Policy Factsheet

Volunteer Tutoring Programs

Reasons for Policy

  • The effectiveness of tutoring has been documented extensively in various strands of the educational literature.1
  • Volunteer tutoring programs provide an affordable way of offering additional services to students at risk of not meeting annual academic goals.2

Community Groups

  • Community-based Organizations
  • Local Government
  • Local School Board
  • Parent Teacher's Association
  • Universities

Policy Components

  • Regular tutoring sessions with an academic focus at least one month in duration
  • Tutoring programs should be highly structured with specifications on time spent in different activities or with specific lessons and materials to be covered
  • Non-professional adult volunteer tutors, typically community members or university students
  • Programs should be offered in schools that have very high dropout rates and high concentrations of low SES students

Desired Outcomes

  • Academic improvement in low-achieving students

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 1: Evidence-Based Policies Meeting Criteria for Effectiveness.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

On average, highly structured volunteer tutoring programs can achieve:

  • Moderate improvements in overall reading (effect size 0.30)
  • Small improvements in global domain reading (effect size 0.26)
  • Moderate improvement in reading letters and words (effect size 0.41)
  • Moderate improvements in reading oral fluency (effect size 0.30)
  • Moderate improvements in writing (effect size 0.45)

Community Examples

  • Bellingham Public Schools (Washington) include volunteer tutoring as a part of their student services. http://bellinghamschools.org/department/student-services
  • Memphis City Schools (Tennessee) have established a volunteer tutoring program for its student in mathematics and reading.

Links to Policy Examples


  1. Wasik, BA & Slavin, RE (1993). Preventing early reading failure with one-to-one tutoring: A review of five programs. Reading Research Quarterly, 28(2), 178-200.  

  2. 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.  

  3. Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.