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Would you believe it – a simple solution for improving math learning?

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Antonio Gutierrez | Co-Founder

April 14, 2016

In a policy paper published March 28, the Hamilton Project outlines a proposal for a solution to “improve math learning, narrow achievement and test-score gaps, and boost high school graduation rates for struggling students” – without needed any added government spending.

The solution: intensive-tutoring intervention – the very programs that SAGA Innovations provides.

Here’s the gist of The Hamilton Project’s proposal:

High-dosage tutoring works. The University of Chicago Education Lab and Crime Lab found that SAGA’s program of high-dosage tutoring “improved student math test scores, which is equivalent to narrowing the nationwide achievement gap between black and white students by about a third.”[i] In a 2015 opinion article in the New York Times, University of California-Berkeley professor David Kirp noted the success that SAGA students were seeing in other classes. “These are staggering results—I know of no initiative for disadvantaged young men of color that comes close,” wrote Kirp. “Bring students like this up to grade level and you’ve gone a long way toward closing the racial and ethnic gap in life success.”[ii]

High-dosage tutoring is cost-effective. While the 1-to-2 student teacher ratio makes the per student cost relatively high ($2,500 to $3,800 per student per year), the benefit to the student in terms of increased earning potential as an adult is “roughly five to eleven times larger than the costs—suggesting that the current investment in tutorials is economically worthwhile.”

High-dosage tutoring is easily scalable. The paper notes that the framework of SAGA’s programs is highly replicable, with well-defined program elements that have already been exported to new cities and locations.

High-dosage tutoring can be implemented without additional government spending. The Hamilton Project proposes that, following the example set by Chicago Public Schools, urban school districts can use existing Title 1 resources to fund intensive tutoring programs.

The Hamilton Project proposes that it would require 140,000 tutors each year to offer high-dosage tutoring to one-quarter of all third- through tenth-grade students in the 100 largest public school districts in the United States. That’s a large number of tutors to be sure, but as a point of comparison, the paper notes that 75,000 people already participate in AmeriCorps programs each year.

The paper concludes: “we believe this individualized tutorial program has the potential to be a transformative strategy in public education, helping our most at-risk youth catch back up to grade level, reengage with regular classroom instruction, and gain real hope for a diploma and all the long-term economic benefits that go along with that.”

At SAGA, obviously, we believe that too. And since believing in a solution is the first step to making change in the world, we invite you to believe along with us.


[i] http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2015/02/02/findings-reinforce-use-targeted-tutoring-benefit-disadvantaged-cps-students#sthash.Le6exkyp.dpuf 

[ii] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/01/opinion/sunday/intense-tutoring-can-close-the-math-gap.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fdavid-l-kirp&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=8&pgtype=collection&_r=0

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