Virtual Tutoring Use and Student Achievement Growth
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Numerous prior studies have shown that high-dosage, in-person tutoring can yield substantial gains in student achievement growth. However, staffing in-person tutoring programs can be challenging. Consequently, virtual tutoring has become an attractive option for school districts seeking to accelerate student achievement growth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In SY 2021–22, Clayton County Public Schools (CCPS) contracted with a virtual tutoring platform, Tutor.com, to provide one-on-one, on-demand virtual tutoring sessions to students in the district.
In this report, Tim Sass and Salma Mohammad Ali use individual tutoring session data from CCPS to highlight patterns of usage among students. We disaggregate usage by school, grade level, subject area, and the number of sessions in which students participated. Additionally, we assess the impact of virtual tutoring use on students’ achievement in math, measured by formative assessment scores (i-Ready or MAP Growth) in SY 2021–22.
We find usage of the tutoring platform was modest in terms of the number of students that participated and the frequency of sessions. Usage varied by school and was generally higher among elementary and middle school students. The most popular subject for tutoring sessions was math, where pandemic-era declines in achievement growth have been greater than in reading. While students at all prior achievement levels participated in tutoring sessions, usage was generally lower among higher-achieving students. In general, the extent of Tutor.com usage was not correlated with student achievement gains in math, though there is suggestive evidence that high-intensity use could yield gains in student achievement.
Unfortunately, the causal relationship between virtual tutoring usage and student achievement is unclear because students chose their level of Tutor.com use. We find that the relationship between the quantity of non-math tutoring and math test scores is similar to the relationship between math test scores and the number of math tutoring sessions. This suggests that our estimates of the impact of math tutoring on math scores are partly a reflection of the characteristics of students who chose to take advantage of virtual tutoring rather than the tutoring itself.
Student usage must increase for virtual tutoring to be an effective tool in promoting student achievement growth. Integrating the use of virtual tutoring into the school day would be the most direct way to promote usage. However, incentivizing students to participate in virtual tutoring before or after school and messaging parents to encourage usage may be helpful as well.
Sass, Tim and Ali, Salma Mohammad, "Virtual Tutoring Use and Student Achievement Growth" (2023). Georgia Policy Labs Reports. 45.