Personalized Tutoring Sees Big Results

Personalized tutors are expensive for individuals and school districts, but the results may be able to justify the cost.

Teachers are commonly put into large classrooms where some of the kids are at a ninth-grade or 10th-grade math level, and other kids are at a fourth- or fifth-grade math level, said Jonathan Guryan, a professor at Northwestern University.

“From the standpoint of a teacher trying to teach kids who are at such different levels of math knowledge — it just makes the job of being a classroom teacher very difficult,” he said.

In Chicago, Researcher Roland Fryer and Guryan studied a program that paired two 10th-grade boys whose test scores were low with a tutor during a regular class period in the school day. This tutoring was integrated with their regular math class and there were frequent tests to gauge results.

The findings were very impressive when considering how often hyped education initiatives produce disappointing results. Students who received tutoring were much less likely to fail regular math courses.

The average student started at the 34th percentile of student performance, and, after tutoring, jumped to the 42nd percentile.

Unfortunately, paying for these services is still a problem. Per the latest data, states are spending less now on education than prior to the Great Recession, and other resources may be better spent on tutoring. However, repurposing any money will take dollars away from elsewhere which could be painful and substantial.

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