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Schools across America continue struggling to help their students catch up following unprecedented learning losses resulting from pandemic school closures beginning in March 2020. It is vital—both to address current needs and to stash away for future use—to determine which methods work to boost student achievement. To that end, a group of researchers, led by Stanford University’s Susanna Loeb, recently examined a high-dosage tutoring effort called OnYourMark, a fully virtual model designed to solidify foundational literacy skills for students in kindergarten through second grade.


Intensive, high-dose tutoring can boost early reading skills, even in a virtual format, according to a new experimental study.

Researchers from the National Student Support Accelerator at Stanford University tracked the reading progress of about 2,000 K-2 students in a dozen Texas charter schools. Half of the students were randomly assigned to attend class normally, while half received intensive remote tutoring for part of the school day, in small groups, through the nonprofit group OnYourMark, which serves K-2 students in seven states.


  • In a hopeful sign for early literacy gains, K-2 students who received individual virtual tutoring during the 2022-23 school year showed higher reading test scores than their peers by the end of the year, according to a study released Wednesday by a tutoring research program at Stanford University.
  • The study, which analyzed 2,085 students across 12 Texas charter schools, found students using 1:1 or 2:1 virtual tutoring services performed 1.57 percentile points higher.
  • While the study found positive signs that the online tutoring model boosted reading comprehension for younger students, researchers acknowledged the outcomes from virtual tutoring are “more modest” than from similar in-person tutoring programs. 

“So, high impact tutoring is tutoring that happens with a qualified tutor and that means someone who is trained and is receiving coaching. It also happens frequently. So at least three to 5 times a week, in a small group or one-on-one. It is very personalized,” says Director of Partnerships and Policy for the National Student Support Accelerator Nancy Waymack.


While the virtual program was still less effective than in-person tutoring, the model could be a breakthrough for schools in rural areas and those that have struggled to recruit tutors, Loeb said. Districts’ pandemic recovery efforts have sometimes fallen short because they can’t find trained educators or volunteers to do the job. And research by Loeb and others has found that only a fraction of students who need extra help take advantage of on-demand virtual tutoring programs. 


In the aftermath of COVID-19, learning losses are among the most devastating, persistent consequences of the pandemic. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds were disproportionately impacted, creating both a learning and inequality crisis. Studies from the California School Boards Association and University of Chicago hail high-impact tutoring as a key solution for both issues.

In Guilford County Schools, implementation of high-impact tutoring has produced impressive results. All student groups improved their test proficiency scores this year. 


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.


Districts across the nation use Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) to target appropriate supports for each student. High-impact tutoring is the most effective research-backed academic support – consistently demonstrating from six months to over two years of learning gains for students across grade levels and content areas in a single year of tutoring.

Districts that have chosen to integrate high-impact tutoring with MTSS are finding that embedding this highly effective support into the fabric of their schools improves student outcomes, reduces implementation challenges, improves instructional coherence, and streamlines operations.


According to the U.S. Department of Education’s research arm, high-dose tutoring is the most effective—though often the most expensive.
The National Student Support Accelerator, a Stanford University center that studies effective tutoring, finds that effective high-dose tutoring programs require:

  • Tutoring integrated into the school day to increase tutor-teacher coordination and avoid transportation or time problems for students.
  • Targeting students based on academic need rather than requiring parents to opt into services.
  • Budgeting services for at least three to five days a week for extended periods of time.
  • Differentiated tutoring based on particular student needs and skills.
  • Data-gathering and progress-monitoring, particularly when schools work with outside tutoring providers.

“Research shows that relationship-based, intensive tutoring leads to positive academic growth and student success,” said Susanna Loeb, PhD, Professor at Stanford and Director of the National Student Support Accelerator. “As schools across the country navigate the ongoing challenges that COVID learning loss continues to present three years after its onset, providing educators with streamlined access to tools that support student growth can be greatly beneficial and the reason that we collaborate regularly with Pearl and are part of the Pearl ecosystem of support. Through our frequent conversations with education leaders, we know the benefit of making it easier for schools and students to access the tutoring support they need and for school systems to have the data they need to measure and drive achievement and continuously improve their programs.”