Findings reinforce use of targeted tutoring to benefit disadvantaged CPS students

A new report provides further evidence that it’s not too late to improve academic outcomes for adolescents from disadvantaged environments if they receive individual attention. The latest data is from the first year of a two-year study that shows that participation in the Match tutoring intervention improved student math test scores, which is equivalent to narrowing the nationwide achievement gap between black and white students by about a third.

The study by the UChicago Urban Education Lab and Crime Lab found that Match tutoring also helped improve math performance by more than half a letter grade, reduced math course failures by more than 50 percent and reduced overall course failures by more than one quarter. The study is published online at the Northwestern University Institute of Policy Research website. Co-author Jonathan Guryan, a faculty fellow at the Institute, is also co-director of the UChicago Urban Education Lab.

The data come from a randomized controlled trial that assigned 2,718 male 9th- and 10th-grade students at 12 Chicago Public Schools high schools to receive either intensive two-on-one individualized math tutoring created by Match Education of Boston, or to a control group that did not receive Match. The Match tutoring was a for-credit class during the school day.

Previous studies have found that many Chicago youth at highest risk for school failure and crime are often two or more years behind grade level in reading and four to 10 years behind in math skills. Targeting this academic “mismatch”—the difference between a student’s grade level and the actual material he or she has mastered—is one of the key components of this intervention. The goal is to help students improve their academic outcomes and ultimately to keep them in school.

A Feb. 1 opinion article in the New York Times highlighted the power of the program. University of California-Berkeley professor David Kirp noted that the students also had success in other classes.

“These are staggering results—I know of no initiative for disadvantaged young men of color that comes close,” Kirp wrote. “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.”

Last year, preliminary study results were released evaluating the successful effects of the Match tutoring coupled with the Becoming a Man mentoring program, developed by Chicago nonprofit Youth Guidance, which helps young men build social-cognitive skills, including self-regulation and impulse control. Based on those results, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged to expand the programs to reach even more young men in Chicago’s public high schools. The results also provided a model for the national “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative announced by President Barack Obama last February.