Using the right design to get the ‘wrong’ answer? Results of a random assignment evaluation of a volunteer tutoring programme

Academically focused tutoring programmes for young children have been promoted widely in the US in various forms as promising strategies for improving academic performance, particularly in reading and mathematics. A body of evidence shows the benefits of tutoring provided by certified, paid professionals; however, the evidence is less clear for tutoring programmes staffed by adult volunteers or college students. In this article, we describe a relatively large‐scale university‐based programme that creates tutoring partnerships between college‐aged volunteers and students from surrounding elementary schools. We used a randomised trial to evaluate the effectiveness of this programme for 196 students from 11 elementary schools over one school year, focusing on academic grades and standardised test scores, confidence in academic ability, motivation and school attendance. We discuss the null findings in order to inform the conditions under which student support programmes can be successful.
Authors citation
Ritter, G., & Maynard, R.
Publication
Journal of Children’s Services, 3(2), 4–16
Year of Study
2008
Subject
Literacy
Program Name
West Philadelphia Tutoring Project
Program Evaluated
Tutoring program staffed by college-aged volunteers
Tutor Type
Volunteer
Duration
20 weeks
Sample size
385
Grade Level(s)
Kindergarten,
1st Grade,
2nd Grade,
3rd Grade,
4th Grade,
5th Grade
Student-Tutor Ratio
1
Effect Size
-0.07
Study Design
Randomized Controlled Trial
Full citation
Ritter, G., & Maynard, R. (2008). Using the right design to get the ‘wrong’ answer? Results of a random assignment evaluation of a volunteer tutoring programme. Journal of Children’s Services, 3(2), 4–16. https://doi.org/10.1108/17466660200800008