Surveying the Landscape
In early 2021, the National Student Support Accelerator surveyed the current landscape of early literacy (pre-K - 3rd) tutoring programs and interventions across the US. Tutoring programs are those organizations that offer one-on-one and/or small group tutoring directly to students, either in-person, virtually, or through both modes of delivery. Interventions offer materials (e.g., an instructional scope and sequence, placement assessment, progress monitoring tools) that could be used within a tutoring program, but do not offer tutoring directly.
- Most commonly, tutoring organizations and interventions have a narrow focus on serving students in early grades who are struggling to learn to read.
- Almost half of the surveyed tutoring organizations have adapted their tutoring delivery methods to the COVID pandemic, allowing them to continue to meet their mission and serve students. Many of these programs intend to keep these innovative models even after the pandemic has subsided, as they appreciate the operational flexibility it offers both volunteer tutors and schools. Many programs see these flexible models as a way to scale.
- 9 programs offer both in-person and virtual delivery options
- 6 programs traditionally offer in-person tutoring but have adjusted to virtual delivery only due to COVID
- 4 programs offer in-person, virtual, and a hybrid model of tutoring (some in-person, some blended)
- We have confirmed that less than half of the tutoring organizations surveyed exemplified several key features of high-impact tutoring. Specifically:
- We have confirmed that only 41% offer high-dosage tutoring, defined as three or more sessions of at least 30 minutes.
- We have confirmed that only 41% of organizations offer tutoring during school time, which is optimal because it reduces barriers to student attendance.
- Tutoring programs and literacy interventions differ in key ways.
- Whereas the majority of early literacy tutoring programs operate as non-profit organizations, the majority of early literacy interventions are offered by for profit companies.
- We have confirmed that 21% of the early literacy tutoring programs surveyed are offered for free to schools/districts/youth-serving organizations, while only 11% of the early literacy interventions are.
- We have confirmed that while only 31% of the tutoring programs we surveyed had research conducted that used a randomized controlled trial study design, fully 70% of literacy interventions did.
We identified 39 tutoring programs that specialize in or offer early literacy instruction. All tutoring programs are included in the Accelerator’s Tutoring Database.
- Organizational Type: We have confirmed that the majority (64%) of the tutoring programs we surveyed operate as non-profit entities.
- 25 programs are non-profit
- 10 programs are for profit
- 4 are under review
- Research-based Efficacy: We have confirmed that 31% of the tutoring programs we surveyed had research conducted that used a randomized controlled trial study design.
- 12 tutoring programs have one or more RCT study
- 20 programs do not have RCT studies
- 7 are under review
- Of those tutoring programs with a randomized controlled trial study design, we have confirmed that 58% (7 programs) had an effect size greater than .10.
- 17% (2 programs) had an effect size less than .10
- For 25% (3) of the programs, the effect size is under review.
- High-dosage Tutoring: We have confirmed that 41% of the programs offer high-dosage tutoring, defined as three or more sessions of at least 30 minutes.
- 16 programs offer high-dosage tutoring
- 15 programs do not offer high-dosage tutoring
- 8 programs are under review
- Setting: We have confirmed that 41% of the programs offer tutoring during school time, which is optimal because it reduces barriers to student attendance.
- 8 programs offer tutoring during school time only
- 8 programs offer tutoring both during school and out-of-school time
- 18 programs offer tutoring only during out-of-school time
- 5 programs are under review
- Delivery: Programs have innovated their delivery models due to the COVID pandemic, with most offering a virtual delivery method in the 2020-2021 school year. While only a few programs were designed for a virtual platform, many that have pivoted to virtual delivery intend to keep it as one programmatic model, after seeing the operational flexibility it offers both volunteers and schools.
- 9 programs offer both in-person and virtual delivery options
- 8 programs offer in-person
- 6 programs usually offer in-person but have adjusted to virtual only this year due to COVID
- 6 programs offer virtual tutoring only
- 4 programs offer in-person, virtual, and a hybrid model (some in-person, some blended)
- 6 programs’ delivery methods are under review
- Profiles of students served: The tutoring programs in the database range from those with a narrow focus on serving students in early grades who are struggling to learn to read to those serving a wide range of learners in a broad swath of content areas, of which early literacy is only one component. Most commonly, tutoring programs in the database are focused narrowly on the early literacy grade-bands (pre-K or Kindergarten through grade 3).
- 17 programs are early literacy focused tutoring programs (preK-3rd grade)
- 6 programs are elementary literacy tutoring programs, including early literacy
- 6 programs are broader literacy focused tutoring programs, including early literacy
- 9 programs are general tutoring programs, of which early literacy tutoring is one component
- 1 program is focused specifically on tutoring students with reading disabilities
- Costs: Almost all of the non-profit tutoring programs that we reviewed offer their services for free to students and their families. Their pricing models for districts, schools, CMOs, and/or youth-serving centers vary from free (due to philanthropic and grant funding), to a set-fee to district, to a fee per-student, to a fee for tutor (much rarer, when building capacity within a district’s staff to be tutors). For-profit tutoring organizations may have per lesson/session or package rates. What follows are patterns in the data that was shared about costs from programs that have shared information so far.
- 8 programs (21%) offer tutoring services to districts, schools, CMOs, or youth-serving organizations for free or through in-kind costs only (e.g., space in school; time of school staff)
- 7 programs offer tutoring services in the range of $10-25 a session/lesson, per student
- 4 programs offer tutoring services in the range of $25-100 a session/lesson, per student
- 3 programs bundle their tutoring services together in a package over $10K per year for districts, schools, CMOs, or youth-serving organizations
- 1 program bundles their tutoring services together in a package under $10K per year for districts, schools, CMOs, or youth-serving organizations
- 1 program offers a train-the-tutor model at two levels of intensity, ranging from $855/tutor to $4,900/tutor
- 1 program offers a “pay if/what you can” model
- 14 programs are under review
We conducted a scan of early literacy interventions because we anticipate that some tutoring programs will want to improve their programs by selecting higher-quality instructional materials than what they use currently. Effective early literacy interventions are well-suited for this purpose because they use an organized, systematic, and cumulative scope and sequence of instruction into which children are placed and progress monitored with assessments. We identified 46 early literacy interventions, some designed explicitly for tutors and most appropriate for tutors without teaching credentials. To be included in the Accelerator’s Tutoring Database, an intervention had to have research using either an randomized control trial or a quasi-experimental design; that research had to show an effect size of +0.20 or greater; OR if the intervention did not yet have acceptable research, it had to have particularly high-quality instructional materials grounded in evidence-based reading and language instruction.
- Organizational Type: The vast majority of the early literacy interventions we surveyed are distributed by for profit companies or organizations.
- We have confirmed that 29 early literacy interventions (63%) are offered by for profit organizations.
- 10 interventions are offered by non-profit organizations.
- 7 interventions are under review.
- Research-based Efficacy: We have confirmed that 72% of the literacy interventions we surveyed had research conducted that used a randomized controlled trial (RCT) study design.
- 33 early literacy interventions had research using a RCT
- 10 early literacy interventions did not have research using a RCT
- 3 interventions are under review
- Effect-size: Of those 33 interventions with a randomized controlled trial study design, we have confirmed that 17 (52%) had an effect size greater than .20 .
- Profiles of students served: The majority of literacy interventions are designed for students in the early grades, the pre-K through 3rd grade range. While most of these interventions span across the Kindergarten-3rd grade band, several interventions focus only on first grade, a year of great import and opportunity for reading growth. Of the broader elementary interventions, most are adaptive in nature, designed to assess and then personalize instruction to meet students’ individual needs. Most interventions are designed with a focus on students who struggle to learn to read, sometimes due to a diagnosed specific learning disability and sometimes due to weak Tier I core instruction. The interventions almost always focus on skills that are intended to be mastered in early elementary grade levels and with which children who struggle often need direct, explicit, and repetitive instruction and practice in order to master.
- 23 are early literacy (preK-3rd grade) focused interventions
- 13 are elementary literacy interventions, of which early literacy is a component
- 8 are broader literacy interventions, of which early literacy is a component
- 2 are Spanish-language interventions (i.e., improving Spanish language skills for children whose first language is Spanish)
- One of these targets early literacy Spanish speakers; the other is a K-12 intervention
- Costs: Organizations/companies vary significantly in how they package and offer intervention products, and even more in how they price these products.
- 14 interventions offer teacher/tutor and student materials for less than $1K/teacher
- 3 interventions offer teacher/tutor and student materials between $1-$4,500/teacher
- 1 interventions offer teacher/tutor and student materials over $4,500/teacher
- 1 interventions offers a license for materials at over $4,500/school
- 3 interventions offer a per student license under $100/student
- 1 intervention offers a per student license over $100/student
- We have confirmed that only a very small number (5, or 11%) of non-profit organizations offer early reading interventions for free to districts.
- 18 interventions are under review.
List of Surveyed Tutoring Programs and Interventions