Creating An Effective High-Dose Tutoring Program

While states and districts have engaged in numerous strategies to address Covid-related learning losses, the strategy getting the most attention and investment is high-dose tutoring. According to a February 2023 report published by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), states have spent $700 million of ESSER reserve funds to expand tutoring opportunities, including $470 million on large-scale, high-dose tutoring programs. This blog endeavors to provide tips, based on lessons learned from tutoring programs across the country, to help districts implement successful high-dose tutoring programs.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) regularly surveys a national sample of public schools about the impact of Covid-19. The December 2022 NCES Pulse survey included questions about the types of tutoring schools are offering:

  • Thirty-seven percent (37%) of the public schools reported providing high-dose tutoring
  • Fifty-nine percent (59%) offer standard tutoring
  • Twenty-two percent (22%) provide self-paced tutoring.

High-dose tutoring is one-on-one or small-group tutoring that takes place at least three times a week for at least 30 minutes per session. Tutors are educators or well-trained tutors and the tutor follows an evidence-based, core curriculum program. Standard tutoring is less intensive tutoring that takes place one-on-one, or in small or large groups. Tutoring is offered less than three times per week and tutors are educators who may or may not have received training in specific tutoring practices. Self-paced tutoring is tutoring where students work at their own pace, typically online. They receive guided instruction and move on to new material after mastering the content.

Are all three types of tutoring programs equally effective? J-PAL’s Tutoring Evidence Review analyzed the evidence from 96 randomized evaluations of tutoring programs and provides the following insights into what type of tutoring programs work best and for whom:

  • Tutoring programs led by teachers or paraprofessional tutors are generally more effective than programs that used nonprofessional (volunteer) or parent tutors. Paraprofessional tutors include, among others, school staff members, undergraduate students in education, and service fellows.
  • The effects of tutoring programs tend to be strongest among students in earlier grades, though a smaller set of programs at the secondary level were also found to be effective at improving learning outcomes.
  • While the overall effects for math and reading tutoring programs are similar, reading tutoring tends to be relatively more effective for students in preschool through first grade, while math tutoring tends to be more effective for students in second through fifth grade.
  • Tutoring programs conducted during school tend to have larger impacts than those conducted after school.
Woman tutor with student at a table.

During EdWeek’s recent Essentials on Tutoring forum, Susan Loeb, professor and director of the education policy initiative at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, and Scott Muri, superintendent of Ector County ISD provided further, similar guidance about the attributes of successful tutoring programs:

  • They target students’ individual needs
  • They are “intensive” meaning that they occur over a long period of time, daily or every other day for an entire school year
  • They happen as part of the school day, either before during, or immediately after school when it’s easiest to reach and engage students
  • They use professional, trained tutors
  • Tutors have access to student data showing where the students’ needs exist
  • Tutors rely on the district’s curriculum so that the tutoring is aligned with the material students are expected to learn
  • Contracts for tutoring services were “outcomes-based”; their continuation hinged on students’ progress.

As mentioned, high-dose tutoring is effective when aligned with the district’s curriculum. This blog provides tips about using the district’s existing materials to deliver standards-aligned tutoring.

Providing high-dose tutoring is challenging for many reasons, including cost, scheduling, and staffing. If your district is (considering) partnering with a vendor to deliver tutoring service, Bart Epstein, a former executive at, provides this advice, “No school district should be paying for tutoring if kids aren’t showing up.”


Barshay, Jill. 2022. “PROOF POINTS: Early Data on ‘High-Dosage’ Tutoring Shows Schools Are Sometimes Finding It Tough to Deliver Even Low Doses.” The Hechinger Report. August 1, 2022.

‌Heubeck, Elizabeth. 2023. “Talking High-Dosage Tutoring: A Researcher and Schools Chief Share Strategies.” Education Week, February 21, 2023, sec. Student Achievement.

“2022 School Pulse Panel.” n.d.

“Road to Recovery: How States Are Using Federal Relief Funding to Scale High-Impact Tutoring |.” n.d. Accessed March 3, 2023.

‌‌“The Transformative Potential of Tutoring for Pre K-12 Learning Outcomes: Lessons from Randomized Evaluations.” n.d. Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). Accessed March 3, 2023.

©2024 Learning List
Privacy Policy | Methodology

Learning List, 3575 Far West Blvd. Ste. 29571
Austin, TX 78731 | PH: 512.234.4458