Research Studies

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.

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.

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.

During the 2022-23 school year, Try Once, Inc. (“Once”) partnered with a large, urban school district on the East Coast to provide high-impact early literacy tutoring to 105 kindergarten and first grade students in 13 schools. The district identified students as eligible for tutoring services if they scored below grade-level benchmarks in their early literacy skills. The Stanford research team randomly assigned eligible students into a tutoring program group (n=105) and a comparison group (n=199). Students in the program group were supposed to receive tutoring for 15 minutes every day during the school day between November 2022 and June 2023, one-on-one from a non-teaching staff member at their school. This report describes the research study design, the characteristics of students who participated in the study, tutoring participation rates, and the effect of receiving tutoring on end-of-year early literacy skills, both overall and within various subgroups.

I spent the past year visiting Jackson and eight other schools across three states and the District of Columbia to understand how and why their successful tutoring programs work and the challenges they’ve had to navigate. Our FutureEd study also included dozens of conversations with educators, school district leaders, providers, researchers and others who have turned to tutoring to combat learning loss after COVID.


When Muriel Bowser, the mayor of the District of Columbia, announced in early March that her administration had carved out $4.8 million for “high impact tutoring” in its 2024-25 budget, she was met with thunderous applause.

Bowser had made the announcement to a room packed with administrators, tutoring service providers and policy analysts. But the excitement was tempered somewhat by questions about how far these funds would go: Is this appropriation enough? What about tutoring in the next year?

As the federal stimulus package—ESSER—winds down, states are racing against the clock to find other sustainable funding sources to keep tutoring alive in their schools. So far, states have taken a patchwork approach. Some states are creating policies that would embed tutoring as a service; other states have relied on one-time grants.


Educators are eager to launch high-impact tutoring, however, they also reported that improvements were needed to ensure tutors focused on the interventions most needed by students.

Most K12 leaders would agree that high-dosage tutoring is now a key part of instruction. Most would also note difficulties with finding adequate space and funding, hiring high-quality tutors and encouraging students to attend.

Those hurdles and, more importantly, the solutions are explained by Stanford University’s National Student Support Accelerator in a new study of a large urban district and a charter system. The strategies identified should help administrators scale successful tutoring programs to help more students stay on track, the report’s authors contend.


High-impact tutoring has emerged as a primary school district investment for addressing learning loss that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. While existing research shows that high-impact tutoring is effective for accelerating student learning, this study examined the school-level facilitators and barriers to scaling high-impact tutoring. Situated in an urban traditional school district and an urban charter management organization, we collected survey and interview data from teachers and administrators to identify scaling challenges. Major barriers to scaling included time and space constraints, tutor supply and quality, updated data systems, and school level costs, while a key facilitator was teacher buy-in. We end the paper with recommendations for how districts can strategically grow their high-impact tutoring efforts.


Today, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) shared early findings from a study that shows high-impact tutoring (HIT) has positive attendance benefits for DC students. The preliminary findings from research conducted by the National Student Support Accelerator at Stanford University provide evidence that DC students participating in HIT were more likely to attend school on days they had a tutoring session scheduled. While the comprehensive results of this study will be published later, these initial findings highlight the potential of HIT to support stronger school attendance.

“HIT is a research-based intervention that has long been available for higher-income families. Our investment is helping level the playing field of access, and we are seeing it pay off. HIT is helping to reinforce the importance and power of consistent, positive relationships with students and the adults who support them at school,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Christina Grant. “These early findings show us what we would expect from this evidence-based intervention – one-on-one and small group, personalized high-impact tutoring sessions that are grounded in strong relationships have benefits that extend beyond improved math and literacy scores.”


High-quality tutoring programs not only get students up to speed in reading and math, they can also reduce absenteeism, a new study shows.

Focused on schools in Washington, D.C., the preliminary results show middle school students attended an additional three days and those in the elementary grades improved their attendance by two days when they received tutoring during regular school hours.  

But high-impact tutoring —defined as at least 90 minutes a week with the same tutor, spread over multiple sessions — had the greatest impact on students who missed 30% or more of the prior school year. Their attendance improved by at least five days, according to the study from the National Student Support Accelerator, a Stanford University-based center that conducts tutoring research. 


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.


Students continue to struggle academically after the pandemic, yet federal relief funds to support their recovery are set to expire soon. As a result, state and school district leaders are searching for the most cost-effective strategies to help students recoup learning. A recent working paper presents the results of a randomized controlled trial of an early reading tutoring program designed to be affordable at scale.

Researchers Kalena Cortes, Karen Kortecamp, Susanna Loeb, and Carly Robinson of the National Student Support Accelerator randomly assigned 800 Florida kindergartners to receive or not receive tutoring in early reading. Tutoring provider Chapter One specialized in embedding part-time tutors into classrooms for “short bursts” of individual tutoring. Tutors met one-to-one with the assigned kindergartners for five-to-10 minute tutoring sessions over the course of the year. Kindergartners receiving tutoring also took part in 15-minute daily independent practice sessions using a Chapter One tablet. The tutors tracked student progress and met frequently with teachers to review the data they collected digitally. Chapter One used that data to tailor its tutoring to students’ evolving needs over time, adjusting session length and frequency based on each student’s progress over the year.


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.


As many as 80 percent of school districts and charter school organizations have launched tutoring programs to help students rebound from the pandemic. The challenge now is to scale evidence-based tutoring that gets results and sustain it beyond the fast-approaching deadline to spend federal pandemic-relief funds.

To learn more about how districts are doing this, FutureEd Policy Director Liz Cohen will moderate a discussion featuring:

  • Zenovia Crier, principal of Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary School in Odessa, Texas
  • Michael Duffy, president of the Great Oaks Foundation
  • Katie Hooten, executive director of Teach for America’s Ignite tutoring program
  • Susanna Loeb, executive director of the National Student Support Accelerator at Stanford University

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.