Study: ‘Short Burst’ Tutoring in Literacy Shows Promise for Young Readers

The 74

Small, regular interactions with a reading tutor — about 5 to 7 minutes — are making a big impact on young students’ reading skills, new Stanford University research shows.

First graders in Florida’s Broward County schools who participated in the program, called Chapter One, saw more substantial gains in reading fluency than those who didn’t receive the support, according to the study. They were also 9 percentage points less likely to be considered at risk on a district literacy test.

Chapter One, which combines one-on-one tutoring with computer-based activities, also costs a fraction of other programs — about $500 annually per student — compared with programs that can run six times that amount. That aspect could make it easier for districts to continue providing students with that support once federal relief funds expire later this year. 

The program’s “short burst” model “leverages all the knowledge that we have about what works to help children learn to read,” said Susanna Loeb, who leads the National Student Support Accelerator at Stanford University, a leading tutoring research center. 

Chapter One curriculum materials are based on solid reading research, Loeb said. The fact that students work with the same tutor all school year and that the format fits young children’s short attention spans are also strong features of the program, she added.

“By embedding a well-supported tutor in the classroom, they are giving students the personalized, relationship-driven instructional approach that really seems to work,” she said.