November 11, 2022

A Strategy for Learning Recovery

“Tutoring” can inspire a variety of definitions: “homework help,” private at-home tutoring, or a 6th grader helping a 2nd grader with math. With the issue of unfinished learning from the pandemic, tutoring becomes a newly refined learning experience with a high level of importance. 

The current statistics are dire. Experts studying “learning loss” found the average student lost five to nine months of reading and math learning. Statistics show that traditionally marginalized students have lost, on average, 2-4 months more than white students (Corral). This chart from McKinsey & Company illustrates some of the specifics of the learning recovery needed:  


Thankfully, there’s hope! Tutoring is one of the foremost strategies to help students with learning recovery. New research illustrates tutoring best practices. For example, tutoring should take place at school during the day. “It’s not once-a-week homework help,” said Jonathan Guryan, an economist at Northwestern University who has evaluated tutoring programs at schools. It’s also noteworthy that some subjects work better with tutoring than others, according to the age of the student.  According to Jill Barshay’s article, “Proof Points: Research Evidence Increases for Intensive Tutoring,”:  

  • Young children had the best results when tutored in reading focused on phonics.
  • Math tutoring is most effective for students in second through fifth grades.
  • Although research is limited for older students, daily math tutoring of high school students showed their learning doubled when compared with peers who did not receive tutoring.  

Education-based resources Ed Trust, EdWeek, Colorado Department of Education, and EdSource have some research-based recommendations for schools and districts: 

  • Research and assess the needs of all your students. While retention is one factor to measure learning, research recommends educators measure access to materials, devices, and alternative forms of learning, ie, remote learning.  Black and Hispanic children are the most likely students to learn remotely, so all students must have the same level of access in order to focus on learning recovery.   
  • Find the most qualified tutors, and don’t overload them. The best tutors should have the most knowledge and experience in their subject area. Ideally, considering the number of students assed to a tutor is critical to success. The optimal ratio is 1 tutor per 2 students, with a maximum of 4 students assigned to each tutor. 
  • Consider implementing “high dosage” tutoring, which is “roughly 75 minutes per week of small-group or individual instruction over a 36-week period.” Evidence shows this yields the biggest results for students’ learning recovery. Focus energy most on tutoring students in reading and math.  
  • There’s money available to assist with tutoring and learning recovery. The American Recovery Act requires 5%-20% of funds dispersed be for learning recovery. There may be state funding as well! Check out the following resources for more information:

Tutoring is a strategy to move students to higher achievement after a challenging time in our world’s history. With equity in mind, all students should have the opportunity to reach excellence for learning recovery, and beyond.


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