New federal study says SES tutoring doesn't help
By the end of the Florida legislative session, those same leaders were scrambling to deal with a new mandate requiring them to put 15 percent of the federal money toward tutoring, regardless of the waiver. They turned to the U.S. Department of Education seeking relief, to little result.
This week, the USDOE quietly released a study, based in part on some Florida schools, that could bolster the district's position that the tutoring isn't what's needed most to support students at struggling schools.
Researchers from Mathematica Policy Research and the DOE's Institute of Education Sciences looked at the test results of students in six school districts where more students were eligible for SES tutoring than could be paid for. Here's one key finding — neither offering tutoring to students, nor student participation, significantly affected results. From the report:
"What is the average impact of offering SES to eligible applicants who are on the cusp of having access to services, in school districts where services are oversubscribed? Across the six oversubscribed districts, we find no evidence of impacts of offering SES to students near the cut point for an offer. For students in these oversubscribed districts in grades 3–8 at the cusp of receiving an offer of services, we find no statistically significant impact of offering SES on student achievement in reading or in mathematics.
"The point estimate of the average impact on reading is -0.03 standard deviations, and that for mathematics is 0.05 standard deviations. Furthermore, there is no evidence of potential benefits for at-risk subgroups of students. Similarly, we find no statistically significant impact of participating in SES on student achievement in reading or mathematics. The estimated impact of participating (which involved an average of 21 hours of services) is -0.10 standard deviations for reading and 0.11 standard deviations for math (again estimated for students in grades 3-8 near the cutoff for an offer, in these oversubscribed districts)."
This report could become useful as a guide for state and district policy as officials ponder exactly how to deal with tutoring. Whether anyone will read it remains to be seen.