Tutoring Programs Co-Designed by Saga Education Reveal Promising Success

March 27, 2024

Key Takeaways:

  • Tutoring Works: In-school, high-impact tutoring delivered significant learning gains, with math improvements equivalent to regaining two-thirds of a year lost during the pandemic.
  • Coaching for Tutors: Delivery Matters: Out-of-school tutoring programs saw lower participation rates than in-school options.
  • Benefits of AI Coaching:  AI coaching can provide coaches with target feedback for tutors to improve tutoring and increase student achievement.
  • Funding Limitations: ESSER funds provided a good start, but more resources are needed to serve all students who need help.

In this article:

  1. Pandemic School Disruptions Threaten Long-Term Learning for All Students
  2. Lasting Gains with In-School High-Impact Tutoring
  3. The Time to Act is Now: Prioritize High-Impact Tutoring to Address Learning Loss

A new study by the University of Chicago Education Lab highlights the effectiveness of district-led tutoring programs co-designed with Saga Education to solve pandemic-related learning loss. The report indicates how in-school high-impact tutoring positively impacted student math learning delivered in the aftermath of the pandemic and diverse academic settings. Through a collaboration between MDRC and the Education Lab, the Personalized Learning Initiative (PLI) was established as a research and development program to explore ways to expand tutoring services for students nationwide and address the learning setbacks caused by the pandemic. The initiative aims to ensure that an entire generation of students is not at risk of missing critical developmental milestones.

Pandemic School Disruptions Threaten Long-Term Learning for All Students

The pandemic’s impact goes beyond temporary learning loss. Remote schooling and absenteeism have exacerbated educational inequalities and may set students back for years.


  • Grade-Level Focus: Schools typically promote students regardless of mastery, creating a wide range of skill levels within each grade.
  • Teacher Challenges: Teachers need help teaching effectively in a classroom with varied learning needs.
  • Disadvantaged Hit Hardest: The pandemic disproportionately impacted disadvantaged students, further widening the achievement gap.
  • Missed Milestones: Missing key learning benchmarks like reading fluency in 3rd grade can have lasting consequences.

Without immediate interventions, many students will fall behind with limited opportunities to catch up, impacting their long-term academic success and graduation rates.

High-impact tutoring by Saga Education™, distinct from regular instruction, “scales up individualized instruction without doing so on the backs of already overburdened and hard-working, professionally trained school teachers” (REPORT, 6). Instead, tutors are hired as a sustainable education workforce to simultaneously deliver personalized learning to a small group of students, cultivating consistent, supportive, and trusting relationships with students as an integral part of their academic journey. 

“The preliminary results from the Personalized Learning Initiative are very promising,” says Saga Education CEO and co-founder Alan Safran. “These early findings show that districts can use high-impact tutoring to help students accelerate their learning. This is a significant milestone for Saga as we co-design and collaborate with states and districts to develop and implement high-quality, in-school tutoring models.”

Lasting Gains with In-School High-Impact Tutoring

Saga Education was one of four education agencies to deliver high-impact tutoring to the following school districts: Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Illinois; Fulton County Schools, Georgia; the New Mexico Public Education Department; and a mid-sized urban school district in California.

Findings from the research revealed key factors influencing the success of high-impact tutoring, such as location and timing:

  • Chicago’s Advantage 
    • Chicago, a large city, offered a wealth of recent graduates eager to tutor. This readily available talent pool made in-person tutoring during the school day feasible.
  • New Mexico’s Challenge
    • With a more rural population and potential labor shortages, New Mexico opted for virtual tutoring to offer flexibility and avoid disrupting the school day. However, this resulted in low participation – only 1.5% of eligible students signed up for evening and weekend sessions. Additionally, rural students participated less than their urban counterparts.
  • California’s Scheduling Mishap
    • A large California district planned to integrate tutoring into its existing after-school program. While seemingly convenient, low attendance hampered this strategy. This could be due to the program’s late launch or parents finding alternative childcare solutions.

In Chicago Public Schools (IL) and Fulton County Schools (GA), high-impact tutoring was delivered during the school day. Around 2,000 students enrolled in Chicago Public Schools and Fulton County Schools demonstrated significant progress in their math skills due to participating in districtwide, in-school tutoring sessions throughout the 2022-23 academic year. These findings provide initial evidence that large-scale in-school high-impact tutoring can effectively address the learning setbacks caused by the pandemic. Participating students showed improved learning equivalent to nearly a full year of learning, potentially reversing pandemic losses for the average student.

The positive effects went beyond immediate test scores. Studies showed that the gains in math achievement persisted even into the following year (11th grade), with students scoring an average of 0.23 standard deviations (SDs) higher. This research highlights the potential of Saga’s approach to deliver intensive, personalized tutoring in a cost-effective way, leading to significant and lasting improvements in student learning.

Lessons Learned:

  • In-person tutoring in well-populated areas can be a viable option.
  • Virtual tutoring in rural areas requires innovative strategies to boost participation.
  • Timing is crucial. Integrating tutoring into the school day or existing programs with high attendance can improve engagement.
  • These learnings inform the design of future high-impact tutoring models, ensuring they reach more students and maximize their educational impact.


The Time to Act is Now: Prioritize High-Impact Tutoring to Address Learning Loss

While this study is ongoing, these initial findings hold immense weight in today’s educational landscape. With federal relief funds expiring in September 2024, school districts are actively planning for the 2024-2025 school year, underscoring the importance of acting now.

The research reveals a clear path forward: high-impact tutoring delivered during the school day by paid and trained tutors using a structured curriculum is a powerful resource. Saga Education is proud to pioneer this crucial work to improve pandemic-related student learning. By prioritizing this strategy, school districts can turn the tide and ensure a brighter future for our students.

Let’s leverage these promising findings and work together to bridge the educational gap, one tutored session at a time.

Saga Consult