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RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS

The effectiveness of volunteer tutoring programs

Volunteer tutoring programs are intended to improve student performance, provide mentorship, and improve student self-esteem, as well as behavior.
Ritter, G; Denny, G; Albin, G; Barnett, J; Blankenship, V. (2006). The Effectiveness of Volunteer Tutoring Programs: A Systematic Review. Campbell Systematic Reviews 2006:7

Despite the best of intention and effort, schools are not certain which volunteer tutoring programs are most effective. Therefore, we contend that a rigorous analysis of the extant literature regarding volunteer tutoring programs can
provide schools with information about the most effective types of tutoring programs.

  • The results of the review were based on the data from 1,676 study participants in 28 study cohorts in 21 research articles or reports. The analysis of these studies – most of which included relatively small samples – showed that volunteer tutoring programs can positively influence language and reading outcomes for students.
  • When we analyzed the reading outcomes separately by study characteristics, we found no significant difference in effect size by tutor type, grade level, or program focus. Highly structured tutoring programs had a significantly greater effect on global reading outcomes than programs with low structure, but not on the other outcome types.
  • This review does not suggest that there are any particular volunteer tutoring models that should be recommended for immediate adoption for schools and districts across the country.
Systematic review
A systematical summary of studies in the current topic based on formal criterias for evalution of related studies.
Published: 12.04.2013
Last updated 27.10.2014
PDF PDF - 459 KB Project summary

Main Results

The results of the review were based on the data from 1,676 study participants in 28 study cohorts in 21 research articles or reports. The analysis of these studies – most of which included relatively small samples – showed that volunteer tutoring programs can positively influence language and reading outcomes for students.

We began by examining the overall effects of volunteer tutoring on student reading outcome measures. Twenty-five studies assessed reading measures of one type or another. The average effect of volunteer tutoring programs on reading outcomes for elementary students is 0.23. After removing one outlier study which disproportionately influenced by the overall result, we found an average effect size of 0.30. We also found several significant results in the meta-analyses of specific academic domains.

The outcomes where volunteer tutoring programs made a significant difference were Reading Global (effect size = 0.26), Letters and Words (effect size = 0.41), Oral Fluency (effect size = 0.30), and Writing (effect size = 0.45). We found positive, but not significant, effects of volunteer tutoring on Reading-Comprehension and Mathematics.

When we analyzed the reading outcomes separately by study characteristics, we found no significant difference in effect size by tutor type, grade level, or program focus. Highly structured tutoring programs had a significantly greater effect on global reading outcomes than programs with low structure, but not on the other outcome types. The difference in effect sizes between studies published in journals and non-published studies was not statistically significant. Other tests of publication bias also suggested the included studies were an unbiased sample.

Reviewers’ Conclusions

This review does not suggest that there are any particular volunteer tutoring models that should be recommended for immediate adoption for schools and districts across the country. Rather, we can conclude from the analysis that these programs can positively influence important reading and language sub-skills for young students.

The results are substantial – approximately one-third standard deviation. In the end, the results of this analysis should serve as one important piece of evidence used by policymakers and educators who are deciding whether to employ volunteer tutoring as a strategy to improve academic skills for young students.

As educators across the country work to meet adequate yearly progress goals in state accountability systems, and as they seek affordable ways to offer additional services to students at risk of not meeting annual academic goals, it would be worthwhile to consider structured, reading-focused volunteer tutoring programs as strategies to improve reading and language skills.