Denver Data Point!

A month ago, I blogged about our approach to high-dosage tutoring, how we brought it to Houston as part of a larger intervention by economist Roland Fryer, and then he brought it to Denver Public Schools for this year. I wrote:

High-dosage tutoring by Denver full-time tutors, via a nonprofit called Blueprint, is going so well, they too will soon unveil spectacular gains, and try to grow it aggressively.

Well the data was just unveiled.

Congrats to all the Denver kids who've learned a lot.

Congrats to Matt S and our friends at Blueprint Schools (disc: I'm on board). They hired 75 full-time math tutors in the Denver Public Schools.

Now they'd be the first to tell you: this is early data. Future data could be better, same, or worse. Hard to know.

From Jason Tomassini of Edweek:

All the schools that now make up Denver's Summit School Network, in an impoverished corner of northeast Denver, are using an approach backed by research from Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer and the university's Education Innovation Laboratory, or EdLabs. The research identifies five tenets of high-performing charter schools: extended school day and year, strong school leadership, data-driven instruction, increased math tutoring, and a "culture of high expectations."

Many of the staff members in those schools were reassigned and replaced prior to the 2011-12 school year. Three traditional elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school are now 10 schools, including magnet schools, college-preparatory schools, and a Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, charter school. With the school year recently ending, one other elementary school is already phased out.

Students arrive for school a week earlier than they do in the district's other public schools and stay an hour later each day. Within the network of schools, 4th, 6th, and 9th graders receive extensive math tutoring from professional tutors. Central-office administrators dedicated to the network of schools have offices in the neighborhood.

Retracing the high-dosage tutoring data quickly:

1. Match 2. A couple other Boston charter high schools 3. Houston 4. Denver

Coming 5. Newark 6. Match in Lawrence

"Too expensive" is usually the counter-claim to high-dosage tutoring.


1. What is "too" expensive? That's partly a value judgment. And it makes no sense. The R.O.I. of high-dosage tutoring as we've done it is quite high. And ROI factors in the cost.

That is, we're talking large academic gains divided by $2,000 per kid cost.

But many other K-12 interventions provide zero to tiny academic gains for, say, $500 per kid. It's those that are expensive. They're nominally cheaper. But they're incredibly costly to get an actual result -- a kid who learned a lot.

2. As for getting cash, there are 2 approaches.

a. Reshuffle current spending.

In a district like DC, for example, why not rededicate $2,000 of over $20,000 per child towards high-dosage tutoring?


b. Tax increase.

School districts raise property taxes most typically for new buildings and sports fields. I'm not sure if a levy has ever been tried for tutoring. What would happen? There's a certain "direct impact" aspect of it that would appeal to centrist voters. When I ran into the Denver Supe at a conference, he said they were considering that sort of appeal for new funds.