Study: District Tutoring Outperforms Private-Sector Services

By Alyssa Morones — July 01, 2013 2 min read
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For students receiving supplemental tutoring, the amount of tutoring they received was the key to improvement, found a study released earlier this spring by the American Educational Research Journal.

Students from low-income families attending low-performing schools that received more than 40 hours of additional tutoring performed better on math and reading assessments than those who received less than 40 hours per school year, according study authors Carolyn J. Heinrich, a professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and Hiren Nisar, a senior analyst at the research company Abt Associates.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires that, in underperforming schools that did not make adequate progress for three consecutive years, students be provided with the option of receiving supplemental educational services.

In fulfilling the NCLB mandate, districts often rely heavily on private-sector tutoring providers to supply a choice of services. And the varying costs of providers can determine how many hours of tutoring an individual students receives.

To help inform the choice of providers, this study sought to analyze the effectiveness of different types of tutoring services.

Researchers spent four years in Chicago Public Schools, which account for a disproportionately large share of students who are eligible for these services.

The study compared the effects of four alternative approaches to this coverage:

  • District versus non-district providers;
  • Online provision;
  • Onsite versus offsite providers;
  • And for-profit versus not-for-profit providers

Researchers found that during the four-year period examined by the study, the district tutoring services provided significantly more hours to students than their private-sector counterparts. There was a direct correlation between the number of hours provided and student achievement. District providers also charged schools a significantly lower rate for their services.

Further, online providers and for-profit providers were both shown to be less effective in improving students’ reading and math scores when compared to face-to-face tutors and not-for-profit providers.

While the district providers were found to have a greater positive effect on students’ reading and math scores, researchers also noted that the increased competition among supplemental tutoring service providers effectively lowered the hourly rate that tutoring services charged schools.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.