DC’s high-impact tutoring programs are also improving school attendance

D.C.’s high-impact tutoring efforts are also motivating students to go to school, according to preliminary findings from a review of the city’s programming.

The city’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education gave a grant to the National Student Support Accelerator at Stanford University to review its tutoring programming. The final results of the multiyear study are expected to be released in the fall, but the interim findings highlight the relationship between tutoring and student attendance.

Overall, students were less likely to be absent on days when they had a scheduled tutoring session, with researchers finding a nearly 7% reduction in the probability of absence. Tutoring sessions decreased the probability of absence by over 11% for middle school students.

Across the D.C. region, school districts have been grappling with how to respond to a rise in students who are chronically absent. Those are kids missing 10% or more of school days in an academic year.

“It makes sense in our minds that there is a connection between high-impact tutoring and attendance,” said Jess Sobin, OSSE’s high-impact tutoring program manager. “We believe that when students have more trusted adults in the school building, they’re potentially more likely to come to school.”

OSSE has allocated over $33 million in federal pandemic stimulus funding for high-impact tutoring in math and literacy. The tutoring happens for at least 90 minutes every week, divided across sessions before, during or after the school day. It usually happens in small groups. A D.C. Policy Center report found many sessions feature three or fewer students.

For students who have missed 30 or more percent of school days during the previous school year, the review found a tutoring session decreased the probability of being absent by over 7%. The findings, Sobin said, come from a review of tutoring programs from the 2022-23 school year.

“We believe that school climate and culture is one critical driver of attendance,” Sarah Martin, a senior advisor for recovery at OSSE, said. “Students need to feel safe to have relationships with adults that are trusted, who they can go to for help. And tutors play a critical role there.”

In addition to the impact tutoring is having on attendance, Sobin said OSSE is also monitoring differences in programs that offer tutoring during school and those that offer it outside of the school day, “because right now we support both.”

OSSE, according to a news release, is on track to exceed its goal of reaching 10,000 students with high-impact tutoring programs by the fall of 2024.

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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