Why Tutoring Is Essential in Combating COVID-19 Learning Loss

COVID-19 learning loss tutoring

Continuity of learning is an important consideration in ensuring students’ performance during an extended absence. Think back to your first day of school after a long summer break. There’s a good chance that you wouldn’t perform very well if you took a test on last year’s knowledge right then and there. This reduction in performance is a well-documented phenomenon known as summer learning loss, and it’s the reason why there are summer classes or intervention programs.

Now scale up the problem to almost a year without school, and you get the learning loss associated with COVID-19. What’s more, besides the lack of schooling, many students were also unable to leave their homes at all during the pandemic, creating listless kids who couldn’t do anything else but stay cooped up at home.

What Is the Extent of COVID-19 Learning Loss?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the response across countries has varied, resulting in differences in how the pandemic-induced learning loss has occurred. 

However, according to one study, learning loss is still present even in “best-case scenarios” such as the Netherlands, where lockdown was only 8 weeks long and educational funding and internet access are widespread. Even with these advantages, national examination results revealed that students suffered a loss of approximately 3 percentile points, which translates to about a fifth of a school year.  

A study by the Asian Development Bank also shows that learning losses are proportionate to the length of school closure. In Pacific regions, schools remained mostly open, and experienced learning losses of about 8%. Meanwhile, South Asian schools were closed for much longer periods of time, resulting in learning losses of up to 55%! 

A large body of research shows that American students were also strongly affected by learning losses. The NWEA showed that students who took the MAP Growth test in the fall of 2020 scored 5 to 10 percentile points lower in math assessments. Another testing company, Renaissance, demonstrated that students lost 7 points in math assessments and 1 point in reading assessments.

Furthermore, research by McKinsey during the early pandemic illustrated how learning loss may also impact future earnings for American students. Based on an epidemiological scenario where classes did not resume until January 2021 (closely mirroring the real-world results), McKinsey predicted losses of $61,000 to $82,000 in lifetime earnings for K-12 students.

Tutoring: A Powerful Tool to Combat COVID-19 Learning Loss

It’s clear that COVID-19 learning loss is a real problem with measurable results. Thankfully, there is a powerful tool in the arsenal of parents and educators to combat COVID-19 learning loss and improve student outcomes: tutoring.

Historically, attempts to scale up tutoring across all students have been met with resistance, owing to the financial resources involved in subsidizing tutoring costs for each student. However, with the threat of learning loss looming over every student in America, the government has begun efforts to expand tutoring programs to curb the learning loss fueled by the pandemic. 

One such  federal government-led effort is the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a $122 billion stimulus package, of which $25 billion is allocated to addressing learning loss. The American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) recommends the implementation of programs that are proven to improve student outcomes, including high-impact tutoring.

What Are the Benefits of Tutoring?

Tutoring has long demonstrated its effectiveness in improving educational outcomes. In J-PAL’s meta-analysis of 96 studies on tutoring models, 80% of studies showed that tutoring causes improved outcomes for students. One standout example showed that two-to-one high school tutoring in Chicago accelerated students’ learning in math by as much as 1-2 years! Overall, students experienced an improvement of about 0.37 standard deviations, which translates to a 50th percentile student being bumped up to the 66th percentile.

And this isn’t limited to in-person tutoring. One study showed how online tutoring can cause improvements in test results for students. Another study of Italian middle school students demonstrated that three hours of weekly online tutoring caused a 4.7% increase in math, English, and Italian test scores. This improvement doubled when the duration of weekly tutoring was doubled as well.

What Can Parents Do For Their Child’s Tutoring Needs?

While the education world is finally catching on to the potential benefits of tutoring students to combat learning loss, government action plans may take some time to implement. If you want to minimize your child’s learning losses now, private tutoring is the best course of action. Here are important steps to take to address this issue for your child:

1. Get Professional Private Tutors

The J-PAL study showed that who does the tutoring is a big factor in student outcomes. Trained teachers and professional tutors showed greater outcomes than tutoring programs that were delivered by nonprofessionals and caregivers. It’s important, therefore, to select a tutoring company that uses trained professional tutors to support your child’s needs.

2. Invest in Frequent, Small-Scale Tutoring

Two factors stand out in determining the success of tutoring—the ratio of students to tutors, where one-on-one is best, and the frequency of tutoring. Research has shown that high-dosage tutoring (HDT), defined as one-on-one tutoring three times a week, demonstrates excellent results in improving students’ grades. In contrast, a study showed that four-to-one tutoring resulted in no effects on student outcomes, on average.

One-on-one tutoring costs more, as do more frequent sessions. However, this is a critical part of ensuring the success of your child’s tutoring and preventing the much more costly long-term effects of learning loss on their educational journey and lifetime earnings.

3. The Earlier, the Better

Saga Education, a nonprofit educational consulting company, found that early elementary students strongly benefited from high-frequency tutoring programs compared to late elementary students in reading tutoring. So even your younger children certainly stand to gain from starting early. 

Tackle COVID-19 Learning Loss Now

The effects of learning loss compound with time as they remain unaddressed. At the same time, schools are being met with repeated re-openings and closures due to repeated outbreaks, further interrupting the return to normalcy. 

To protect your child against learning loss, it’s best to put them on a tutoring program right away to ensure that their learning is supported continuously.

For best results, you should work with a tutoring company that only provides professionally-trained tutors with individualized learning plans for each student as the best student outcomes come from instruction that is tailored to each child’s particular strengths and weaknesses.