Scanning the News on High-Dosage Tutoring (Part 2): Initiatives and Implementation So Far

“High dosage” tutoring has emerged as a common response, to help support student learning in the wake of pandemic school closures.  In Part 1 of a scan of some of the headlines on the related news and research since the start of the pandemic, Naila Shahid reported on the discussions of the emergence of tutoring initiatives, related research, and support programs, particularly in the US. This week Part 2 of the scan focuses on some of the tutoring initiatives launched in different states and questions about implementation so far. 

The emergence of high-dosage tutoring initiatives across the US

As students pile back into in-person learning settings, many school districts across the US are using COVID relief funding from the American Rescue Plan for high-dosage tutoring programs. A report from The Education Trust, FutureEd and Education Reform Now reveals that by the beginning of 2022, “at least 17 states have committed to investing in targeted intensive tutoring, at least five have committed to building statewide tutoring programs, and at least six have committed to providing state-level guidance and support targeted intensive tutoring programs.” According to the report, states that have committed to utilizing a significant portion of their funding on high dosage tutoring include: Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Texas. Louisiana expects to spend  $90 million of its $4.1 billion, New Mexico $176 million out of  $1.5 billion, Tennessee $200 million out of  $3.9 billion; and Texas  $1.4 billion out of $19.2 billion.  

“At least 17 states have committed to investing in targeted intensive tutoring, at least five have committed to building statewide tutoring programs, and at least six have committed to providing state-level guidance and support targeted intensive tutoring programs.”

Promising Practices, Education Trust, Education Reform Now, and FutureEd 

Among the state programs underway or proposed: 

New Jersey

Two years ago, the College of New Jersey’s School of Education, in partnership with the Overdeck Family Foundation, launched the New Jersey Summer Tutoring Corps. The program hired in-service and preservice teachers to tutor students for a minimum of 10 hours a week. The tutoring locations were YMCA and Boys & Girls Club. Tutors earned $20 to $25 per hour. The NJ Summer Tutoring Corps  provided tutoring to 2,000 students in the summer of 2021 and expanded to 42 sites in the fall of 2022. 

Tennessee

Tennessee proposed spending $200 million to initiate a three-year tutoring project called Tennessee Accelerating Literacy and Learning Corps.  That project involves 83 districts across Tennessee participating in the Corps serving 150,000 students in either Math or English language Arts.  The program primarily targets elementary students who are below the proficiency level. 

Arkansas

The Arkansas Department of Education has also launched an Arkansas Tutoring Corps. That initiative aims to build a system to recruit and train tutors to meet the academic needs of students in their geographic area. Total compensation for tutors is expected to be up to $3,000 in their first year and $2,500 in subsequent years. Arkansas Tutoring Corps tutors can be students enrolled in the educator prep programs in institutions of higher education, retired educators, current teachers, and community members. 

Indiana

The City of Indianapolis in Indiana also planned to expand a virtual tutoring initiative as part of their effort to help students catch up on reading and math skills. According to a Chalkbeat report, the results of two pilot programs showed improvement in participating students’ math scores of 12% to 26% and English/language arts scores by 4% to 9%. 

Quality of implementation and effectiveness 

Although it is far too soon judge the effectiveness of most of these plans, despite the promise, numerous questions about the implementation and effectiveness of scaling-up tutoring programs remain. In particular, some stories are already documenting challenges and progress of implementation, including basic logistical issues that are delaying the full implementation of these programs in some places. In Chicago, for example, tutors were hired before decisions were made on who will train the tutors or how they would be trained. Lack of space for tutoring as well as scheduling have also been problematic. Recruiting and staffing also remains one of the critical challenges (Schools need tutors and mentors. Can a new federal initiative find 250,000?). According to the Hechinger Report, in Tennessee, despite strong gains for students overall, the percent of students who were reading at the lowest level on the state’s proficiency test — the students who were the focus of the state’s tutoring initiative grew from 31% to 36% over the past two years (“Early data on ‘high-dosage’ tutoring shows schools are sometimes finding it tough to deliver even low doses“). In the UK, the National Tutoring Program has also been criticized for failing to reach some of the students that need the most help, and there are similar concerns that in the US it will take longer to scale the Federally-supported tutoring initiatives than expected. As Robert Balfanz from the National Partnership for Student Success told the74​​, “We can’t mobilize fast enough. There are still some lost opportunities.”

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