Study: How well does tutoring work for elementary students?


Tutoring is a common and well-established intervention for middle and high school students. If done correctly:

  • They understand the material they’re studying better.
  • Their grades and test scores go up.
  • Their confidence improves.

But what about elementary school?

At this point in most kids development, they’re truly “learning how to learn” and building a foundation for the future.

The classes are less objective and demanding. And there’s far less homework, quizzes, and exams to go off of in order to evaluate their level of understanding.

So if your child is struggling in elementary school, how much would tutoring actually help?

There’s a study that came out of the U.S. Department of Education in the early 2000’s, which I refer back to often. In it, they compiled a number of meta-analyses (evaluations of the multiple pieces of scientific literature) on exactly this topic. Here are a few of the most relevant conclusions they came to (quoting directly from the paper):

  • A meta-analysis of 29 studies of supplemental, adult-instructed, one-to-one reading interventions for elementary school students at risk of reading failure was conducted and showed interventions that used trained volunteers or college students, were highly effective
  • An Oregon tutoring program that included two weekly 30-minute sessions, led to increases in words per minute read aloud from 45 to 61.5 by the end of second grade, and increases from 77 words to 91 words by the end of the third grade.
  • A British tutoring program involving 2,372 elementary and junior high students who were tutored by trained parents and peers for an average of 8.6 weeks improved their reading comprehension 4.4 times the normal rate and word recognition 3.3 times the normal rate. Four months after the end of tutoring, the average tutee was still improving at twice the normal rate in both comprehension and word recognition.

They also had some recommendations in terms of the structure of elementary tutoring programs in order to make them most effective. They should have:

  • Close coordination with the student’s teacher
  • Intensive and ongoing training for tutors
  • Well-structured tutoring sessions
  • Careful monitoring and reinforcement of progress
  • Frequent and regular tutoring sessions
  • More sessions per week result in greater gains

In short: yes, tutoring works exceptionally well for elementary school students, especially if they’re behind in reading. And considering that educational gaps tend to grow over time if left unaddressed, we consider it to be just as important as middle and high school tutoring.

Have a question about how this might apply to your elementary student?

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