The evidence on high-dosage tutoring, and proposed metrics for evaluating efficiency and cost

The evidence on high-dosage tutoring, and proposed metrics for evaluating efficiency and cost

By Cynthia Lake, Johns Hopkins University

The national nonprofit Accelerate released a new report that underscores the substantial impact of high-dosage tutoring while acknowledging that the effectiveness of tutoring programs varies significantly, necessitating deeper exploration. The report seeks to further contextualize the impact of tutoring on student learning, introduces novel metrics for evaluating tutoring programs' efficiency and cost-effectiveness, and proposes a research agenda for future studies.

Researchers Luke Kohlmoos and Matthew Steinberg evaluated existing evidence on the impact of high-dosage tutoring, identifying RCTs with at least 350 participants from Nickow et al.'s 2023 meta-analysis of tutoring program impacts, while also including additional studies that met rigorous standards. Notably, they excluded researcher-made measures from the assessment process, focusing solely on well-designed RCTs with standardized assessments – resulting in 15 studies of 12 tutoring programs. This emphasis on standardized measures represents a significant advancement in the evidence movement, enhancing the rigor and reliability of the evidence base. This shift ensures consistency and comparability across studies while promoting transparency and replicability, ultimately strengthening the credibility of educational research findings (see more on this topic in BEIB here and here).

The report also establishes measures of tutoring efficiency (hours needed to improve student learning by one month) and cost-effectiveness (additional months of student learning produced at a cost of $1,000 per pupil). These metrics aim to guide future research in comparing the return on investment across different tutoring programs, assisting schools in evidence-informed decision-making when selecting providers. By normalizing program impact by both dosage and cost, the report provides valuable insights for comparing different tutoring programs and guiding resource allocation decisions.

Additional recommendations for researchers, tutoring providers, federal agencies, states, and school districts included prioritizing large-sample evaluations to enhance evidence on tutoring effectiveness, advocating for transparent data reporting from providers, and establishing state-curated lists of evidence-based tutoring programs. Ultimately, the report seeks to shift the conversation around tutoring toward empirically-informed discussions on program models that offer optimal resource utilization, paving the way for more effective and efficient educational interventions.

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