As school district leaders and educators worry about the ramifications of pandemic-induced disruptions for children’s learning and development, practitioners and policymakers are increasingly focused on interventions that could address disparities and help remediate and catch up lagging skills. Two popular areas of discussion are targeted tutoring programs and summer programs, and newly released working papers highlight the potential of these avenues for intervention.
A new working paper outlines a plan for scaling tutoring nationally in U.S. public schools. Based on the premise that all students could benefit from individualized tutoring time, as documented in research on the effectiveness of targeted, one-on-one tutoring, the authors outline core principles for an evidence-based tutoring program, propose a method for expanding such a program across grade levels, and provide a cost analysis of their proposal. In addition, they identify and explain design tradeoffs (e.g., balancing tutor supply vs. quality when setting requirements for participation) and implementation challenges (e.g., convincing risk-averse school districts to partner with external programs). In practice, the proposed initiative would have high school students tutor in elementary schools via an elective class, college students in middle schools via Federal Work-Study, and full-time 2- and 4-year college graduates in high schools via AmeriCorps. To carry out such a program, the authors emphasize the importance of federal scale but local control, leveraging federal education programs but allowing for local flexibility in implementation. They estimate that the costs for a nationwide expansion of the tutoring initiative would be between $5 and $15 billion annually.
In another recent working paper, researchers find that the National Summer School Initiative (NSSI) exhibited promise for improving teaching and encouraging student engagement in online instruction. Created in response to COVID-19, NSSI featured a five-week, synchronous curriculum in which “mentor teachers” provided professional development to “partner teachers” across the U.S. in the summer of 2020. The roughly 50 schools that participated in NSSI served predominantly Black or Latinx student populations and students that qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. The program covered nearly 12,000 rising 4th through 9th grade students. The authors analyzed interview and survey data from school administrators, teachers, parents, and students. Across stakeholders, respondents reported that students improved academically over the course of the program, and that the content disseminated among teachers was relevant and engaging. Partner teachers noted that the “adaptable curricular materials” they received from mentor teachers were helpful, and that they felt their teaching improved.