To the Editor:
If districts want to help students make meaningful academic gains, they need to invest in tutoring models that have been proven to accelerate student achievement. The article “Can Online Tutoring Help Schools Dig out of a Pandemic Learning Hole?” (Jan. 28. 2022) highlighted a new study regarding an online, volunteer tutoring program with college students that showed no significant impact on student achievement, having an effect size of .05.
The effect size, a meaningful indicator of gains a student is likely to make, is a crucial piece of information to consider when districts and schools are selecting tutoring models because students need our interventions to address months of lost learning. A recent report by McKinsey noted that students overall are about four months behind in math and three months behind in reading than in previous school years. More specifically, students in majority-Black schools are about five months behind in both subjects, which amounts to about 100 days of learning.
Using an established formula for understanding the relationship between standard deviation units and days of learning, a program would need an effect size of at least .17 to address this lost instruction. The pilot program’s .05 effect size is a drop in the bucket when we look at the magnitude of learning loss.
We have to bet on programs that promise big gains. There are a number of highly effective tutoring models that are replicable and scalable. School leaders would be better off choosing those.
Deputy Director of Evidence Research
Center for Research and Reform in Education, Johns Hopkins University
A version of this article appeared in the March 09, 2022 edition of Education Week as Road-Tested Tutoring Models Are Our Best Bet