Research shows that tutoring, particularly high dosage tutoring where students receive multiple 30- to 60-minute sessions per week, is effective in helping students who have fallen behind, according to a report from the Annenberg Institute at Brown University.

When considering how schools can best support middle and high schoolers struggling with either the foundational skills of reading or reading comprehension, experts point to a research-backed strategy that can help close academic gaps: high-impact tutoring.

The term refers to an intensive form of tutoring that is offered through a school, is informed by data on individual students’ needs, aligns to classroom work, and can be effective in getting students to grade level faster. Yet few districts have been able to implement that kind of programming prior to the pandemic because of such challenges as cost and staff shortages. New federal relief funds are helping more districts explore the possibility.

Studies are few and mixed about the effectiveness of online versus in-person tutoring, but “many districts are struggling to recruit a sufficient number of tutors locally – especially those districts in rural areas or those that are focusing on higher-level or more technical courses such as calculus. While in-person tutoring may be preferred, for some locations and courses virtual is the best option,” Susanna Loeb, director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University and education professor, tells SmartBrief.

Consider Saga Education, the high-dosage math tutoring program we founded and lead. About 30 percent of our tutoring fellows – recent college graduates and seasoned professionals alike – have used their work with us as springboards to jobs in the classroom. Most arrive with no training or experience in education, only an aptitude for algebra and an eagerness to support students. After being embedded in a school for a year or more, many discover a passion for teaching they never knew they had.

“Many educators are understandably exhausted from these past 18 months of school disruptions,” said Susanna Loeb, director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University. “Implementing a new program — no matter how much funding is available for it or how much research supports its effectiveness — takes effort.”

High-dosage/low ratio tutoring has “consistently proven to accelerate achievement as quickly as possible” for all students regardless of their demographics, age, or whether they are from rural, suburban or urban areas, said Penny Schwinn, the state’s education commissioner. 

Indeed, research shows that tutoring programs that serve children in small groups with regular, frequent sessions can increase learning by up to 10 months, according to a synthesis of research by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

Relationships like that take time to develop. “It is often easier to train a tutor on content than it is to train a tutor on relationship-building and tutoring approach,” Susanna Loeb, director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University and education professor, tells SmartBrief, noting that content knowledge is more of a factor when working with upper-grade math students or multilingual students. 

Dr. Carly Robinson, a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, shares the research and best practices school systems should use in their tutoring strategy this year to address unfinished learning from COVID-19. Haughton Elementary School in Bossier Parish is spotlighted during the What’s Making Me Smile segment for their fun and engaging instruction.

Millions of students, including those with disabilities, have experienced interrupted instruction due to school closures and shifts between remote and hybrid learning models. This webisode discussed the role that evidence-based tutoring programs can play within a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) to address a range of student needs and accelerate learning for all students and with an emphasis on students with disabilities. Jen Krajewski from ProvenTutoring and Dr.