Research Priorities

Contracting relationships between public school districts and vendors are a common feature of education provision in the United States. Contracted services in schools can range from broad, essential functions such as school meals, bussing, and janitorial services to more specialized services such as the analysis of student data, curriculum mapping, and professional development for staff members. The strength of these contracting relationships depends on vendors providing consistent services and on payment between vendors and districts. Providers are paid with public funds, and communities may expect clear oversight of contracts and transparency about their effects on valued outcomes. Transparency also can help districts make decisions about whether or not to continue contracts with providers.

NSSA 2023 Conference

Join this invitation-only gathering of researchers, district, state, and higher education leaders, tutoring providers, and funders to:

  • Learn about implications of recent research findings and innovative and sustainable practices in tutoring;
  • Explore successful state and district strategies for scaling and sustainability; and
  • Make connections with education leaders in the field.

Research consistently shows that tutoring helps students learn, with numerous studies confirming its strong benefits. Driven by this evidence, policymakers and educational leaders nationwide are investing in tutoring initiatives. However “tutoring” can mean various types of educational support, and tutoring programs can differ significantly in their characteristics and effectiveness.

What led to the rapid spread and adoption of tutoring as a solution? What will it take to bring tutoring to the scale? And what can the science of advocacy teach us about how other policy ideas might follow a similar path? In this AdvocacyLabs webinar, FutureEd Policy Director Liz Cohen will moderate a discussion with panelists including Stanford University Professor Susanna Loeb, JerseyCAN Executive Director Paula White, and 50CAN CEO Marc Porter Magee.

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.

As excitement grows around tutoring as a strategy to combat learning loss, advocates have rightly been encouraged by the growing body of evidence demonstrating the efficacy of tutoring interventions. To date, however, little research has examined the impact of fully virtual tutoring on very young students. Hardly a technicality, this distinction matters because younger children are less likely to have the technical and self-regulation skills upon which virtual learning depends. Now, a new study by researchers from Stanford, Vanderbilt, and UnboundED analyzes the benefits of virtual tutoring specifically for early elementary students.

Less than a third of Colorado eighth-graders score proficiently in math. So, Colorado has invested heavily in high-impact tutoring programs — $20 million allocated in federal and state dollars since the pandemic. Colorado was also one of five states to get a $1 million grant from Accelerate, a nonprofit that aims to make 

Tutoring is a win-win job for college and K-12 students, but the question remains how best to connect college students who need these jobs with the paid tutoring positions available. In a recent working paper with colleagues, we report on a randomized controlled trial that tested whether highlighting the different benefits of a tutoring job can drive changes in tutor applications and employment. We partnered with Grand Valley State University (GVSU) to recruit paid tutors for a campus initiative started in 2020 to support Michigan K-12 students. Tutoring at GVSU was not only a paid position—it was a highly paid position on campus. Tutors could earn up to $17.70 per hour, the highest rate in the GVSU student hourly wage range and well above the state minimum wage at the time of the study ($10.10).

College students make job decisions without complete information. As a result, they may rely on misleading heuristics (“interesting jobs pay badly”) and pursue options misaligned with their goals. We test whether highlighting job characteristics changes decision making. We find increasing the salience of a job’s monetary benefits increases the likelihood college students apply by 196%. In contrast, emphasizing prosocial, career, or social benefits has no effect, despite students identifying these benefits as primary motivators for applying. The study highlights the detrimental incongruencies in students’ decision making alongside a simple strategy for recruiting college students to jobs that offer enriching experiences.

Those efforts have helped pay dividends for attendance, too. In the second study, released earlier this month, researchers with Stanford University’s National Student Support Accelerator found that students are 7 percent less likely to be absent on days they have scheduled tutoring sessions. The study, conducted over the 2022-23 school year, examined absenteeism rates of 4,478 students in 141 schools in the District of Columbia.

“There are lots of reasons why students are absent. Being disengaged in school is one reason,” said Nancy Waymack, the director of partnerships and policy at the NSSA."Tutoring is one way that students can have one more meaningful relationship in school. Tutoring can be one tool to move the needle in the right direction.”

Two years have passed since the educational landscape embraced high-dosage tutoring as a pivotal strategy for enhancing K-12 student learning and achievement. This panel revisits the concept with fresh insights, assessing its long-term effects and the evolution of best practices in the wake of continued research and on-the-ground experiences. We'll delve into how high-dosage tutoring has been adapted and scaled across diverse educational settings, the challenges faced, and the successes achieved. Experts will share innovative approaches for integrating tutoring into the curriculum, leveraging technology to enhance accessibility, and evaluating the impact on both academic and socio-emotional student outcomes. Whether you're looking to refine your existing tutoring program or are curious about the latest developments in this dynamic field, this discussion will offer valuable perspectives on supporting student success through targeted instruction. Join us to explore the next chapter of high-dosage tutoring and its role in shaping future educational practices.


Preliminary research recently released by Stanford University’s National Student Support Accelerator, which is conducting various tutoring studies, found that D.C. students who participated in an intensive tutoring program were more likely to show up to school on days they had a scheduled session. Overall, the likelihood they’d miss school on tutoring days fell by 7%, researchers found.

Students were less likely to be absent on days when they had a scheduled tutoring session, according to study by National Student Support Accelerator at Stanford University.

PALO ALTO, C.A., March 1, 2024 – Schools nationwide are grappling with significant challenges related to student absenteeism. In response, D.C. schools along with many other states and school districts have implemented strategies ranging from texting interventions to home visits. D.C. schools have also prioritized mitigating pandemic-related learning losses through the widespread adoption of high-impact tutoring programs. High-impact tutoring seeks to develop strong relationships between students and their tutors in order to increase student motivation and engagement in their academic coursework, but could also benefit attendance.

The study identifies "high-dosage" tutoring as "programs with four or fewer students working with the same tutor for at least 30 minutes during the school day, three times a week for at least several months."

The study report, "Learning Curve: Lessons from the Tutoring Revolution in Public Education," examines three school systems that met the challenge successfully. It also discusses the role of AI in tutoring and how to fund successful tutoring programs.

The study was researched and written by FutureEd policy director Liz Cohen, in partnership with Stanford University's National Student Support Accelerator.

Cignition, Inc. is proud to partner with educational leaders across the country to offer insight into effective high-impact tutoring implementation. In this edLeader Panel, attendees will hear from decision makers at the district and state levels on why they believe high-impact tutoring is so invaluable for academic intervention. They’ll also:

  • Learn how to integrate tutoring sessions into existing school schedules
  • Understand strategies for selecting students to participate in tutoring
  • Hear how differentiated instruction is the key to results that teachers and parents hope for
  • Review funding sources for high-impact tutoring

Students who participated in Chapter One—a nonprofit tutoring program that serves elementary children in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom—in their first two grades had higher oral-reading fluency and better performance on district reading tests than untutored students, finds a study released this month by the National Student Support Accelerator, which studies ways to scale up effective models for high-intensity tutoring.

Second, a policy framework that supports the growth of genuinely effective high-dosage tutoring. This means direct funding and flexibility to pay for tutoring, which can cost anywhere from under $1,000 to more than $3,000 per student. Policymakers must also require reporting from school districts on tutoring delivery at the student level. The “dosage” piece of high-dosage tutoring is non-negotiable for getting results, so It is unacceptable to pay for services without knowing and reporting which students received exactly how many tutoring sessions. Additionally, policymakers can put guardrails on which types of tutoring and which specific programs are eligible for public funding. Our partners at the National Student Support Accelerator have created excellent guides correlating research-backed principles with student success. And individual programs continue to produce research showing their own efficacy.

How often does it happen that a national policy priority, robust research, and the aspirations of classroom teachers converge? On an issue with bipartisan support, no less? Not very often.

But tutoring is an exception. As many as 80 percent of school districts and charter school organizations have launched tutoring programs to help students rebound from the pandemic.