This week marks a full year since many school buildings around the country closed and the pandemic changed the way our children learn. I believe it’s safe to say that most students haven’t thrived online. Everyone is worried about the year of lost learning but there’s less consensus among politicians and policymakers on what to do about it. Proposals are circulating for summer school, afterschool, remedial instruction, giving students an extra year of school and a somewhat fuzzy concept of “acceleration.”

Yet some of the strongest research evidence points to an intensive type of tutoring as a way to help children catch up. Education researchers call it “high-dosage” tutoring and it has produced big achievement gains for students in studies when the tutoring occurs every day or almost every day. In the research literature, the tutors are specially trained and coached, adhere to a detailed curriculum and work with one or two students at a time. The best results occur when the tutoring takes place at school during the ordinary school day.

“It’s not once-a-week homework help,” said Jonathan Guryan, an economist at Northwestern University who has evaluated tutoring programs at schools.

Tutoring programs for elementary school children rise to the top within this body of research, which was conducted well before the pandemic and targeted to students who were considerably behind grade level. In a July 2020 review of almost 100 high-quality studies on tutoring, reading tutoring tended to be relatively more effective for students in preschool through first grade, giving them extra help with phonics, while math tutoring tended to be more effective for students in second through fifth grade, as they tackle multiplication, division and fractions. Robert Slavin of Johns Hopkins University found similar results in his earlier 2018 reviews of math and reading interventions, explaining that elementary school students can gain an extra five months of education from the extra one-to-one or very small group help.

Far fewer studies find tutoring to be effective for older students in middle school and high school. But now a large study, published in March 2021, concludes that high school students can learn two to three times as much math as their peers from a daily dose of tutoring at school. That’s enough to bring a ninth grader, who entered high school with only a seventh grade math level, back up to grade level.

Read the full article about tutoring by Jill Barshay at The Hechinger Report.