PROOF POINTS: Trial finds cheaper, quicker way to tutor young kids in reading

After a year of short-burst tutoring, more than double the number of kindergarteners hit an important reading milestone. Researchers are tracking the children to see if the gains from this cheaper and quicker version of high-dosage tutoring are long lasting and lead to more third graders becoming proficient readers. Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Education researchers have been urging schools to invest their $120 billion in federal pandemic recovery funds in tutoring. What researchers have in mind is an extremely intensive type of tutoring, often called “high dosage” tutoring, which takes place daily or almost every day. It has produced remarkable results for students in almost 100 studies, but these programs are difficult for schools to launch and operate. 

They involve hiring and training tutors and coming up with tailored lesson plans for each child. Outside organizations can help provide tutors and lessons, but schools still need to overhaul schedules to make time for tutoring, find physical space where tutors can meet with students, and safely allow a stream of adults to flow in and out of school buildings all day long. Tutoring programs with research evidence behind them are also expensive, at least $1,000 per student. Some exceed $4,000. 

One organization has designed a different tutoring model, which gives very short one-to-one tutoring sessions to young children who are just learning to read. The nonprofit organization, Chapter One (formerly Innovations for Learning), calls it “short burst” tutoring. It involves far fewer tutors, less disruption to school schedules and no extra space beyond a desk in the back of a classroom. The price tag, paid by school districts, is less than $500 per student. 

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