University of Chicago Education Lab leads $18 million tutoring project to boost learning

Multi-year study will enroll tens of thousands of students in ambitious experiment aiming to close learning gaps from pandemic

The University of Chicago Education Lab announced Nov. 22 that it is leading a cutting-edge research project to determine how the nation’s schools can close student achievement gaps and overcome pandemic-era learning losses.

The multi-year project will help school districts across the country effectively scale “high-dosage” tutoring – an intervention proved to double or triple the amount of learning in a single academic year. The Education Lab will work with MDRC and the newly formed nonprofit Accelerate to engage thousands of students in school districts nationwide. This work is supported by an $18 million donation from America Achieves, Citadel Founder and CEO Ken Griffin and Arnold Ventures. 

“As students continue to struggle with pandemic-era learning loss, this project represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to boost learning and close longstanding gaps in student achievement,” said Monica Bhatt of UChicago’s Education Lab. “The Education Lab is proud to work alongside our partners in determining how to cost-effectively deliver one of the most promising learning interventions – at scale – to a student population in urgent need of support.”

High-dosage tutoring – at least 30 minutes of intensive, individual instruction three or more days per week – has been shown to be a highly effective learning intervention. Given this promising evidence, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recently called on school districts across the country to provide tutoring to every student in need of support, but high-dosage tutoring requires highly trained tutors, making it cost-prohibitive for many school districts.

By designing a massive, randomized control trial, the Education Lab and MDRC will help school districts use technology to lower the number of tutors required, determining if and how it is possible to scale this kind of tutoring without compromising effectiveness. 

“High-dosage tutoring is providing our children the support they need to recover from the learning challenges of the pandemic and reach their full academic potential,” said Pedro Martinez, CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

To conduct the project, the Education Lab has enlisted the support of leading research non-profit MDRC. The research team will partner closely with multiple school districts across the country, including Chicago Public Schools as the anchor partner in this work. The research team will also benefit from the expertise of leading researchers at Northwestern University, Stanford University and the University of Toronto.

“The Education Lab is one of our nation’s premier educational research organizations, and we are thrilled to have them spearheading this project,” said Kevin Huffman, CEO of Accelerate. “Their commitment to rigorous research and proven track record of partnership make them an excellent choice to support school districts and policymakers seeking strategies that advance student outcomes.”