Tutoring has always been a useful way of helping students improve academically. Especially now, with widespread learning loss from the pandemic, tutoring can help young learners catch up. The most effective tutoring programs are deemed “high-impact” or “high-dosage.” Learn more about this type of tutoring and why it’s needed now more than ever.

What is high-dosage tutoring?

Let’s start with a definition of high-dosage tutoring because this term can feel vague. 

Like teaching, tutoring can adhere to different models. High-impact tutoring (HIT)—also known as tier-one tutoring, high-dosage tutoring, or target instruction—is a model that is known to be particularly effective. In fact, HIT is the intervention of choice according to research by the National Student Support Accelerator (NSSA).

Why is HIT considered the gold standard for tutoring? There are a few key things that characterize this model:

  • Small size: High-dosage tutoring takes place in a one-on-one or small group context, allowing every child to get plenty of interaction with their tutor(s). 
  • Consistent tutors: High-impact tutors can be teachers, paraprofessionals, volunteers, or parents. What’s key is that students work with the same tutor(s) consistently so they can build great rapport. 
  • Frequent sessions: Another factor that defines HIT is the frequency of tutoring sessions. Tutoring should occur at least a few times throughout the week, and each session should last for 30-60 minutes.
  • Seamless academic integration: HIT is often integrated into the school day, and the materials students work on should closely align with their school curriculum and learning objectives. 

Why is high-impact tutoring taking on greater importance?

There has been awareness for some time about the value of HIT, but the importance of tutoring is moving into the spotlight as children across the country struggle with learning loss. According to McKinsey, the pandemic left K-12 students an average of five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the 2020–21 academic year. 

Even as schools have returned to a new normal, they still struggle to help students catch up. The federal government recognizes this pervasive problem and seeks to help communities through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP). 

This funding has allowed schools to address the issues created by the pandemic and move forward. Tutoring is a major way that schools can utilize these funds and help kids accelerate their academic progress.

A recent statement from the White House noted that the president is specifically calling on schools to use funds “to provide high-quality tutoring, summer learning and enrichment, and afterschool programs that are proven pathways to helping students make up for lost learning time and succeed in school and in life.”

Is high-dosage tutoring effective?

It’s no wonder the federal government wants to invest in tutoring because “[r]esearch has consistently shown that high-quality tutoring programs of a range of durations can produce about five months of additional learning.” 

A wealth of school-based field experiments have shown that implementing high-dosage tutoring tends to have significant effects. This research also shows that high-dosage tutoring is just as—if not more—effective for adolescents as it is for early childhood students. This is encouraging data considering many have theorized that interventions tend to lose their effectiveness for older students.

Effective tutoring can play a valuable role in helping students of all ages and demographics reach learning outcomes. A study of elementary and middle schoolers from low socioeconomic backgrounds found that of all the interventions studied, tutoring had the most marked effect in improving educational achievement. 

Who offers high-impact tutoring?

Accelerating student learning with high-dosage tutoring should be at the top of communities’ priority lists. However, despite the recognized value of HIT programs, making these programs a reality can be challenging for schools that already have their hands full. Schools are often limited in the resources and attention they can give to these interventions. 

This is where community-based organizations can make a difference. Schools don’t need to offer tutoring directly if they can partner with a youth program that fills this gap and comes alongside them in their mission of serving students and families. 

Learn more about school partnerships.

If you have a passion for helping students overcome challenges and improve their academic trajectory, consider partnering with your local school district to offer high-impact tutoring to students before, during, or after school hours. The school may even be eager to share funding to make this arrangement possible for the benefit of its students.

Want to learn how you can form a valuable partnership with your local school district to help kids and families? Watch our on-demand webinar, “Designing a Winning Approach to Partnering with Schools”!

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