High school students who were at risk for dropping out greatly improved their math test scores and school attendance with the help of intensive tutoring and mentoring, according to a new study by the University of Chicago Urban Education Lab. The program’s benefits were equivalent to closing nearly two-thirds of the average gap in math test scores between white and black students—the equivalent of what the average American high school student learns in math over three years.
The release of the new study coincided with an announcement by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Urban Education Lab that they will increase the number of Chicago Public Schools students participating in this high-dosage math tutoring intervention implemented by Match Education. In 2013, Emanuel committed support to increasing participation in the Becoming a Man mentoring program. Researchers with the Urban Education Lab and the University of Chicago Crime Lab are evaluating the effects of Match’s tutoring model and BAM mentoring for CPS students.
“This study is welcome news to students, teachers and families who have been working to tackle the achievement gap facing too many of our students,” Emanuel said. “To build off the program’s proven track record of success, our goal is to expand access to Match tutoring and BAM to 1,000 students by next school year. This partnership with University of Chicago is part of a larger citywide strategy to invest in expanding access for youth to learning, mentoring and employment opportunities that will better ensure all of our students graduate 100 percent college ready and 100 percent college bound.”
For the new report, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the UChicago team tracked the impact of tutoring and mentoring among 106 ninth- and tenth-grade students at Harper High School in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood for six months in 2012 and 2013. Students were selected randomly to permit rigorous analysis of the outcomes. In addition to a significant jump in math test scores, students receiving tutoring and mentoring failed two fewer courses per year on average than students who did not participate, and their likelihood of being “on track” for graduation rose by nearly one-half.
“These results come from a randomized experiment of the sort that generates gold-standard evidence in medicine, but remains far too rare in the area of social policy,” noted Roseanna Ander, executive director of the Urban Education Lab. The lab is part of UChicago's Urban Education Institute, which is dedicated to creating knowledge to produce reliably excellent schooling.
One benefit of the Match tutoring approach is that it takes on the “mismatch” between a student’s grade level and the actual skills he or she has developed. In disadvantaged urban settings such as Chicago, a student can be four to 10 years behind grade level in math, which is a key gateway to high school graduation, said Jens Ludwig, co-director of the Urban Education Lab and the McCormick Foundation Professor of Social Service Administration, Law and Public Policy.