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Cheaper human tutors can be highly effective, studies show

Teaching assistants may sometimes feel like the Rodney Dangerfields of the classroom. They don’t get as much respect, and certainly not as much pay as the teachers they work with. But recent reviews of effective teaching strategies found that the assistants, often called paraprofessionals, were at least as good as teachers when it comes to one-to-one and small group tutoring. And both sets of paid professionals—aides and teachers—were far more effective than volunteer tutors.

Robert Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University, recently set out to find the most effective programs to teach elementary and middle school students. In the course of analyzing almost 200 studies on particular methods, from “Reading Recovery” to ”Fraction Faceoff!”, he confirmed that students tended to make more progress with tutors than with a teacher in front of an entire classroom.


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