Personalized Learning Initiative


The pandemic has led to unfinished learning for a broad swath of students. This unfinished learning has also exacerbated existing disparities in student outcomes by race and ethnicity, income, and geography. Research has shown that high-dosage tutoring is the most effective way for improving learning for many students. But high-dosage tutoring is cost- and resource-intensive. Despite an influx of federal funding, including through the American Rescue Plan, districts can only afford to provide intensive tutoring to a small fraction of students who could benefit.

The Personalized Learning Initiative, conducted with the University of Chicago Education Lab, aims to determine how schools can provide tutoring and other supplemental instruction to serve the largest number of students in as cost-effective a manner as possible. To accomplish this ambitious goal, the initiative will help districts scale both traditional high-dosage tutoring as well as more sustainable approaches to personalized learning. A rigorous, national study will measure the comparative effectiveness of various forms of tutoring for students.

Districts or schools interested in learning more about the study can email for more details.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

Key questions the Personalized Learning Initiative seeks to answer include: 

  1. What are the impacts of high-dosage tutoring when done at scale?
  2. What are the impacts of more sustainable versions of tutoring when done at scale?
  3. For which students is the traditional but resource-intensive high-dosage tutoring comparatively and substantially more effective than more sustainable tailored instruction?​

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

The study will use a randomized controlled trial to determine the impact of high-dosage tutoring and more sustainable options on student outcomes. The impact study will rely on several data sources, including administrative records and participation data.

In addition, MDRC will conduct an implementation study to document the content, context, contrast, and cost of high-dosage tutoring and more sustainable approaches to intensive personalized learning. To inform this inquiry, the team will collect and review qualitative data (for example, interviews with administrators and tutors), quantitative data (including student participation rates and staff survey data), and publicly available data about school characteristics.

Finally, MDRC will support operationalizing the study in participating school districts, including by providing technical assistance to districts and/or schools as they scale these personalized learning interventions and selecting partner districts for the study.

Districts or schools interested in learning more about the study can email for more details.