Classroom Tech Outpaces Research. Why That’s a Problem

Education Week

Classroom tools and technology are changing too fast for traditional research to keep up without significant support to identify best practices and get them into the classroom.

That was the consensus of state education leaders, equity advocates, and ed-tech experts at a symposium on the future of education research and development, held to standing-room-only on Capitol Hill Thursday.


Mays pointed to the move to focus federal pandemic relief money on tutoring programs whose design showed evidence of effectiveness, such as individual or very small groups, and using an aligned curriculum in sessions at least three times a week. This model differed from tutoring provided under the No Child Left Behind Act’s supplemental education services, which were repeatedly found to have no benefit for student achievement—in part because programs varied significantly from district to district.

Richard Culatta, chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education, said education technology is changing classroom practices too quickly for educators to depend on a traditional research grant cycle.


“A five-year [randomized controlled trial] is not going to be very helpful right now, when apps and [artificial intelligence] are changing very quickly and every two weeks there’s a completely new set of functionality,” Culatta said. “We’ve got to think about new approaches to doing that research.”


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Mentioned Publication

Key Considerations for Designing High-Impact Tutoring Programs: Learning from NCLB Supplemental Education Services

Researchers, across multiple studies, find that tutoring can dramatically accelerate student achievement in both math and reading. However, previous efforts to expand access to tutoring through federally-mandated Supplemental Education Services (SES) under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 show little to no effect on student outcomes. Now with over a billion dollars in federal covid-relief funding slated for tutoring, what can we learn from districts’ experiences with SES to do better this time, so that this new tutoring lives up to its promise for students? 

This brief draws on a systematic review of research to highlight ways that districts can improve current tutoring implementation using knowledge gained from SES. 

Key Takeaways

Districts can design tutoring programs to foster instructional quality, student engagement, and student learning.

  • Integrate tutoring into the school day to maximize access for students who could benefit the most.
  • Ensure that students have access to tutoring services as part of their regular academic support without requiring parental opt-in.
  • Establish a budget to allow tutoring to occur 3-5 times a week over an extended period of time for a focus group of students.
  • Identify an instructional strategy that supports differentiated tutoring instruction with a focus on students’ assets and needs.
  • If partnering with external tutoring providers, construct a request for proposals (RFP) to gather information on providers’ instructional approaches and monitor implementation to assure quality instruction.