become a popular tool for learning recovery. By the end of the 2021-22 school year, 23 states (including the District of Columbia) initiated or passed legislation mandating or encouraging tutoring initiatives, and federal pandemic relief funds were made available for school districts to spend directly on tutoring programs. This is all for good reason: over 100 randomized controlled trials show that high-impact tutoring is one of the most effective ways to accelerate student learning.

For tutoring to be a sustainable and effective strategy, however, teachers need to be bought-in and support the practice. Despite the influx of policymakers and educational leaders pushing for schools to adopt the intervention, we know little about how teachers feel about tutoring. For example, research has focused extensively on the benefits of tutoring for students, but teachers may also experience benefits of their own when their students receive personalized tutoring. On the other hand, teacher may not be supportive of tutoring programs due to competing priorities and a fear that tutoring may deplete school resources. We studied the extent to which teachers report supporting tutoring as a pandemic recovery strategy. In doing so, we explored what influences teachers’ perceptions about tutoring. We tested whether teachers were more supportive of tutoring when they considered the benefits of the intervention for themselves or for their students. We also examined what types of benefits teachers report, and whether teachers were more or less likely to support tutoring if it was offered to all students versus academically struggling students.

In this memo, we address the following three questions:

  1. How supportive are teachers of personalized tutoring for students?
  2. What do teachers believe are the primary benefits of tutoring?
  3. What drives teachers’ support for tutoring?

We found that teachers generally support tutoring and consistently ranked it as one of their top choices for addressing student learning loss. Teachers were more likely to prioritize tutoring when they considered the benefits for students, as opposed to themselves. However, even when asked to consider how tutoring might help them personally, teachers tend to focus on the advantages for their students. Additionally, teachers view tutoring as most beneficial when it targets academically struggling students, although those who acknowledge the non-academic benefits of tutoring  (e.g., academic benefits, social-emotional learning benefits, etc.) see more potential for tutoring to help all students.

Our findings have implications for how district leaders design and introduce high impact tutoring initiatives to teachers. First, leaders who want to implement a tutoring program may want to use teachers as allies. Second, sharing how a tutoring program will positively impact students may be the most effective way to promote buy-in among teachers. We find that teachers’ support for tutoring appears to be driven, first and foremost, by the learning gains academically struggling students may be able to make if they are paired with a tutor.