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Why Tutors, Why Now?

• Tim Abram

Learning loss during school closures this Spring could have a long-term impact on the lifetime earnings of students. A recent McKinsey & Company analysis found that “the average K-12 student in the United States could lose $61,000 to $82,000 in lifetime earnings.” Considering the academic and economic consequences of COVID-19, states should consider acting decisively to support student success. One way to support students is tutoring.

Among interventions aimed at boosting student performance, tutoring holds significant promise for students. According to a recent study, students who received daily, individualized tutoring saw improvements on an 10th grade English language arts exam that were equivalent to a full year’s worth of instruction. Another study reported that students who received tutoring outperformed peers who did not receive tutoring by 200 percent on the same state assessment. The University of Chicago’s Urban Education Lab study on intensive tutoring shows that “the program’s benefits were equivalent to closing nearly two-thirds of the average gap in math test scores between white and black students—the equivalent of what the average American high school students learns in math over three years.” In short, tutoring works, and states have an opportunity to act boldly. States could stem the projected student learning loss due to school closures by providing individualized instruction, via tutoring, for the most affected students.

The recently launched Tennessee Tutoring Corps provides an example of how states can address learning loss by providing tutors, while also creating an economic opportunity for recent college graduates facing a difficult job market. The Tennessee Tutoring Corps, founded by the Bill and Crissy Haslam Foundation, recruited 1,000 qualified recent college graduates and paid them a stipend of $1,000 to work with children throughout Tennessee during the Summer of 2020. States can learn from these philanthropists and the well-documented research on tutoring as they consider creating their own tutoring corps. With an infusion of federal funds, states could emulate the Tennessee tutor corps to help the students who need the most support, statewide.

A recent OECD report warns that the economic impact of the learning loss stemming from COVID-19 school closures could cost nations 1.5% of their GDP throughout the remainder of the century. Inevitably, learning loss will translate into a less skilled workforce, which in turn impacts national economic growth. Individualized instruction, the OECD claims, could curb learning loss and even boost the nation’s economy in the long-term. As one form of individualized instruction, tutoring could provide an outstanding return on investment for students and states alike. States are encouraged to make significant investments in tutoring to help reverse learning loss that may have occurred in the spring.

About the author

Tim Abram

Tim Abram serves as ExcelinEd’s Associate Policy Director of Educational Opportunity. Prior to joining ExcelinEd, Tim worked as a public policy manager for VIPKid, a leading ed-tech company. Additionally, Tim has been an education policy fellow for Senator Chris Murphy and a public policy fellow for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Tim also taught United States history in the Mississippi Delta as a Teach For America corps member. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy Leadership from the University of Mississippi and a Masters of Education specializing in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.