Can short daily tutoring sessions help CMS kids read? Researchers are watching

WFAE 90.7

What’s high-dosage tutoring?

The “high dosage” label applies to frequency and intensity of tutoring, but there’s a lot of variation: An adult can work with one child or a handful. Tutors can be volunteers or trained educators. Sessions can be daily or a few times a week, and they can take place during or outside school hours.

The Once approach, designed by California parents and educators who helped their kids learn to read from home during remote classes, involves 15-minute in-person sessions every day, with the same adult seeing the same kids consistently during the school day. Each session incorporates the strategies known as the science of reading: Teaching children the sounds of letters, combining them to make words, building vocabulary and putting it all together for fluent reading.

Once CEO Matt Pasternack, a former teacher who moved into education technology, acknowledges that’s expensive and labor-intensive. He estimates CMS would have spent $200,000 for this year’s pilot, which involves 400 children. But Stanford’s National Student Support Accelerator, which specializes in research into tutoring, has a grant from Accelerate to cover this year’s costs for participating schools in CMS, Nashville and South Bend, Indiana.

Pasternack hopes to end the year with new clients — and eventually independent research that shows Once gets results.

“Let’s do one year, and let’s make it go really really well, and give the foundation so next year when those kids walk into first grade they’re reading off the board, they’re reading worksheets, they’re reading books in class, they’re reading books to take home. They are on their way to the journey to being readers,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

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