Giving Compass' Take:

• Robert Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University, shares studies which prove that teacher assistants are just as, if not more effective as teachers in terms of tutoring. 

• How will this research affect the growing trend towards personalized learning and the introduction of tech into classrooms? 

• Learn about the success of this homegrown tutoring nonprofit organization.

Recent reviews of effective teaching strategies found that the assistants, often called paraprofessionals, were at least as good as teachers when it comes to one-to-one and small group tutoring. And both sets of paid professionals—aides and teachers—were far more effective than volunteer tutors.

Robert Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University, recently set out to find the most effective programs to teach elementary and middle school students. In the course of analyzing almost 200 studies on particular methods, from “Reading Recovery” to ”Fraction Faceoff!”, he confirmed that students tended to make more progress with tutors than with a teacher in front of an entire classroom.

But he also made an unexpected discovery:  teaching assistants were excellent at tutoring.

For schools, this opens up the possibility of offering one-to-one tutoring to more kids who need the extra attention. Teachers are too expensive to deploy as personal tutors. But paras are paid about half as much, making tutoring somewhat more financially practical for the neediest students.

Slavin said he consistently saw the strong results for para tutors across the studies, from math to reading. In some cases, paras seemed to be better tutors than teachers.

The great gains from human tutoring are often cited as evidence for so-called “personalized” learning, which sometimes refers to using education software that adapts to each child’s instructional needs. However, Slavin found that technology programs that personalize instruction for struggling readers “made no difference at all” in their test scores compared to traditional instruction. Personalized software did make a small positive difference in math.*

Read the full article about teachers assistants make for good tutors by Jill Barshay The Hechinger Report