Last fall, Florida’s Duval County Schools pegged 450 eighth graders who were off-track for high school algebra to take part in an ambitious new tutoring effort.
The results caused a stir among principals. By the end of April, nearly half the students did well enough on tests to skip a second year in lower-level math.
“Some of the schools we targeted typically don’t see high performance,” said Jasmine Milner, the director of K-12 math in the district, which includes Jacksonville.
That’s what the district hoped when it entered into what is known as an outcomes-based contract with FEV Tutor, which provides virtual, one-on-one sessions during the school day. The company stood to make more money for better results — as much as $750 per student more, over a base of $670, depending on the amount of progress. Proponents of the model, more common in the health care and energy industries, say it increases accountability for both providers and school districts.
“It ups the stakes for everybody to really pay attention to the data,” said Brittany Miller, who leads a 10-district outcomes-based initiative at Southern Education Foundation, a nonprofit focused on equity.
With research showing that far fewer students took advantage of online tutoring than districts expected, the outcomes-based model is one way to ensure districts use public funds wisely. “In education, we can pay for things a long time before we realize no children are participating in it,” Miller said.