Robert Slavin: Proven Tutoring

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About the Author

Robert Slavin is an American psychologist who studies educational and academic issues. He is known for the Success for All educational model. He is a distinguished professor and director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University.

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Speaker 1: (00:01)
Welcome to Principal Center Radio, helping you build capacity for instructional leadership. Here's your host, director of the principal center, Dr. Justin Baeder.

Justin Baeder: (00:11)
Welcome everyone to Principal Center Radio. I'm your host, Justin Baeder, and I'm honored to welcome to the program Dr. Robert Slavin. Dr. Slavin is distinguished professor and Director of the Center for Research and Reform and education at John Hopkins University, a member of the National Academy of Education. He is the author of more than 300 articles and books, including the textbook Educational Psychology Theory and Practice, now in its 12th edition. And he's the co-founder of the Success for All Foundation, as well as proventutoring.org, which we're here to talk about today.

Speaker 1: (00:46)
And now our feature presentation.

Justin Baeder: (00:48)
Dr. Slavin, welcome to Principal Center Radio.

Robert Slavin: (00:50)
Thank you. Glad To be here.

Justin Baeder: (00:51)
Well, it's an honor to speak with you today, and I'm very excited to talk about the Proven Tutoring initiative that you are spearheading. You say that this could be educations polio or penicillin moment. What do you mean by that?

Robert Slavin: (01:05)
Well, what I mean is that, in addition to the crisis that we have with many children who are in need of rapid improvement in their achievement levels as they come back from a terrible year, this is an opportunity to demonstrate the impact of evidence itself. I've, for a very long time, been focused on trying to find ways to get evidence to become more important in the decisions that educators make. And it's been rough going, I have to say. But here's a case where the problem is obvious and the solution is apparent. We've done many reviews of the research to look for all different kinds of things that are likely to make a very big difference in the performance of students who are well behind and nothing compares to tutoring, either one-to-one or one-to-small group.

Robert Slavin: (02:05)
So, by pulling together the best evaluated, the most ready to go to scale tutoring programs in the country and showing what they collectively could accomplish, we're hoping that we'll have the kind of impact that things like polio or penicillin had, not on the health of the nation, but on the belief that science matters, that evidence actually matters, and it can make a practical difference for people. It's not just something that professors talk about, but it's something that really can make a difference at scale and really move the needle on a national basis.

Justin Baeder: (02:39)
In our own lifetimes, it's easy for us to take for granted that that medicine has always been this highly respected science, right? We see it as just a given that medical research, that evidence, would be the basis for practice in medicine, because we've never really experienced, in our lifetimes, medical care that was not based on evidence and based on science. Is that the case in education? What are some of the differences between how we approach evidence and research in education and medicine?

Robert Slavin: (03:11)
Well, it certainly is not the case in education. I think that in medicine, you have these astounding things that make it very difficult to discount the progress that's made in science. If you can have something like polio that exists, and then within a period of years is gone because of the development of medications, or penicillin, or frankly, the COVID vaccines that are taking place right now. Those vaccines build on a long history of medical research and respect for medical research and procedures to make sure that when something is said to be effective, that it really is effective. And in education, we have nothing like that, but we could. We use exactly the same methods that medicine does. In doing high quality evaluations of educational programs, we use exactly the same methods.

Robert Slavin: (04:07)
So we have many things that have been proven to the level that would be required in a medical trial. And yet in education, this doesn't matter, or it doesn't matter very much. The fact that something has evidence or doesn't have evidence, it doesn't matter so much. So in a way, part of what we're hoping to have happen here, is that we make a convincing demonstration at a time when people might be receptive to a convincing demonstration, because of the size of the crisis we face.

Justin Baeder: (04:35)
Now, when you use the term evidence, or when you talk about a practice that's been proven, you have a very particular definition that may differ from a lot of people's intuitive understanding of what works or best practice. These are terms that often we use very loosely in our profession. What do you mean by proven or via by evidence based?

Robert Slavin: (04:55)
What I mean is that a given treatment, a given method, curriculum, whatever it might be, has been compared in an experiment to a similar control group. Ideally, and most commonly, you would have schools randomly assigned to receive the program or not to receive the program. Some studies are students being randomly assigned, or teachers, but one way or another, there's usually random assignment, which virtually guarantees that the groups will be equivalent at the outset. And then you see how, over a period of a year or more, you see how the program changes students' achievement. And if the group that received the treatment does much better than the group that didn't, you say, this is proven. If it didn't, then there may be more research or more development necessary, or you may ultimately conclude that that doesn't make a difference. But that's what we mean by proven. And it's very distressing how often things far less than that are referred to as evidence-based or evidence-informed or other kinds of ways of saying, "Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time."

Justin Baeder: (06:14)
Absolutely. We try things, we try to see what works. I think it's worth pointing out that this type of research is beyond the scope of what an individual educator can do with their own students. Right? We're looking at studies that are done with large numbers of students across multiple schools to figure out what works. And I know our listeners will be familiar with the concept of effect sizes and with much of John Hattie's work publishing meta analysis of effect sizes. So, let's talk about tutoring and what the evidence says about tutoring. Because, to be honest, it's not a very attractive sounding intervention, right? It's not shiny, it's not new. It doesn't sound terribly exciting to say that tutoring is the solution. When we have apps, we have websites, we have technology, we have all these, perhaps, more innovative sounding approaches out there. What does the evidence say about the effect size of tutoring compared to, maybe, some of those other more novel sounding options that we could pursue?

Robert Slavin: (07:12)
When you're comparing studies of various kinds of treatments and they're high quality studies that use random assignment or quality matching or things of that kind, then you can make comparisons among effect sizes that are valid. That's the problem, by the way, with Hattie's, is that he's claiming these giant effect sizes in studies that are appallingly, appallingly amateur, appallingly low quality, and often from 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. And so he claims effect sizes that you never actually see in practice. But what we did, we looked at the effect sizes for tutoring, both for one-to-one and one-to-small group and taught by teachers or taught by paraprofessionals. We looked at use of technology. And you'd mentioned, why isn't the fancy technology the kind of thing that's going to be the solution? Not even technology people believe that anymore.

Robert Slavin: (08:08)
The effects of technology as it exists today are, on average, they're positive, but they're very small. They have not produced, yet, anything like a revolutionary impact. Another that's been talked about quite a lot in the post COVID context is summer school. The effect size is around zero, on average. On afterschool programs, also around zero. The extended day, making a longer school day, there are some studies that do find positive effects of that, but they're very small. So, there are other things that one might name, but those are the usual things that people tend to bring up. And the difference is not small. This is a night and day difference between what tutoring can produce and what technology or any of these other interventions.

Justin Baeder: (08:59)
Well, what is the effect size of tutoring and some of the highest quality programs and the highest quality studies of those programs? How big an impact are we talking about here? Because, I feel like often we'll spend large amounts of money, we'll make huge commitments, and we'll place a lot of faith in an approach and find that maybe it does have a positive impact, but as you said, maybe with technology, it's such a small positive impact that we really have to ask was this worth it compared to the alternative? So how big is the impact of tutoring in those highest quality studies?

Robert Slavin: (09:27)
The average is about a 0.4 as compared to the average for, say technology, is depending on which subject and so on, it's about 0.06, maybe up to 0.1, if it's not too expensive, that's worth investing to get effect sizes that size. But if you really have to make a big difference, then not only is it an average of 0.4, but there are many programs you can choose from that have different characteristics and different outcomes. And there's no practical reason that you couldn't use a tutoring program of one kind or another to make the kind of difference that we're talking about here.

Justin Baeder: (10:07)
Where we're really talking about a gap closing effect size, right? Something that actually can help students truly catch up in a reasonable amount of time. Is that right?

Robert Slavin: (10:16)
Just to give you an idea, the average gap between kids who get free lunch and kids who don't, or between African-American and white kids, or Hispanic and white kids is about a half standard deviation or a 0.5. So if you can get 0.4 from tutoring, that's terrific, but actually you can do much better than that because there are a variety of tutoring models and some of the individual tutoring models produce more than 0.4, more than 0.5. So just in terms of gap reduction, that's more than meaningful. That's really something that should be of great policy interests.

Justin Baeder: (10:50)
Let's talk a little bit about the resistance to tutoring, because, certainly there are effective salespeople who are persuading us to do things other than tutoring, things that do not have that proven impact. Why are schools so either hesitant to, or just not good at, implementing high-impact tutoring programs? What's the resistance? Because, it strikes me as similar to hand-washing in medicine, the idea that you should wash your hands before you see a patient was so difficult for the medical profession to accept a century or more ago. And yet, it just seems like a no brainer today. Why is there this resistance or reluctance to embrace tutoring in our profession?

Robert Slavin: (11:28)
I don't completely understand it, but I think that a lot of it just has to do with a long tradition of believing that tutoring is too expensive. Tutoring became an issue in the US back in the 1980s, and from about the 1980s for maybe 30 years, the dominant tutoring program was Reading Recovery, a very good program, but it's a one-to-one, uses a certified teacher as the tutor. The tutor gets a year of training and it's horrifically expensive. And so people would say, well, yeah, I'd love to do Reading Recovery. That would be terrific. Of course, I have nothing against that, but where are we supposed to get, what some studies estimated at, about $5,000 a child? Now, what's happened since about 2000, is that the research on tutoring has largely turned toward, "How can we get these kinds of wonderful impacts, but at a much more reasonable cost?"

Robert Slavin: (12:26)
So, what's happened is that people are now studying programs that use paraprofessionals, that use teaching assistants, usually with college degrees, but not with teaching certificates, and, or, they're using one-to-small group rather than one-to-one. The review that we did recently found that there is no difference in outcomes between tutoring that's done by a certified teacher and tutoring that's done by a well-trained paraprofessional. Again, well-trained, well-supported, and using materials that have been proven to be effective. So, right there, a paraprofessional costs about half as much as a teacher, and in the current context, there's a major teacher shortage. So, if you were insisting on teachers being the tutors, then this couldn't be done at all. You know, you were having difficulty getting enough third grade teachers, much less, adding thousands of tutors.

Robert Slavin: (13:28)
But, if you find people who have college degrees, they've been camp counselors, they've taught summer school or Sunday school, or they have some indication of connection with kids and ability to work with them. They can be very effective and at a lower cost. And there's many, many more folks like that that are available. Those are all big factors. And also, there just have been many, many more individual programs. So at one time, basically, you were going to use Reading Recovery or nothing, and now you can still use Reading Recovery. And again, some places will, and that's fine, but you have a much broader choice.

Robert Slavin: (14:10)
So there may be aspects of tutoring programs that are particularly attractive to you. For example, a rural school might prefer a program that's been evaluated in rural schools, or urban would like to see things evaluated in urban schools. They do vary in cost and they vary in other factors that could be important for people to take into account. And I think that people are much more comfortable when there's not just one thing that they have to do that's very expensive, but they have a choice, and they can use the circumstances and needs of their particular school or district to make a wise choice rather than saying, "Well, either you do tutoring and you spend all this money, or you don't."

Justin Baeder: (14:53)
Right. There are a variety of proven models. And you said there are 14 programs that have been evaluated and have met a particular standard for quality?

Robert Slavin: (15:01)
Well, actually they're more than 14. These are the ones that not only are proven to work, but also that are ready to go to scale. Some of them were proven, but either they no longer exist, some of them just have gone out of operation, or they don't have a training staff. They're not ready to go to large scale. So these are a combination of those two things, effectiveness and readiness to go to scale.

Justin Baeder: (15:29)
I want to make a clarification here, because I think as educators, we naturally tend to not think in terms of a specific program, but we think in terms of a strategy. So I want to be clear that you're not saying that we should just do tutoring. Like whatever I think in my head tutoring is, doing that is not the same as what you're talking about. You're talking about specific programs that have been refined, that have been studied, that have materials and training ready to go. Not just, "Hey, everybody, we need to do tutoring," but pursuing one of those specific options that you validated.

Robert Slavin: (16:01)
Precisely, and there are studies of tutoring programs that didn't use a specific tutoring program, they kind of made it up as they went along, and they get very bad outcomes. So it's not just my opinion, but, there's good evidence behind that aspect as well. What you just say is this is a fundamental problem that goes far beyond tutoring, but I think in education, just as you say, people like to hear about the kind of thing that they should do. And then they go in and do it as they vaguely understand it, and they don't get the results that were reported in the journal. And they wonder why. Well, the person who did the thing in the journal did it in a specific way, and you need to know what that specific way is and get the training and the materials that will replicate that rather than making it up from scratch.

Justin Baeder: (16:47)
So let's talk, if we could, about some of the specific characteristics of these proven programs. And I, again, want to be clear that I'm not saying, please make this up as you go along, based on these characteristics. But I do want to identify the commonalities that you've discovered. What do some of these high-quality programs have in common?

Robert Slavin: (17:06)
One thing is that they have a definite structure to them. You have a systematic way to use the time in the tutoring session. Even though tutoring is less expensive than it used to be, it's still an expensive proposition. And if you're working with kids for 30 minutes a day, every minute of that 30 minutes has got to be used on something that's extremely valuable. Secondly, you want to have lots of professional development and follow up, so that not only do you attend a great workshop that enables you to understand the program, but the people who know what the program is supposed to look like will come by and visit and give you pointers and look at the data from the students and help you to adjust and continuously improve the quality of what you're doing.

Robert Slavin: (17:52)
Another thing that's very important is that, I think every tutoring program does this but, you need to assess children at the outset to know what they know and what they don't know. Again, this time in tutoring is exceedingly valuable and you don't want to be teaching kids stuff that they already know, nor do you want to place them at a level that's too high so that they're not benefiting from the tutoring. And you continuously watch how the kids are developing and keep careful records of how rapidly they're progressing so that you can make an adjustment. If the kid is not on a track that leads to success, or they used to be, but now they're flat lining, or even not making progress anymore, you need to respond to that. You don't just say, "Well, I'm just keeping doing the program." The whole part of what makes tutoring effective is the ability to continuously adjust to the needs of an individual kid.

Robert Slavin: (18:49)
Another thing that I would put a lot of emphasis on, and I think, also, that most people who do tutoring do this naturally, even if they weren't told to, one of the things that I think makes tutoring so incredibly effective that a machine will probably never be able to do, is just the human connection. If you think about the situation that kids are in, the kids who receive tutoring are usually far below grade level, at least the focus of all of these 14 programs, focus on kids who are well below grade level. And that's not a fun situation to be in, in the ordinary circumstance. These are kids who are sitting in the back of the class being quiet, hoping nobody will call on them, or disrupting the class, finding other ways to get status.

Robert Slavin: (19:36)
They're dodging and weaving to avoid the consequences of something that's just awful. So tutoring provides something that's just the opposite, or it can. So that in a tutoring circumstance, it's much more likely that the adult who's providing the tutoring will be fun. They'll joke around with the kid. They'll get to know them as individuals. They'll just get to see and celebrate their successes in a way that's just hard to do with 20 or 30 kids. Teachers used to say, I think they probably still do, that you shouldn't smile 'til Christmas. The reason you don't smile 'til Christmas is because if you look too jolly, then the kids will take advantage of you. It undermines classroom management. In tutoring, nobody ever said that, because in tutoring, there's no downside, there's no classroom management problem.

Robert Slavin: (20:33)
It's just you and the kid or the small group of kids, so you can get along and have as much fun as you need to, and focus on the progress. And that's another aspect that, by the way, about why I think the tutoring is particularly effective, kids can see their progress. Things move so rapidly that, from Monday to Friday, you can see that you can do things you could not do on Monday. Tutors need to point this out and celebrate it. You know, "Listen. You couldn't do that just a few days ago and now you can." So I think that's exceedingly important, is that you're providing feedback to the kids that give them the sense that this is attainable, that you're going to read at the end of this, or do math, whatever it might be. So all of those things, I think, are very important in explaining why tutoring works. And it's important, I think, for tutors to make sure that they are putting those things in practice.

Justin Baeder: (21:30)
And I think it's worth reiterating, yet again, that we're talking about, probably, college educated people who have had training, but we're not talking about certified teachers with master's degrees or literacy specialists or anything like that. We're talking about just regular people who are in ample supply, not people who have years and years and years of training in literacy or anything highly specialized.

Justin Baeder: (21:53)
As educators, we tend to not really like that idea, the idea that someone could pretty quickly be trained to be an effective tutor. It almost is a mildly offensive idea to us sometimes, that just that individual attention from a trained tutor, who's not even a trained teacher, could make a difference. And I think if we can get our minds around that, if we can have the humility to say, "Look, this works. This is proven." Yes, your master's degree in literacy is wonderful. Your reading training is wonderful, but this program can work with an ordinary person. And that relationship that that ordinary person has with that student, combined with the training, combined with an effective program, can actually catch that student up. Is that what you're telling us?

Robert Slavin: (22:38)
Yes. But think about it this way. If you had a teacher list all of the things that they do in a week, all the totally different kinds of things that really absolutely require that master's degree, that require that expertise, that require that experience, it's an overwhelming list for any teacher in any school in any subject. We're only asking the tutors to do one exceedingly important thing, but it's one thing, and they do it day in and day out. So we're not, in any way, equating a paraprofessional tutor to what a teacher can do, but we're not asking them to do all of those things. They're not planning lessons. They're not dealing with 20, 30 kids at a time and trying to maintain order in that circumstance. They're not trying to motivate all that number of kids all at once. All of the things that teachers absolutely have to do, a tutor is not asked to do, but they're just specializing in this one thing. And that one thing just happens to be a really important thing.

Justin Baeder: (23:42)
Robert, one of the things that you mentioned a few minutes ago is the idea of motivation. I know from many of your articles, you found that programs like afterschool, extended day, summer school, tend to not really work. And we've seen even with supplemental education services, that even when students are basically bribed with things like iPods and movie tickets, often attendance is a big issue. The motivation is a big issue. What's different about tutoring and how does it get around some of those limitations of things like summer school and afterschool supports?

Robert Slavin: (24:19)
I think that summer school and afterschool, let me start with those, they have a number of big problems. One is that you're in school and your friends are not, or at least some of your friends are not. So, if you're a low achiever already, and you're not terrifically motivated because of it, and then you get the wonderful opportunity to get more of that thing that didn't work the first time, you're not terrifically excited about it. And so the studies of afterschool and summer school find a great deal of difficulty getting the kids to come at all. And then even those kids who do come don't come regularly. And even when they're in the class and attending, they're not terrifically motivated. So that more of the same is definitely not a good idea. Now, I will say that there are a couple of examples of successful summer school programs, and guess what? They use tutoring. They were kindergarten and first graders who were behind, who are at risk, and they got specific instruction in phonics. And then they got tutoring in groups of three to five.

Robert Slavin: (25:39)
And those impacts, actually, were quite substantial. But was it because it took place in summer? Well, only to the extent that summer provided some additional time, but otherwise, it was the tutoring that made the difference. So tutoring programs that begin with the idea that, really, the task is to do the same kinds of things that happen in the regular year and do them in somewhat smaller groups and do them somewhat better and have sports and so on in between, they never work. What works is the tutoring. If you see that the afterschool or the summer school is an opportunity to do one-to-one or small group tutoring, then it can work. But it also works just as well, if you do it during the regular school day.

Justin Baeder: (26:34)
So, I appreciate your points on those lines, that we have an opportunity over the summer. We can use that time over the summer to provide high-quality tutoring, but on an ongoing basis, we're talking primarily about something that happens during the school day. Is that right?

Robert Slavin: (26:48)
Well, during the school day, all your friends are in school. So you don't have that motivational problem of, "Why do I have to do this again? I didn't like it the first time."

Robert Slavin: (26:59)
And secondly, if you have tutoring take place in school, there's much more possibility for the tutors and the teachers to interact with each other and to be on the same page, to be exchanging information about the kid and developing plans together so that the tutor is more part of the school staff. Oftentimes in SES, you had people that the classroom teachers never met. Because they would come after school or they'd come during the summer, and there was no connection, whatever. So you had to just kind of hope that it was going to magically all fit together for the kid.

Robert Slavin: (27:34)
So that's a problem as well. But I think that sometimes, teachers or principals don't like the idea that you're using school time for tutoring, because they say, "Well, we're doing useful things in all the rest of the school day." And that's a problem. But I think you just have to look at... These are kids who are significantly behind. That's why they're in tutoring. And is every minute of the day essential to do what they're doing now, as opposed to getting them quite considerably ahead in something like reading or math, that's very fundamental. I think that most people, if they sit and think about it for a while, will realize, "No, of course. We have to do what's essential."

Justin Baeder: (28:26)
Bob, it seems to me that much of your career as a researcher and advocate for effective practices has been battling this idea that, while there are things that we could do that we know would work, that would make a huge difference, especially for our students who need us to do something for them the most, but those things are just kind of mildly uncomfortable to us in some way. And I know there have been many critiques of Success for All, that have taken that approach. Setting aside the proven effectiveness of it, but just this idea that, "Ah, that's somewhat distasteful to me in ways that I can't quite articulate." What's going on in those critiques or in the reception from educators or members of the public who say, "I just don't like something about this." Like, "Oh, I don't want kids to be pulled out of class to get tutoring." Or there's some other kind of objection. What do you see as some of the common threads to those objections to doing what just now, obviously, works?

Robert Slavin: (29:26)
I think you're touching on a really important problem. Now it's important for tutoring or for Success for All, or for any other program to be as positive and experience for the teachers and others as it is for the kids. Nobody's ever going to have something that's downright distasteful succeed as an educational innovation. But oftentimes, people will make choices against using proven programs for the most small of reasons, and just sort of personal taste kinds of reasons. And I think that's, especially for the kids who are really struggling, I think that's just reprehensible. Nobody would say, "Well, I'm not going to take this medicine that's going to save my child's, my life. Or I'm not going to have my children do it because it tastes bad." Well, it may taste bad, but it's proven to make a difference.

Robert Slavin: (30:18)
And so people say, "Okay, well, I'll deal with the taste and go ahead with it." So, we're not talking about anything that actually tastes bad, but we're just saying that your ideological belief or your preference or your personal experience or whatever it is, has to yield to the evidence in cases where this really matters. And I think, to have people say, "Nah, I don't feel like doing that," and then watch their kids slip into special education or slip into retention or slip into just a horrible, low achievement that inhibits their life chances, I think that there has to come a time when, as a profession, education really needs to look at itself and say, "We have to do what works." Let's make it as pleasant as we possibly can, but it cannot be just our opinion, our preference that rules.

Justin Baeder: (31:12)
Yeah. And, as you said earlier, for the tutors, if we can find people who enjoy working with kids. Obviously, if we find people who just don't like kids and they've just been pulled in as something to do, that might be unpleasant. But, this is fun. For kids to get that attention from an adult who cares about them. It's fun for kids to see their progress. So yes, they may be missing something in one of their other classes, but, compared to the lost lifetime opportunity, they're missing by being behind academically. Yeah. A total no-brainer.

Justin Baeder: (31:46)
Let's talk a little bit about the consortium that you're assembling and the website that is sharing information about those programs to really take this to scale. Because, as you mentioned, we're talking about specific programs. We're talking about proven training and materials and processes that save people the trouble of making it up themselves and figuring out if whatever they've made up matches with what the research has proven to work. Talk to us a little bit about proventutoring.org and what you're hoping to accomplish through that initiative.

Robert Slavin: (32:13)
What we're trying to do is to bring together the most effective programs in tutoring, in reading and math, in elementary and secondary. And part of the idea here is to establish the principle that it's not just one program. It's not just, use my program, not that program, that there's a commonality of evidence and belief, commitment among all of these programs that should be helpful in making the case that this is not just a commercial enterprise. Most of these are nonprofits anyway. But that it's not a commercial enterprise or just the ego of one professor. This is a big thing that should be taken seriously. Secondly, people like to have choices. They may have a reason that they would like this program versus that program. Our viewpoint is use any of them.

Robert Slavin: (33:09)
Every single one of them will work if you implement it well. And so if you, for whatever reasons that you would want to prefer one over another, go ahead, it doesn't make any difference. And, we all feel that way. That if somebody chooses a different program from their own, fine, the kid is benefiting. That's what's important here. I think to be able to get that idea across, it helps a lot to be going in as a category rather than as just an individual program. And I think that in these times in particular, many, many principals and superintendents are really flailing around. They know that they need to do something really, really effective, but they just don't know which way to go. And they're hearing from all different kinds of vendors and political people and the teachers and principals, they're getting hit from every side.

Robert Slavin: (34:02)
And I think that a lot of them would like to have something that they can just place their confidence in, where they know that whichever way they go, that it's going to work out right. Tutoring is not the only thing that schools have to do. But for that aspect, for trying to get to greatly improve the achievement of kids who are really struggling, this is covered best by tutoring. So knowing that these are not just a tutoring program, but they're all proven, that they're supporting each other, that they went through a process of vetting to get into this group in the first place, I would hope that it would give people confidence to say, "Hey, not only is this a good idea, but it's an easy choice." I'm not doing anything that's, obviously, going to turn out to be disaster later on. It's just sort of an obvious choice I can make and then spend the rest of my time figuring out the hundred other things that principals have to figure out in these times.

Justin Baeder: (35:00)
And again, I just want to hammer on this point one more time. We're not saying tutoring is proven, go do tutoring, figure it out for yourself, make it up as you go along. We're saying these 14 programs have been vetted, have been proven and, as you said, ready to scale. They're ready to serve hundreds of thousands or millions of students. Let's talk about scale for a second. How many students need tutoring right now? How many students are you aiming to serve through this initiative?

Robert Slavin: (35:28)
We've figured out a strategy if there is sufficient demand, a strategy that could serve more than a hundred thousand tutors. Those hundred thousand tutors could serve about 4 million kids. I have to say most of them would be elementary because the number of programs that exist in secondary or middle or high school is much less than the number in elementary. But let's just say 4 million kids. Now, how many kids need it? A lot more than 4 million. But it's a heck of a start. In my expectation would be that if one could go from, well, let's say a whole heck of a lot less than 4 million kids, to 4 million kids getting tutoring all over America in rural and urban and suburban. If you could make that happen, I think the next steps would become obvious of, "Okay, well, that was good. Let's do more of it." And then we could get to the total number of kids who really would need this.

Justin Baeder: (36:26)
And you said it may be as many as 8 million, ultimately, who would directly benefit from that intensive tutoring?

Robert Slavin: (36:31)
At least. I think over time, once you got it going with 4 million kids, if you could do that, I'm not a hundred percent confident that that's the way it will work. But if you could, then we can start getting down to the question of how many kids really need it. Right now, it's student fish in a barrel. The number of kids who are in serious, serious difficulty, we can argue about at the margin, but there are so many kids who need it, that it's hard to imagine that you would be wasting much tutoring if you worked with the kids in the worst difficulty.

Justin Baeder: (37:04)
So the website is proventutoring.org and Dr. Slavin, thank you so much for joining me on Principal Center Radio. Let's do it.

Speaker 1: (37:12)
Thanks for listening to Principal Center Radio. For more great episodes, subscribe on our website at principalcenter.com/radio.


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