The GiveWell Blog

Volunteer tutoring program

Via Joanne Jacobs: a large randomized controlled trial found statistically effects of a volunteer tutoring program on reading skills.

The effect size (.1-.16 standard deviations on 3 measures; insignificant on one other – see pg 13 of the full study) is in the same ballpark as the effect observed in a recent study of vouchers in D.C. (which we discussed here) – yet this was a 24-week intervention as opposed to a 3-year effect from switching schools. (Though which one “costs” more is debatable, since the voucher program simply reallocated public funds whereas this one required time and expense outside the standard school system.)

Note that this program reached much younger children (grades 1-3 – page 5) and focused on those with the worst performance – an approach that seems sensible based on how early the achievement gap appears. It also focused exclusively on reading, an approach that appeals to me intuitively because – speaking purely from intuition – reading seems like a more universally important skill than other skills taught in school.

Though the effect size isn’t huge, it’s an encouraging result.