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American Economic Review published RCT findings for Saga Education's high-dosage math tutoring of low-income 9th & 10th graders in Chicago. Quick take: High-quality RCTs find sizable effect on math achievement that persists 1-2 years after tutoring ends.

 

Program:

  • Saga provided math tutoring to 9th & 10th graders in low-income high schools - 50 min/day, 5 days/week for 1 schoolyear.  Tutors were recent college grads, trained & paid a modest stipend. Tutors worked with two students at a time. Cost was approximately $4800/tutored student.

 

Study Design:

  • Two RCTs evaluated Saga at scale in 15 high-poverty Chicago high schools, with a pooled sample of 5,343 students randomly assigned to treatment vs control (>95% Black or Hispanic, 87% low-income).

  • Only about 40% of treatment group students received Saga tutoring due to scheduling & related issues, so the studies estimated impacts for both the full treatment group (“intent to treat”) & those treatment group students who actually received at least 1 tutoring session (“treatment on treated”).

 

Pooled Findings of the 2 RCTs:

  • The RCTs found sizable effects on math achievement at end of the tutoring year, but what's remarkable is that effects persisted. At end of 11th grade — 1-2 yrs after tutoring ended — the effect on district test scores was 0.10 for the full treatment group (intent-to-treat) and 0.23 for treatment group students who received tutoring (treatment on treated).

  • The 0.23 effect size for tutored students represents a gain of approximately 1.6 grade-levels of learning in 11th grade. Saga also increased tutored students' 11th grade math GPA by a quarter point. These effects were statistically significant, p<0.01.

  • The RCTs found no discernible effects on behavior, absenteeism or high school graduation rates. The first RCT also tested a cognitive-behavioral program for males (Becoming a Man) in 2 treatment arms, & found no discernible effect on academic outcomes, suspensions, or arrests.

 

Comment:

  • Based on careful review, these were well-conducted RCTs (e.g., excellent baseline balance, moderate sample attrition but not differential, valid analyses). Overall, I think the findings are very encouraging.

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