Mentoring can also lead to improvements in self-confidence about reading, motivation to read, and behavior, both among tutors and among peers or guardians of different ages. When tutoring is coordinated with good reading practices in the classroom, students perform better than when tutoring is not related to classroom instruction. Individual tutoring has the strongest evidence of effectiveness, but it is the one that costs the most and reaches the fewest number of students. Some studies show that larger tutoring groups of two to four students, while less effective than one-to-one agreements, still pay dividends for learning.
However, at least one study on tutoring one to four after school found learning benefits only for black students who participated. This post is part of the LPI Learning in the Time of COVID-19 blog series, which explores evidence-based, equity-focused strategies and investments to address the current crisis and build long-term systems capacity. As we prepare for a post-pandemic world, legislators seek solutions to provide more instructional time for students and more educational support for teachers. One strategy that gets a lot of attention is mentoring, and some see England as inspiration for our own national mentoring program.
Can large-scale tutoring help students and teachers address wasted teaching time? The short answer is yes, but only if we pay close attention to the details of the implementation to avoid the mistakes of the past. New policy proposals can build on the most up-to-date educational research to design mentoring programs that are effective in meeting student needs. We know a lot about how to design effective mentoring programs, thanks to a series of rigorous scientific tests on what works and under what conditions. In particular, the past decade has provided us with more than a dozen new large-scale randomized control trials (RCTs) of mentoring programs, considered the “gold standard” in research.
A recent systematic review of 96 RCTs reveals that mentoring produces great improvements in a variety of outcomes across grades. These studies also highlight best practices and difficulties to avoid. Developed in the 70s and 80s by Dr. Marie Clay, developmental psychologist, Reading Recovery has been extensively studied around the world.
Studies have documented the success of more than 2.3 million first-graders, including students with reading disabilities and English language learners. Depending on their pace of progress, students spend 12 to 20 weeks in daily 30-minute tutoring sessions. They work one-on-one with a certified teacher trained in reading instruction, including a one-year postgraduate reading recovery course. In one of the many controlled studies of this program, participation resulted in a reading growth rate that is 31% higher than the nationwide average growth rate for students starting first grade.
It can be difficult to hire teachers as tutors in districts with persistent staff shortages (now exacerbated by the pandemic). But in addition to the existing teaching workforce, there are thousands of retired and substitute teachers, paraprofessionals, and teacher candidates enrolled in teacher preparation programs that could help deliver quality tutoring at scale. If mentoring is worthwhile and is, it should be done well, based on existing knowledge and research. To effectively address lost instructional time, legislators can draw on effective models to adequately fund specific, evidence-based interventions.
Universal tutoring would have the added benefit of providing each student with the same individualized attention that many wealthy students have received for a long time. While much of what has been lost during this pandemic cannot be replaced, a well-designed and well-funded mentoring initiative is one way to increase instructional time for students and provide educational support to teachers. Faced with limited resources, educators and legislators must also understand which mentoring models are most cost-effective and for which students. While the average results show ineffectiveness, this does not mean that all private tutoring is ineffective.
Therefore, private tutors are better prepared to keep up with the most effective teaching methods as well as industry developments. There are small disputes among researchers over the number of students with whom a single tutor can work effectively. The study analyzed nearly 200 well-designed experiments to improve education, from expanding preschool to reducing class size, and found that frequent one-on-one tutoring with research-proven instruction was especially effective in increasing learning rates for students under performance. Larger tutoring groups of 5 students actually gained more (0.45 SD) on standardized tests than the smaller group size (0.35 SD, both moderately large effect sizes).
The literature is clear about the characteristics of effective tutoring programs that lead to success in the classroom. I was curious to know more about how effective individual and small group tutoring is and how much tutoring could compensate for learning loss. An evaluation of ROOTS, a math tutoring intervention for kindergarten children, compared the effectiveness of tutoring groups composed of two students with groups of five students and found results similar to those of the Number Rockets study. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis examined 96 studies on mentoring programs and found that mentoring is an effective practice that produces consistent and substantial positive impacts on learning outcomes.
Slavin found that several tutoring programs published effect sizes of 0.4 standard deviations or more, a statistical unit he compared to five additional months of school above what students would have learned without tutoring. A broad portfolio of resources that promote educator effectiveness, inform policies, and support positive outcomes for all students. . .