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Report: High School Not Too Late to Improve Student Outcomes

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Tuesday, March 23, 2021   

CHICAGO -- As school districts grapple with the pandemic's academic fallout, new research shows intensive in-school tutoring could help bridge the equity gap in education, and in particular, with high school math.

Monica Bhatt, senior research director at the University of Chicago Education Lab, said there's a false assumption that once kids reach high school, it may not be possible to change student behaviors and outcomes.

She is co-author of a National Bureau of Economic Research report, which found in some of Chicago's most economically disadvantaged schools, 45 minutes of math tutoring during the school day improved both test scores and grades for ninth- and tenth-grade students.

"It's not too late to invest in young people, even in adolescents, and you can still realize very big gains," Bhatt asserted. "From an equity perspective, I think this is really important to think about."

Failing core math courses is a common reason students drop out of Chicago schools.

And while it may be obvious tutoring leads to better learning outcomes, Bhatt noted part of the struggle is implementing programs in a cost-effective way, so as many students as possible have access.

Bhatt pointed out during the pandemic, many students have missed out on school or are learning in an online environment that isn't optimal for them.

She added many districts are seeking ways to address long-term disparities, but also make sure that students of all ages don't fall through the cracks as schools reopen.

"The tutors are able to meet students where they are in terms of their level, and then help them be more engaged in their regular math class," Bhatt explained. "Because they're starting to understand that they can do math, that they can be good at math."

She hopes the model will help simplify the task of teaching.

Some high school students are doing math at a fifth- or sixth-grade level and others at a college level.

In the report, tutors worked closely with teachers on what would be most useful for students to get the most out of their courses.


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