CPS' 'high-intensity tutoring' tremendously successful

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A Chicago Public Schools experiment that uses intensive tutoring to help underperforming students is so successful that it could turn around the troubled system.

The program's model has one tutor teaching two students. It's now in a dozen Chicago high schools, where researchers report the kids are learning 2-3 years’ worth of math in one year. That's caught the attention of educators across the country.

“I just grew up with amazing kids like you guys,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

When Duncan met with students and tutors at Bogan High School, he told of his own work in an after-school tutoring program his mother started on the South Side. He was not surprised when kids said how well it's working now.

“What you heard from the students is the academic piece of this is huge and their growing confidence in themselves. Work that seemed almost overwhelming, they're starting to thrive and enjoy doing,” Duncan said.

The intensive tutoring started three years ago with young men at Harper High, where 29 students had been shot off-campus, eight killed.

Pupil Kijuan Powell loved it.

“It's a great program,” he said.

“These students want to do work. They just need the tools to know how to do it,” said Devon James of Tutor Match Program. “We make it relevant, the work that he does. For example, he's a basketball player. He has a great jump shot. And we talk about arcs, talk about angles, tall about energy, talk about the force. Things he has all throughout the day, physics class, but mathematics is the most important thing.”

Researchers report numbers that speak for themselves. High-intensity tutoring, which is one tutor for every two students, enabled 9th and 10th graders to learn 2-3 years’ worth of math in one year. It even helped kids who were 10 years behind their grade level.

These students face the greatest risk of dropping out of high school and, all too often, ending up in prison.

Here’s what the University of Chicago's Urban Education Lab concluded: "Just a few years of this type of intervention could bring almost all students up to grade level."

The biggest obstacle is that intensive tutoring costs about $3,000 a year for each student, at a time when CPS faces a half-billion dollar budget shortfall.

FOX 32: Neither the state nor the city has much money. Is this a good investment?

“I think it's a great investment,” said Prof. Guryan. “It improves math at actually a lower cost than most programs that have been found to be effective.

Visit SAGA Innovations to learn more about the program