Starting in 2012, the Crime and Education Labs partnered with the Chicago Public Schools and the nonprofit SAGA Education to provide individualized instruction to ninth-grade students. SAGA provides evidenced-based, personal tutoring to under-served students struggling with math. Feedback from Chicago school leaders and national surveys have consistently revealed that success in ninth-grade math is crucial to putting students on the path to graduation.
The SAGA tutoring partnership began with a pilot program in twelve low-income schools in the South and West Sides of Chicago where ninth-graders were provided a single class-period of individualized math instruction for fifty minutes a day, every school day.
80 percent of high school dropouts cited their inability to pass Algebra I as the primary reason for leaving school, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
After a promising pilot, the Crime and Education Labs evaluated SAGA with a randomized controlled trial from 2013 to 2015. We then worked with the Chicago Public Schools system to identify over 2,000 ninth- and tenth-grade students at a higher risk of dropping out. Our researchers found that Chicago students who participated in the program for a single year gained one to two-and-a-half years of additional learning, compared to students who did not.
“Findings from the Crime and Education Labs’ evaluation have been critical for building support within the school system,” said Betty Anthony, who runs SAGA at a Chicago high school. “Having those statistics behind us and having a name like the University of Chicago behind us — people will listen.”
The success of SAGA Tutoring led Chicago Public Schools to expand the program to 18 local schools. By the end of 2019, SAGA Education was serving roughly 3,000 students in three districts across the country, and a recent partnership with AmeriCorps will help expand the program in Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C.