There is widespread agreement that of all the ways to help students struggling academically due to the COVID-19 pandemic,"high-impact" tutoring is the most promising: It's personalized. It's an approach that's been used for centuries by the well-heeled. And it has a lot of research behind it.
All this has led to a consensus—at least among think-tank types—that the United States needs a significant investment to expand high-quality tutoring programs.
(High-impact tutoring, also called high-dosage tutoring, is sustained and regular contact between a tutor and a student over several months, rather than incidentally called up by a student only on occasion.)
The problem of doing this at scale is one of cost, of course, but also of logistics. Research is less clear what elements matter most to a high-quality program: Is it training the tutors? Curriculum alignment with districts' needs? How the tutoring is integrated into the regular school day?
Into this breach has stepped the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, which late last week announced the launch of its National School Support Accelerator. Partly a hands-on tutoring initiative and partly a research project, Annenberg is funding a variety of demonstration tutoring sites throughout the United States to study and refine what we know about tutoring. Eventually, it wants to spin off the project into its own organization.
"The trick, I think, is that when you scale something it's not as good as it is initially," said Susanna Loeb, the director of the Annenberg Institute. "How can we be careful so it scales at quality? What kind of resources are available so we know that it's quality, and they're doing it in a way that the research shows is most effective? That's really what this organization is aiming to do."