Ontario is spending millions on tutoring, is it worth it?
In March 2022, the Ontario government announced that it would provide $175 million in time-limited funding to support tutoring programs. The funding must be spent by December 2022.
In the August Throne Speech, the province announced that the revised provincial budget would include $225 million for direct payments to parents over the next two years to “help kids catch up.”
While some provinces and territories – notably Quebec – funded a variety of tutoring programs last year, Ontario appears to be one of the few jurisdictions to have continued support for tutoring into this school year.
There is a range of research on the effectiveness of tutoring programs:
Quality and quantity matter
The Learning Policy Institute in the United States examined the results from 96 large scale randomized control trials of tutoring programs. They found that effective tutoring programs:
- employ certified classroom teachers, paraprofessional staff, teacher candidates enrolled in preparation programs, or well-trained and paid tutors;
- provide tutoring at least 3 days per week for at least 30 minutes, as part of the regular school day, in groups of 5 or fewer;
- include capacity-building investments in quality training and ongoing support; and
- build relationships among students, tutors, and teachers through structured time and alignment with regular classroom curriculum.
The United Kingdom also introduced tutoring programs to offset the impact of the pandemic. An early evaluation by the Education Endowment Foundation pointed to five key lessons learned:
- Ensure that the objectives are clear and grounded in evidence
- Consult stakeholders from the beginning of the process, throughout, and in the end
- Consider the long-term impacts of every short-term decision
- Don’t try to accomplish too much; keep expectations focused, realistic, and manageable
- Identify key data points and plan for their robust collection
In Canada, the Future Skills Centre funded researchers from the University of Toronto, Wilfrid Laurier University, and the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University to collaborate on a review of the research on tutoring effectiveness. They also found that high-quality, high-frequency tutoring programs are effective in reversing learning gaps and supporting progress into post-secondary education.
Their report, The Evidence for Tutoring to Accelerate Learning and Address Educational Inequities During Canada’s Pandemic Recovery, argues that Canada is missing an opportunity to support students’ well-being and address their academic challenges. The authors conclude with a call for greater investment in students.
“…economic estimates suggest that lost skills and interrupted educational trajectories are likely to have lifelong economic impacts for this cohort of students and for national economies and social equity. In light of these frightening prospects, education systems need to consider multi-dimensional responses, including appropriate measures to keep schools open safely, support for students’ well-being, and measures to address students’ academic challenges. While we have seen major support for business recovery, there has yet to be a major investment in supporting students coping with the pandemic.”
The Evidence for Tutoring to Accelerate Learning and Address Educational Inequities During Canada’s Pandemic Recovery
Read the reports on tutoring: