The Education Lab conducted a study of a high-dosage math tutoring model that combines technology and tutors to improve high school math outcomes at a lower cost to schools.

Challenge

High-dosage tutoring has proven to be effective at improving high school student math outcomes. However, the costs associated with high-dosage tutoring are a barrier to school districts that need help to fund the traditional model at scale. Infusing technology into high-dosage tutoring through a computer-assisted learning (CAL) platform offers one way to reduce costs.

Opportunity

The tutoring provider Saga Education incorporated technology into their high-dosage tutoring model, adapting it so that students alternate between working on a CAL platform and directly with an in-person tutor every other day. The Education Lab conducted a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate this new model.

Project overview

Education researchers have long known that small-group tutoring generates some of the “best learning conditions we can devise,” partly because it personalizes instruction and provides opportunities for mentorship (Bloom, 1984). Prior research has demonstrated that both in-person tutors and education technology are promising methods of delivering individualized, effective instruction to meet students where they are. Past work by the Education Lab has demonstrated that Saga Education’s high-dosage, individualized, during-the-school-day math tutoring model can generate large and significant gains in academic outcomes—up to two and a half years of additional learning—in a short period, even among students who are behind grade level. However, one significant barrier to scaling up this promising intervention is cost: the traditional high-dosage tutoring model is too expensive for most schools to serve as many students as would benefit. Increasing access to high-dosage tutoring requires finding a method to serve more students without losing effectiveness. 

Saga Education, in partnership with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the New York City Department of Education, piloted a new blended-learning version of their traditional tutoring model during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years with the aim of reducing program costs while maintaining the effectiveness found in the previous evaluations of Saga’s tutoring model. Under this new “Saga technology” model, participating students received Saga programming every day, but unlike the previous version, students alternated between a day of working with their in-person tutor and a day of individually engaging with an education technology platform. 

The University of Chicago Education Lab conducted a two-year randomized controlled trial – the gold standard in research – of the model during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. The study involved over 3,900 ninth-grade students across seven Chicago and New York City public high schools. Results are expected to be released in late 2023.

Years Active

2018 – present

Project Leads

Monica Bhatt

Monica Bhatt

Senior Research Director

Jon Guryan

Jon Guryan

Faculty Co-Director

Salman Khan

Salman Khan

Research Director

Michael LaForest-Tucker

Michael LaForest-Tucker

Assistant Professor, U.S. Air Force Academy

Related Resources
Realizing the Promise of High Dosage Tutoring at Scale: Preliminary Evidence for the Field
Report

Realizing the Promise of High Dosage Tutoring at Scale: Preliminary Evidence for the Field

Mar 2024

This technical report outlines preliminary results from the Personalized Learning Initiative showing that high dosage tutoring can be scaled and can work–even when delivered in the aftermath of the pandemic and in diverse academic settings.

Personalized Learning Initiative Research Brief
Research Brief

Personalized Learning Initiative Research Brief

Mar 2024

Overview of the Personalized Learning Initiative, a nationwide R&D initiative to scale the benefits of tutoring.

Overcoming Pandemic-Induced Learning Loss
Academic Paper

Overcoming Pandemic-Induced Learning Loss

Oct 2023

The Education Lab’s faculty co-directors, Dr. Jens Ludwig, professor at the University of Chicago, and Dr. Jon Guryan, professor at Northwestern University, published a paper commissioned by the Aspen Economic Strategy Group for its 2023 policy volume.

Not Too Late: Improving Academic Outcomes Among Adolescents
Academic Paper

Not Too Late: Improving Academic Outcomes Among Adolescents

Mar 2023

Read our academic paper on the early Saga studies published in the American Economic Review.