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The Pros and Cons of a Nationwide Tutoring Program

By Percival L on April 15, 2024

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At Schoolhouse, we all know that tutoring is effective. But can it save a country’s education system? The United States’ Department of Education is certainly betting on it—in the last few years, the agency has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into evidence-based tutoring programs. And although in-person sessions are the ultimate goal, online tutors like us currently fill important gaps in funding and implementation.

The timing could not have been better. Tests administered by the American government found that 9-year olds across the nation were falling behind in reading and math—the drop in scores was the largest dip in 20 years. Internationally, the U.S. continues to trail other developed countries in all academic areas despite three decades of contentious education reform.

What makes these programs different? The secret sauce is consistency. The groups have to be small, and they have to meet at least two or three times a week. The tutors should teach the same students weekly, and they should be qualified to teach, too. Yet the evidence for this simple approach is astounding—according to Matthew Kraft, a professor at Brown University, high dosage tutoring offers benefits on par with reduced class sizes and exemplary preschool programs.

However, the price tag remains an issue. A nationwide tutoring program could cost tens of billions of dollars, which could eat away at teachers’ salaries and maintenance costs for school facilities. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is working hard to make quality in-person instruction more scalable; Kraft proposed that college students and recent graduates can also step in to expand the pool of qualified tutors and assist teachers when needed. Online platforms like can help, too. Students feel more comfortable asking questions in small groups—even when the class is conducted through Zoom.

American educators are particularly interested in getting third graders back on track, as elementary schoolers who are proficient in math and language arts are four times more likely to graduate high school. Tutoring may not just be for high schoolers enrolled in AP classes—younger kids may benefit from individualized attention as well.

Tutoring programs cannot replace competent teachers or healthy classrooms. They can, however, close the gaps in student achievement and prevent struggling kids from falling through the cracks. And they can certainly bring some hope to an educational system that has faced far too many setbacks over the past five decades.

Thank you Sharon V for editing this article!

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