Before COVID-19 led to the closure of schools around the country, a personal tutor was like a personal computer: a powerful educational tool available only to those with the resources to afford it. During the pandemic, districts have invested heavily in laptops and tablets to provide every student the opportunity to connect with online learning platforms. It’s an important step in providing an equitable education, but it’s not enough. Months of distance learning have shown that what really matters is not the internet connection but the human connection.
Why Is One-on-One Tutoring Important?
Simply put, people learn best from other people, and tutors do more than drill their students on facts and figures. They offer intelligent academic conversations to students who might not be having them with their peers, and they serve as personal cheerleaders who help students overcome challenges. No wonder, then, that forward-thinking districts are responding to ongoing school closures by investing not just in personal computers but in personal tutors as well.
For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District recently approved an agreement with the teachers’ union to provide one-on-one tutoring at its campuses. The 50-minute sessions will be held mainly outdoors and outside normal school hours, and teachers will be compensated at their hourly rate. And, of course, teachers and students will need to show a negative coronavirus test before meeting in person.
Why is the second-largest school district in the country making this extraordinary financial and logistical commitment to connecting its teachers with one student at a time?
Data shows that tutoring helps students learn better, especially those who are most liable to lose ground in a distance-learning environment. A Harvard study from 2016 found that one-on-one tutoring was especially effective in improving the achievement of low-performing students.
“Far and away, the most effective tool we have to begin fixing [learning loss due to COVID-19] is tutoring,” said Robert Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University to the Los Angeles Times. “Nothing else can be put in place as quickly with as high a likelihood of working.”
While the benefits of tutoring are clear, so is the biggest challenge: finding the time to connect two people in the same physical location. Teachers are notoriously time-starved, and during the pandemic they’ve seen their job descriptions expand. They’re modifying their lessons for online teaching. They’re providing tech support and counseling for parents.
Even if schools were operating as they do in “normal” years, a teacher with 25 students in her class doesn’t have enough hours in the day to give every single student her undivided attention for even a few minutes. And even if she could, scheduling is an issue for working parents and students too, so in-person sessions with a tutor aren’t always possible.
Some parents have taken on the role of tutor for their own children, but time is a major roadblock for them too, especially families in which both parents work. Given the unique economic, political, and health stresses of this year, even the fortunate parents who have the time to help their children with schoolwork often feel unqualified and overwhelmed.
It’s no surprise, then, that families all over the country are seeking on-demand, one-on-one academic help for their students. Analysts predict that the U.S. private tutoring market will grow by $7.37 billion by 2023. Meanwhile, COVID-19 has accelerated widespread adoption of online tutoring. During the third quarter of 2020, my company, TutorMe, saw our online tutoring hours increase 339% year-over-year. Even as some students returned to in-person learning, we saw greater interest from parents in supplementing their kids’ education. While we’re proud that our platform has helped students across the country find tutors who have direct experience in the areas where they need immediate support, there are still many students that aren’t getting the personalized help they need.
As education technology takes center stage in many families’ lives, the best thing schools can do for their students is to reinvest in a model that has been working for centuries: One qualified tutor teaching one student specific topics and skills, with a clear focus on that student’s individual needs.
Whether in-person or online, tutoring is a tool that schools can and should be using to help students right now. Even when the pandemic is over, connecting one-on-one with a tutor will offer students of all achievement levels and socioeconomic statuses the opportunity to take control of their own education.
About the Author
Myles Hunter is the Co-Founder & CEO of TutorMe. TutorMe is a revolutionary online education platform that provides on-demand tutoring and online courses. They believe there are more teachers in the world than are actually teaching so they want to empower more people to learn from each other. Their platform enables thousands of tutors to share their knowledge with students around the globe. Whether you need help with high school algebra or you want to learn how to program in Python, they have a perfect tutor for you. At TutorMe, they want to change the way you learn.