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Peer Tutoring Found More Effective Than Drills

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The strategy of having older students teach younger students appears to be "far more cost-effective" in improving reading and mathematics achievement than is a regimen of computerized drill-and-practice, a Stanford University study has concluded.

The researcher who conducted the study also found that peer tutoring has almost four times as great an impact on elementary-school reading and mathematics achievement as do reducing class size or increasing instructional time.

Henry M. Levin, director of the Institute for Research on Educational Finance and Governance at Stanford, bases his findings on a detailed analysis of two programs: the cross-age structured-tutoring program for reading and mathematics in the Boise, Idaho, schools, and the computer-assisted-instruction program in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Reducing Class Size

In analyzing the relative effectiveness of the programs, Mr. Levin correlated method-costs per year per student with students' achievement gains in each subject. His findings on the effects of reducing class size were based on a synthesis of 77 previous studies, and those on the impact of lengthening the school day were based on cost projections for adding one hour to the elementary-school day, divided evenly between reading and mathematics.

In the Los Angeles program, elementary students were subjected to 10-minute daily sessions of drill and practice in mathematics, reading, and language arts.

In the Boise tutoring program, an average-sized school had an adult paraprofessional tutor-manager for mathematics, and another for reading.

Typically, each manager supervised 30 pairs of student-tutors and students being helped.

In addition, the school had adult tutors in mathematics and reading who worked with 12 or 13 students in grades 4, 5, and 6. Daily tutoring sessions usually lasted about 20 minutes.

Copies of the $2 report, "Cost Effectiveness for Four Educational Interventions," can be obtained from the Institute for Educational Finance and Government, 402 CERAS Building, Stanford, Calif. 94305, (415) 497-2754.

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