“Short bursts” of phonics in the back of the classroom show promise with kindergarteners
The first-year results of a four-year study of 800 Florida children conducted by a Stanford University research organization are promising. Half the children in 49 kindergarten classrooms were randomly selected to receive Chapter One’s tutoring program during the 2021-22 school year. Almost three-quarters of the students were Black and more than half were low-income – two groups who are more likely to be held back in third grade because of reading difficulties.
To keep younger children on track, the Broward County school district, where the study took place, wanted all kindergarteners to be able to sound out simple three-letter words by the end of the year and be able to distinguish similar words such as hit, hot and hut. After one year of this short burst tutoring, more than double the number of kindergarteners hit this milestone: 68 percent versus 32 percent of the children who didn’t receive the tutoring in the same classrooms. Tutored students also scored much higher on a test of oral reading fluency.
“These results are big,” said Susanna Loeb, a Stanford professor of education who was a member of the research team and heads the National Student Support Accelerator, a Stanford research organization that studies tutoring and released this study in February 2023. “What’s so exciting about this study is it shows that you can get a lot of the benefits of high impact tutoring – relationship-based, individualized instruction with really strong instructional materials – at a cost that is doable for most districts in the long run.”