Skip to main content

Tutoring Program Should Be Expanded Nationally

Northwestern, U of C experts outline roadmap for disadvantaged students
  • Intensive tutoring program can reduce achievement gap, improve graduation rate
  • Program can be expanded nationally using Title I funds, no additional federal funding
  • Researchers to discuss policy proposal March 28 at Brookings Institution in Wash., D.C.

WASHINGTON – Northwestern University and University of Chicago experts have recommended a national scale-up of a program that has been shown to add up to two years of learning in math over a single school year for struggling high school students – without requiring any additional government funding, according to a policy paper released Monday by The Hamilton Project.

Each year the United States spends $590 billion on K–12 education, but most urban schools lack the resources to aid the students most at risk, with some students lagging multiple grade levels behind. In the paper, the experts outline a roadmap for a national expansion of a program where tutors would provide daily, individualized, in-school tutorials to all third-through 10th-grade students performing at least two grade levels behind in math.

The proposal, “Improving Academic Outcomes for Disadvantaged Students: Scaling Up the Match/SAGA Tutorials,” was coauthored by economist Jonathan Guryan, a fellow at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research; the University of Chicago Urban Education Lab’s Jens Ludwig, an economist who co-directs the Urban Education Lab with Guryan; and Roseanna Ander, the Urban Education Lab’s founding executive director.

The key insight behind the proposal is that intensive, personalized tutorial instruction can be delivered at a manageable cost, with no additional government spending, by recognizing that tutoring is a task that is fundamentally different from regular classroom teaching.

Guryan will discuss the new proposal at an upcoming Hamilton Project forum on Strengthening Student Learning Through Innovation and Flexibility” from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 28 at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

He will be joined by leading experts, including James Cole Jr., acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education; Allan Golston, president of the U.S. Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and Anthony Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Rigorously tested through recent randomized controlled trials in Chicago, the program has been shown to improve students’ learning, narrow achievement and test-score gaps and boost high school graduation rates for disadvantaged youth. It was originally created by Boston’s Match Education (Match), and is now delivered by SAGA Innovations (SAGA).

In Chicago,  the program has helped students learn one to two additional years of math in a single school year, closing approximately half of the gap between participants’ math scores (before the tutorials) and the national average. The intervention effectively narrows the black-white test score gap by almost a third.

In their new proposal, commissioned by The Hamilton Project, Ander, Guryan and Ludwig recommend that school districts throughout the U.S. implement and scale this promising strategy, using Title I funds made available through the December 2015 reauthorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

“It is incredibly encouraging that a program like this can work in a school district with challenges of the size and scope Chicago faces,” Guryan said. “This gives us real hope that it can have broad impact across the nation, and we are incredibly grateful for Chicago Public Schools’ partnership in laying the foundation for scaling a program proven to help close the achievement gap.”

Guryan is associate professor of education and social policy in the School of Education and Social Policy, and chair of IPR’s education policy research program at Northwestern University. Ludwig is McCormick Foundation Professor of Social Service Administration, Law, and Public Policy in the School of Social Service Administration and Chicago Harris. Roseanna Ander is founding executive director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab and the University of Chicago Urban Education Lab.