As schools, communities, and families work to help students catch up from lost learning time, the conversation has intensified around high-dosage tutoring as an answer to learning loss. What’s more, as national data show math learning has taken a bigger hit, there is an even greater need to understand the efficacy of math tutoring specifically. 

During the 2021-22 school year, Breakthrough Collaborative undertook a culturally-responsive math tutoring pilot to drive innovation and codify best practices in the after-school and tutoring spaces. With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Breakthrough Central Texas and Greater Boston affiliates piloted the program that studied 56 students, offering up to 42 hours of math tutoring and 84 hours of total programming. 

Released this month, “Balancing the Tutoring Equation: Lessons from a Student-Centered After-School Math Tutoring Pilot,” details findings of the pilot program.

Key findings and considerations include:

  • Pilot students’ math scores increased by the end of the program, on average. Findings also validate research that suggests strong after-school attendance is associated with strong math outcomes.
  • Greater Boston students had higher than expected math scores coupled with very high attendance rates, validating research that shows attendance is a key factor when it comes to tutoring programs.
  • Pilot students who attended Breakthrough’s summer program both before and after the tutoring program had even stronger student outcomes in the summer after tutoring, providing evidence to support Breakthrough’s model of offering students consecutive summer opportunities coupled with strong school year programs in between.
  • While the amount of math instruction provided was on the lower end of recommended amounts, this intentional programmatic decision allowed for a far more enriching and enjoyable program, as expressed by students.
  • Scheduling tutoring after school hours opened up creative staffing solutions, a known pain point for tutoring organizations.
  • There is considerable need for partnerships between local education agencies (LEAs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) like Breakthrough to best understand how to tackle after-school attendance challenges.  
  • Tutoring is not one-size-fits-all. After-school tutoring programs must be flexible and designed to meet the unique needs of students and their families.

“Students need to be served in a variety of ways in this post-pandemic era,” said Jee Deogracias, Senior Director of Research and Evaluation. “Breakthrough is one of many solutions in a larger ecosystem of expanded student supports that need to be urgently deployed to meet every student where they are.”