Amid the heated policy debate on whether to lift the cap on the number of charter schools, people often cite charter schools’ more intensive tutoring and better academic performance to lobby for lifting the cap. A recent paper indicated that public schools with high-dosage after-school tutoring have the potential to be a politically neutral solution to increase student achievement without lifting the cap.
Researchers at Harvard University conducted a school-level randomized evaluation to examine the effects of high-dosage reading tutoring on New York City’s middle school students. Using matched-triple randomization procedures, 60 traditional New York City public schools were divided into a treatment group, a control group, and a ‘pure’ control group. During three years of the project, selected students in the treatment group attended one-to-four reading tutoring for 2.5 hours every day, while students in the control and the ‘pure’ control groups had neither tutoring nor other after-school services. Meanwhile, the New York City Middle School Quality Initiative (MSQI), offered by the NYC Department of Education to support teacher efficacy, was offered to teachers from treatment and control groups but not the ‘pure’ control group. Therefore, the ‘pure’ control group provided a way to test the independent effect of MSQI. The study found that:
- There a positive and significant effect on school attendance: attending the tutoring program increased attendance at school by 3 percentage points per year.
- In terms of state testing results, there was a positive but insignificant effect on English language arts and no effect on math.
- The authors also concluded that high-dosage tutoring increased African American students’ English language arts scores by 0.09 standard deviations per year.