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NBER posted an RCT of Saga Technology, a program that provides 9th graders with high-dosage math tutoring & engagement with educational technology. Quick take: High-quality RCT in NY City & Chicago finds sizable gain (~86% of a grade-level) in math achievement on end-of-year district tests.

Program:

  • Students in the program alternate (on successive days) between working with an in-person, trained tutor & individually engaging with an education technology platform. The student-tutor ratio is 4:1. The program takes place 50 min/day, 5d/week, for the full 9th grade schoolyear.


Study Design:

  • The study sample comprised 2,065 incoming 9th graders in 6 high-poverty high schools (3 in NYC, 3 in Chicago). 81% were Black or Hispanic; 91% were low-income. Based on careful review, this was a well-conducted RCT (e.g., baseline balance, low attrition, prespecified outcomes & analyses).


Findings:

  • The study found a sizable, statistically-significant impact on end-of-year math scores on district tests. The effect size was 0.19 - which represents an 86% improvement over the annual gain in math otherwise expected for 9th graders.


  • The study also found significantly improved math GPA & fewer math course failures through fall of 10th grade (after which COVID interrupted study follow-up).


Comment:

  • Prior RCTs have found sizable, sustained effects for Saga's traditional program (2:1 tutoring ratio, no tech component). Saga Technology's impacts are almost as big, but cost is 40% lower (~$2600 per tutored student).


  • Taken together, these studies constitute strong, replicated RCT evidence - providing confidence that schools which adopt & faithfully implement Saga's traditional or technology model will see meaningful math gains for low-income students.


  • Disclosure: my former employer, Arnold Ventures, helped fund this study.



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