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Why All Schools Should Invest in High Impact Tutoring

September 24, 2022 | By Dan Golub

In his recent article published in The Atlantic, Kids Are Far, Far Behind In School, Thomas Kane cites the data point that students in high-poverty schools that stayed remote during the 2020-2021 school year lost the equivalent of 22 weeks of schooling. As someone that’s seen students struggle to re-integrate socially and academically into the school setting, this statistic is not surprising. In general, I’m wary of the “look how bad things are” headlines. However, the sheer magnitude of 22 missed weeks is jarring; I remember when some of my 8th-grade students would miss one week of class, they would enter into a months-long catch-up routine. Now 22 weeks? 

Focusing on “lost learning” doesn’t really help. It’s also a bit of a misnomer – what, exactly, did students “lose?” One of the solutions that Kane proposes is high-dosage, or high-impact, tutoring. Blueprint has been running the Math Fellows tutoring program in schools since 2010 and it’s great to see various districts and schools institutionalize similar structures. 

So why should all schools invest in high-impact tutoring?

Student confidence and participation soar. Any athlete will tell you that much of success boils down to consistency. Putting in the reps. With small group tutoring, students can’t fade into the back of the class; they are expected to participate. They share their thinking, justify responses, and solve problems: they’re “putting in the reps” when it comes to math learning, and this realization that I can do this often results in a boost in student confidence.

Districts Strengthen their Teacher Pipeline. Staffing has been a challenge for districts across the country for well over a year. Being down one teacher at a school poses challenges and means class sizes increase and administrators or coaches spend less time coaching and more time covering. A tutoring program can become an additional pool of qualified teacher candidates. After the 2021-2022 school year, 4 out of 20 Blueprint Math Fellows in the Bay Area went on to become teachers in their respective districts! What’s more – these aren’t random applicants but rather committed educators who have invested in integrating into their school communities.

Fewer students fall through the cracks. Tutors with small groups of students have the ability to check-in with students on both an academic and socio-emotional level. Often, it’s the caring adult who regularly follows through that can make the difference for struggling students.

It’s important to remember – there is no silver bullet in education. Running an effective tutoring program has its share of challenges. Tutors need proper training, support, and coaching, even if they are working with small groups of 1-4 students. But let’s spread the word and make tutoring available for all students!