Student Achievement What the Research Says

The State of School Tutoring, in Charts

By Sarah D. Sparks — February 09, 2023 2 min read
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When done well, so-called “high-dosage” group tutoring can provide some of the biggest improvements in student learning of any intervention. The Biden administration has backed the approach to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, and many districts have embraced it.

But so far, only about 1 in 10 students actually gets high-dosage tutoring, according to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ School Pulse Survey. The most intensive tutoring model, high-dosage tutoring is defined as including at least 30-minute sessions three or more times a week, and involving trained educators working one-on-one or in very small groups.

The School Pulse Survey is an ongoing study of how schools are changing since the pandemic. The survey included a representative sample of more than 1,000 public K-12 schools nationwide, who were polled in December 2022.

Less than half of the school leaders surveyed said they’ve increased the number of students participating in high-dosage tutoring this school year over 2021-22. Within the schools that offer tutoring, school leaders estimated 30 percent of students receive high-dosage tutoring, and another 27 percent participate in regular tutoring, which may involve shorter and fewer sessions in larger groups.

Nearly all schools had at least some students start the 2022-23 school year behind in math and reading, but while 9 out of 10 provided high-dosage tutoring in reading, only 8 out of 10 did so in math, and fewer than a quarter of schools offered struggling students intensive tutoring in science, social studies, or other subjects.

In fact, scaling up in any subject remains a big problem for schools. About a third of school leaders said they don’t have the capacity to provide high-dosage tutoring to all students who need it, and nearly 20 percent said they couldn’t provide even regular tutoring to all students in need.

About 2 out of 5 schools also said they can’t find the time in their regular school schedule to tutor students. Research suggests out-of-school tutoring may be less effective.

And at least 40 percent of schools said they can’t find qualified staff (or lack the money to pay them) to sustain either regular or high-dosage tutoring programs.

The challenge may be especially tough for high-dose programs. “High-dose tutoring programs are more likely than standard programs to be administered by teachers who have received specialized training in tutoring or by tutors whose primary role is to provide the tutoring,” said Rachel Hansen, a statistician in NCES’s sample surveys division.

A version of this article appeared in the February 22, 2023 edition of Education Week as The State of School Tutoring, in Charts

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