Learning Loss and High-Dosage Tutoring

Books crumbling to illustrate learning loss

The best data is finally out and pandemic learning loss is staggering. In both reading and math scores, students who perform below grade level rose 50% from 2019 to 2023, and students overall are, on average, 5-9 months behind—that’s a solid year behind for many.

The New York Times published a scary and scathing op-ed on this two weeks ago, noting that funding for learning catch-up, which has barely made a dent in the problem, dries up in 2024. It will take a herculean effort to address this, the paper notes.

High-Dosage Tutoring

One bright spot is an experiment in the state of Virginia which is rolling out “high-dosage tutoring,” that aims to pair students with teachers in very small groups for intensive tutoring. Virginia is investing $418m—the GDP of a small Caribbean nation—in the effort to combat learning loss. The program is based on research conducted at Stanford University as part of its education accelerator that shows how high-dosage tutoring, in which students are paired consistently several times each week with the same tutor, drives 2.1x results. In other words, in a single year of tutoring students are gaining 10 extra months of learning.

The Student-Teacher Relationship

A key ingredient in Stanford’s recipe to combat learning loss is that the tutor has to remain consistent and be supported in a way that they can forge a strong rapport with their students. “The basis of effective tutoring is strong tutor-student relationships.”

This, of course, is exactly what we do. Or, at least it’s on the spectrum. Our groups are smaller—1 student per teacher, instead of 4 per teacher in the Stanford research. And, instead of tutors—who are often college students looking to earn a little extra money—we employ teachers with years (often decades) of experience. If Stanford’s recipe is high dosage, Cicero is an overdose.

Learning Loss Solved

Dad jokes aside, the data is incredibly clear: When you take kids out of the classroom and pair them with an expert teacher in very small groups or, ideally, one-to-one, for a solid period time, magic happens. If you create an environment where a student and teacher can build a strong rapport and sense of trust, huge amounts of learning can happen.

This is what we focus on. Every day. Learn more by booking a consult with us. (It’s free.)

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