ProvenTutoring.org came about during the COVID pandemic. We (Robert Slavin, Nancy Madden, and our colleagues at Johns Hopkins University) started ProvenTutoring.org out of a concern about the damage being done to students’ education due to COVID school closures, especially the damage to the education of disadvantaged students. Before the pandemic, we had reviewed research on all types of programs for struggling learners, and knew that tutoring was by far the most effective solution for students struggling in reading and mathematics (see Neitzel et al., 2021; Pellegrini et al., 2021). We concluded that when students returned from COVID school closures, one-to-one and small group tutoring should be core strategies to help struggling students regain their footing and move quickly toward grade level performance.
In order to make this idea a reality, we reached out to colleagues throughout the U.S. who had created, successfully evaluated, and disseminated effective tutoring programs capable of being widely scaled up to serve a significant number of the millions of students in need of tutoring. Our idea was that we needed to work together to champion the entire idea of proven tutoring, and to help each other reach far more schools and students than any of us had reached before, with professional development and other services of uncompromising quality. The organizations supporting these programs were eager to work with us and with each other. Even though in principle we are competitors, all of us share a primary concern with helping disadvantaged and low-achieving students to reach their full potential, as well as a strong belief in the importance of rigorous research as the means to discover and validate programs that work.
The COVID crisis provided us both the urgency and the means to greatly expand the use of research-proven tutoring programs. The urgency is obvious. Every educator, parent, and political leader knows that schools need to do something dramatic to heal COVID losses, especially those sustained by disadvantaged students. The means are on their way. The Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan is providing billions of dollars to schools, much of which is specifically allocated to repair learning losses.
We hope to make the case for the use of proven programs, providing the conditions and professional development that made each program successful in its evaluations. All programs will be primarily implemented during the school day, based on evidence that attendance is poor in after-school and summer school programs (Kidron & Lindsay, 2014; Xie et al., 2021), especially among disadvantaged and low-achieving students. Tutors will be required to have college degrees, and will be paid, based on research indicating that less qualified tutors and unpaid volunteers or parents obtain much lower outcomes than do paid tutors with college degrees (Neitzel et al., 2021; Nickow et al., 2020). All programs will use teaching assistants with college degrees, because evidence shows such tutors to be very effective with effective materials and training.
The members of the ProvenTutoring.org coalition subscribe to these principles. More importantly, all of their programs have solid evidence of effectiveness, and have the ability and commitment to work at large scale.
ProvenTutoring.org has no connection or endorsement from the government. However, the member programs have been evaluated according to the evidence standards laid out in the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). We believe that educators should be made aware of this evidence. No one can guarantee that every student who receives tutoring from a proven program will show extraordinary gains, but we are confident that, on average, students will benefit substantially. Making these programs and this evidence broadly available is our only purpose.
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Kidron, Y., & Lindsay, J. (2014). The effects of increased learning time on student academic and nonacademic outcomes: Findings from a meta‑analytic review (REL 2014-015). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia.
Neitzel, A., Lake, C., Pellegrini, M., & Slavin, R. (2021). A synthesis of quantitative research on programs for struggling readers in elementary schools. Reading Research Quarterly. doi:10.1002/rrq.379
Nickow, A. J., Oreopoulos, P., & Quan, V. (2020). The transformative potential of tutoring for pre-k to 12 learning outcomes: Lessons from randomized evaluations. Boston: Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab.
Pellegrini, M., Neitzel, A., Lake, C., & Slavin, R. (2021). Effective programs in elementary mathematics: A meta-analysis. AERA Open, 7 (1), 1-29. https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858420986211
Xie, C., Neitzel, A., Cheung, A., & Slavin, R. E. (2021). The effects of summer programs on K-12 students’ reading and mathematics achievement: A meta-analysis. Manuscript submitted for publication.