To the Editor:
I was delighted to see the August 19 article, “High-Dosage Tutoring Is Effective, But Expensive: Ideas for Making It Work” (Special Report: How We Go Back to School, www.edweek.org.) However, the article contains a serious misconception. In discussing costs of tutoring, it gave a figure of $3,800 per student based on a highly unusual study of math tutoring in Chicago high schools. The Chicago study is one of very few conducted at the high school level. It provided an extraordinary amount of one-to-two tutoring in mathematics and was unique in many other ways. Tutoring is most often used (and evaluated) in reading and in elementary schools
For a 2017 study, Nancy A. Madden and I performed a cost assessment of our own “Tutoring With Alphie” one-to-four reading-tutoring program in grades 1 to 3. The cost per child was $500 per year using teaching assistants as tutors (as did the Chicago project). Had we used one-to-two tutoring, it would have cost about $1,000 per child, still a lot less than what was reported in the article. I believe that many other small-group reading- and math-tutoring programs that have used teaching-assistant tutors in elementary school would fall in the same range.
Our studies and many others of elementary reading and math tutoring also found much larger learning impacts than did the Chicago high school study. Tutoring is indeed a key solution to the likely negative impact of the COVID-19 school closures. It would be tragic if schools avoided this proven solution based on a highly atypical cost estimate.
Robert E. Slavin
Center for Research and Reform in Education
Johns Hopkins University
A version of this article appeared in the September 09, 2020 edition of Education Week as Effective Tutoring Can Be Affordable