Illinois Tutoring Initiative (ITI) Advocacy Day

Illinois Tutoring Initiative (ITI) Advocacy Day

John Failla, CEO and founder of Pearl, joined the Illinois Tutoring Initiative (ITI) at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield for a successful Advocacy Day before the House of Representatives.

Key Highlights:

  • ITI’s impactful testimony: During their House of Representatives appropriations committee hearing, ITI captivated the committee with their unique approach. Legislators were particularly impressed by how ITI goes beyond traditional tutoring and fosters community building within districts.
  • Mitigating Learning Loss: ITI’s data-driven approach to addressing learning loss resonated strongly.
  • Developing Future Educators: The “Grow-Your-Own” model’s ability to cultivate a local talent pipeline for education was well-received. A participating superintendent even highlighted their success in hiring four ITI tutors for various roles within their district.
  • Community Investment: The concept of keeping funding within the state and directly impacting local communities through ITI’s program was highly attractive

Successful Meetings:

The day included productive meetings with key legislators, including:

  • Senator Michael Halpin
  • Representative Sharon Chung
  • Senator Tom Bennett
  • Senator Dave Koehler

This event solidified ITI’s impactful model and Pearl’s role in supporting it. The day’s success paves the way for continued growth and positive outcomes for Illinois students and communities.

Topics of Interest:

Senators and Reps were very interested in the ITI program. They were especially interested in this model because of the added impact it makes in their communities vs. working with tutoring vendors. The points that resonated the most are:

  • Learning Loss: ITI is truly mitigating learning loss in their districts and has the data / efficacy reports to back it up.
  • Pipeline Development: All of the legislatures caught onto the fact that this program also develops a talent pipeline in the backyard. We had a superintendent join us who hired 4 ITI tutors to work across their school. The roles they hired included a teacher, substitute, paraprofessional, and even a new bus driver. Andy Jordan at Donovan is the super who joined us and is a super that is working with ITI.
  • Community Investment: One area that resonated the most was around keeping the dollars in their community. When a state signs a contract with a vendor, those dollars leave the community and go to neighboring states (or even countries). When a state launches a grow-your-own program, they are keeping the vast majority of dollars in the state and are stimulating the economy by giving people more than a livable wage.



Learn more about the Illinois Tutoring Initiative.

The Critical Role of Attendance and Dosage Data in High-Impact Tutoring

The Critical Role of Attendance and Dosage Data in High-Impact Tutoring

The integration of technology and evidence-based practices in tutoring programs has highlighted the critical role of accurately tracking attendance and dosage. These metrics are pivotal in assessing the impact of tutoring on student learning, especially in large-scale and sometimes highly-fragmented initiatives. Although tracking attendance for tutoring seems trivial, practice has proven very cumbersome for most large LEAs and state-based programs.

Attendance tracking can be especially difficult for large school districts (LEAs) and state-based programs that are often running dozens of different tutoring programs. Keep reading as we explore the reasons behind this complexity, along with strategies to overcome these challenges and ensure effective data collection.

Why Attendance and Dosage Matters

Attendance and dosage are intertwined metrics that provide a comprehensive picture of student engagement in tutoring. Attendance records a student’s presence in tutoring sessions, while dosage quantifies the active tutoring time received. Together, they offer a complete view of a student’s participation and exposure to tutoring interventions.

The Problem: Challenges in Tracking Data

Several factors contribute to the difficulty of tracking attendance and dosage data in tutoring programs:

  • Multiple Tutoring Formats: The diverse nature of tutoring setups, from one-on-one sessions to small group interactions, complicates tracking individual student engagement, especially when a single tutor manages multiple students.
  • Accurate Time Measurement: Recording the precise duration of each tutoring session is crucial for calculating dosage. This necessitates meticulous time tracking to ensure reported dosage accurately reflects the tutoring provided.
  • Consistency Across Schools: Standardizing attendance and dosage tracking across different schools and districts in state-wide programs presents a significant hurdle. It requires robust scheduling coordination, systems integration, and data management.
  • Compliance with Standards: Adherence to data collection standards established by entities like the National Student Support Accelerator (NSSA) and defined by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is essential for ensuring data validity, reliability, and suitability for research and policy analysis.

A Growing Challenge: Student Absenteeism

Compounding the challenges of data collection is the issue of student absenteeism, a problem that has become increasingly pervasive since the pandemic. A recent New York Times article cited a sharp increase in student absenteeism, with an estimated 26% of public school students nationally classified as chronically absent last year, up from 15% pre-pandemic. This highlights the critical role that tutoring programs can play in not only addressing learning gaps but also in potentially improving overall student attendance.

Strategies for Effective Data Collection

Fortunately, there are solutions to overcome these challenges and ensure accurate data collection:

  • Advanced Technological Solutions: Utilizing tutor management platforms like Pearl can automate and streamline the tracking process, minimizing errors and inconsistencies in recording attendance and dosage data.
  • Comprehensive Training Programs: Educating tutors and administrators on the importance of accurate data collection and providing them with the necessary tools and knowledge can significantly improve data quality.
  • Unified Data Collection Protocols: Establishing clear and consistent methods for recording both attendance and dosage ensures uniformity in data across various tutoring environments.
  • Integration and Standardization: Effective data systems that seamlessly integrate with existing school information systems are essential for consolidating and analyzing attendance and dosage data at scale.

Types of Data to Collect:

Here’s a breakdown of the specific data points needed for attendance and dosage:


  • Original intended start and end times of the session.
  • Actual start and end times, including any late arrivals or early departures.
  • Attendance status for each student (present, late, absent).


  • Intended intervention dosage (e.g., number of planned sessions).
  • Weekly dosage for each student.
  • Dosage completed per session.
  • Reasons for incomplete sessions (e.g., student illness, school cancellation).

    The Impact of Accurate Data

    Accurate attendance and dosage data are indispensable for evaluating the effectiveness of tutoring programs. This data informs research, influences educational policy, and guides decision-making processes related to funding, program design, and implementation strategies.

    A Case for High-Impact Tutoring and Attendance

    A recent study highlighted by the Student Support Accelerator provides compelling evidence of the benefits of evidence-based high-impact tutoring, particularly in improving overall student attendance. For instance, schools in Washington D.C. implementing high-impact tutoring programs observed a significant increase in student attendance rates. Participating students were more likely to attend school regularly compared to their peers not in the program. This suggests a potential positive correlation between high-impact tutoring and improved student engagement in school, further highlighting the importance of effective data collection to measure these outcomes.


    Collecting reliable attendance and dosage data in tutoring programs, such as those supported by Pearl, involves complex challenges. However, with strategic planning and technology support, these challenges can be efficiently mitigated. Ensuring accurate data collection strengthens the evidence that high-impact tutoring improves educational outcomes. Finally, continuously observing a correlation between well-implemented tutoring and improved attendance will have positive budget implications at the district level, while also playing a pivotal role in securing ongoing funding for tutoring programs.

    Source: New York Times, “Why School Absences Have ‘Exploded’ Almost Everywhere”. March 29, 2024.

    “Weathering the Storm”: Federal Efforts Helped Bolster U.S. Education Standing Among Peer Nations

    “Weathering the Storm”: Federal Efforts Helped Bolster U.S. Education Standing Among Peer Nations

    Reposted from: The White House

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – December 5, 2023. The OECD released international testing data from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). The PISA measures 15-year-olds’ performance in math, science, and reading worldwide every three years.[1] The previous assessment was done in 2018 and the recent release was conducted in 2022–allowing for an examination of COVID’s impact on students and of global recovery efforts.

    Read full article.


    Pearl Tutoring and Ecosystem Partners:

    Illinois Tutoring Initiative
    National Student Support Accelerator

    Pearl Research Affiliate:
    National Partnership for Student Success

    5 Reasons to Start a Home-Grown Tutoring Program

    5 Reasons to Start a Home-Grown Tutoring Program

    A Home-Grown Tutoring Partnership represents a collaborative effort, typically spearheaded by state DOEs, districts (LEAs), or non-profit organizations, to harness the power of local tutoring resources for the benefit of schools in their vicinity. The cornerstone of these initiatives is the emphasis on evidence-based practices, such as in-person high-impact tutoring, ensuring not only immediate academic support but also long-term sustainability of the programs.

    This type of program has the potential to be a community treasure, transforming local experts like retired teachers, inspired professionals, and local college students into educational lifelines. These initiatives go beyond standard tutoring, offering customized, locally relevant learning while simultaneously boosting the community’s economy through internal investment.

    Why Develop a Home-Grown Model

    1. Strengthening Community Bonds

    Home-grown tutoring programs bring education back to the local level, fostering a sense of community involvement and ownership that is irreplaceable. When local residents — be they in-house teachers and support staff, local university students, retired teachers, high-achieving high school students, or passionate volunteers — become tutors, it strengthens community bonds. This engagement isn’t just heartwarming; it’s also effective. Tutors with a profound understanding of local dynamics are uniquely positioned to connect with and inspire their students.

    2. Economic Reinvestment in the Community

    By employing residents as tutors, districts keep State funding within the community, contributing to local economic sustainability. Instead of allocating resources to entities outside the community, the money flows back into the local economy, enhancing the district’s financial health and fostering a sense of communal pride and investment in the success of its students.

    3. Tailored Learning Experiences

    The home-grown approach to tutoring takes personalized learning a step further, capitalizing on the intrinsic understanding local tutors have of the unique cultural, economic, and social dynamics that influence their students. This deep comprehension stems from shared experiences and histories, an asset that cannot be imported. Moreover, this approach fosters enhanced communication and stronger relationships between tutors and regular school teachers. 

    Being part of the same community, they can collaborate more effectively (often in-person), aligning their strategies and goals. This synergy ensures a cohesive learning journey for students, where tutoring complements mainstream education. The tutors’ nuanced understanding of local dynamics, combined with consistent dialogue with school teachers, creates a more holistic, supportive, and effective educational ecosystem.

    4. Empowered Professional Development

    Home-grown tutoring initiatives create professional development opportunities within the community. Educators can collaborate with local tutors, sharing insights, strategies, and feedback that drive improvement. This continual learning environment not only enhances the quality of education but also increases job satisfaction and retention among teachers.

    Home-grown tutoring partnerships are more than educational aids; they’re career springboards for tutors themselves. By fostering skills like leadership and communication, these local initiatives help tutors navigate diverse career or higher-ed paths. The hands-on experience enhances job applications and academic pursuits alike, making these programs a win-win: enriching student learning while advancing tutors’ professional journeys.

    5. Enhanced School-Community Relationships

    When schools initiate or expand home-grown tutoring programs, it signals to the community that the district values local talent and collaboration. This approach strengthens the relationship between schools and the communities they serve, establishing a foundation of mutual trust and respect that benefits all educational initiatives.


    By focusing on local talent, tailored learning, economic reinvestment, and professional development, districts can cultivate a more engaged, effective, and sustainable educational environment. The challenges faced by rural areas have given rise to a model of education that’s not just a necessity for them but a beacon of inspiration for all. It’s time for educational districts everywhere to recognize the universal potential of this approach and embrace the home-grown advantage.

    To Learn more about how Pearl supports Home-Grown Community Tutoring Programs – read the spotlight on Guilford Public Schools in North Carolina (and their amazing success).

    How Guilford County, NC Succeeded in Home-Grown Tutoring

    How Guilford County, NC Succeeded in Home-Grown Tutoring

    In response to the pervasive learning gaps caused by the COVID pandemic, Guilford County Public Schools initiated a proactive strategy in September 2020, enlisting their inaugural group of tutors from neighboring colleges and universities to develop a home-grown tutoring program. By November, these tutors were actively bridging the educational divide. The recruitment strategy was precise, targeting both graduate and undergraduate students majoring in engineering, math, and education, with a significant emphasis on tapping into the rich resources of two strong local Universities, University of North Carolina Greensboro, and North Carolina A&T (an HBCU).

    By the Numbers

    The 2022-2023 academic year witnessed a revolutionary transformation within Guilford’s educational landscape, a metamorphosis driven by staggering numbers that underscored the success of its home-grown tutoring initiative.

    Attendees were a wonderful blend of K-12 Education professionals ranging from classroom educators, researchers, policy experts, to EdTech innovators. As panel discussions unfolded and workshops began, everyone contributed their unique knowledge and valuable experiences, making this a truly inspirational event.

    Fact and Figures
    • 305,000 high-impact tutoring sessions conducted, highlighting the strength of the program’s infrastructure in enhancing personalized academic support.
    • 500+ community tutors mobilized from within the community to boost K-12 education, increasing civic participation, and providing practical experience for university students.
    • 11,000+ students positively impacted through customized, individual, and small group tutoring sessions.
    Correlated Conclusions
    • Improved academic performance, self-confidence, and educational equity among students.
    • Powerful synergy between educational advancement and community engagement, establishing a national model.
    • Sparked a surge in student confidence, reignited enthusiasm for learning, and notably decreased educational gaps across diverse student groups as the pandemic resurfaced.


    Scaling Home-Grown Tutoring

    When scaling a home-grown tutoring program, it’s important to select a technology partner that not only helps facilitate online and in-person tutoring but also prioritizes comprehensive data collection—including attendance, dosage, and SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) metrics. 

    This focus on data integrity is crucial for Guilford County Public Schools, ensuring that every stakeholder can monitor and understand the program’s impact. Because Pearl has rostered every student in the district, data professionals at the district can merge tutor assessment data with tutor data for a full (and dynamic) picture of program health. The ability for the Pearl tutor management platform – and ultimately Guilford County – to track specific aspects of student engagement and progress allows for a nuanced view of the program’s effectiveness and areas for improvement.

    Key Takeaways

    • Require detailed tracking of attendance, engagement, and SEL metrics through a tutor management platform provider, like Pearl.
    • Prioritize data integrity for transparent, stakeholder-friendly program assessments.
    • Integrate district-wide student data for a holistic view of program effectiveness.
    • Utilize specific engagement metrics for insights into successes and areas needing improvement.
    • Capitalize on large-scale programs to support extensive tutoring goals, like the Pearl partnerships with Stanford’s National Student Support Accelerator to underscore a commitment to top-tier data standards and security.


    Now halfway through the first semester of the 2023-2024 school year, Guilford Public Schools’ tutoring program reflects more than an academic lifeline; it’s the heartbeat of a community united in its commitment to educational excellence. This unity is evident not only in the surging academic progress of students but also in the deepening roots of community involvement and support. With proven results and a forward-thinking approach in their home-grown tutoring program, the initiative continues to garner diverse financial backing, ranging from local coffers to significant grants and philanthropic gestures, each contributor drawn to the tangible successes and sustainable promise of the program.

    Moreover, this initiative is a catalyst for cultivating the next wave of educators. By involving community members in hands-on tutoring roles, the district is not just filling positions but inspiring a passion for teaching among those who share a personal stake in their community’s future. This strategy has established a robust, self-sustaining educational ecosystem that’s as focused on tomorrow’s teachers as it is on today’s students.

    Praise for Guilford Leadership

    The ongoing journey of educational recovery and growth in Guilford County Public Schools is significantly marked by the visionary leadership of Dr. Faith Freeman, now Co-Director of the Institute for Partnerships in Education at UNCG, and Guilford’s Superintendent Dr. Whitney Oakley. Their leadership is not just about administrative prowess or educational oversight; it reflects a profound understanding that education extends beyond classroom walls.

    The amazing tutoring department at Guilford (now run by Kara Hamliton) holds a shared belief that nurturing the next generation of thinkers, leaders, and innovators is a collective responsibility, one that they have embraced with profound dedication. As Guilford County Public Schools celebrates its milestones and carves out future goals, the community stands testament to the indelible impact of leaders who not only envision a brighter future but also work tirelessly to turn it into a reality.

    Pro-Tips: Community-Based Tutoring

    • Embrace Community as Core Strength: Recognize your tutoring program not just as an academic support system, but as a vital community asset. The program’s success should reflect and amplify the community’s commitment to educational excellence.
    • Implement Rigorous Data Tracking: Establish a systematic approach to collecting critical tutor data — including metrics like attendance, dosage, SEL, and assessments. This robust data collection is essential for accurately measuring program success, providing transparent proof of effectiveness, and ensuring continued trust and investment from funders. By demonstrating positive outcomes through solid data, you reinforce the program’s credibility and secure ongoing support.
    • Measure Success Beyond Academics: Gauge the program’s impact not only through academic improvement but also via the depth of community engagement and support. Celebrate and leverage these aspects as integral components of the program’s success.
    • Diversify Funding Sources: Seek varied financial contributions, from local funds to substantial grants and donations. Showcase tangible successes and the program’s sustainable promise to attract and secure diverse backing.
    • Cultivate Future Educators: Use the program as a platform to inspire a new generation of educators. Engage community members as tutors to ignite a passion for teaching and a personal investment in the community’s educational future.
    • Build a Self-Sustaining Educational Ecosystem: Aim to create an educational environment that nurtures both current students and future educators, ensuring the program’s longevity and community relevance.
    • Lead with Vision and Understanding: Encourage leadership that understands education as a holistic experience extending beyond academics. Leaders should embody and act upon the belief that shaping future thinkers, leaders, and innovators is a communal duty.
    • Champion Collective Responsibility: Promote a shared belief across all stakeholders, including the tutoring department, that educating the next generation is a joint responsibility requiring dedicated commitment.
    • Celebrate and Strategize: Take time to acknowledge milestones while also diligently planning for the future. Recognize the enduring impact of visionary leaders and a community united in turning educational aspirations into tangible realities.

    Guilford County Public Schools high-impact tutoring program, enhanced through collaborations with local institutions like NCAT and UNCG, extends robust tutoring resources to students. Emphasis on systematic training and superior instructional materials ensures the tutoring surpasses the effectiveness of many other academic interventions.

    The strategy focuses on frequent, high-dosage tutoring, allocating 2-6 hours per week, which is pivotal for improving student outcomes. This approach not only bolsters academic performance but also strengthens social and emotional foundations through valuable mentorships, helping students realign with their educational pathways.

    Elevating Student Learning with Tiered Intervention and High-Impact Tutoring

    Elevating Student Learning with Tiered Intervention and High-Impact Tutoring

    Education systems continuously evolve, seeking to optimize student learning and ensure that every child reaches their fullest potential. Among these evolving strategies, the integration of tiered intervention via Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) with high-impact tutoring is a clear path towards a more equitable future for K-12. In September of 2023 the National Student Support Accelerator (NSSA) released an in-depth brief on the benefits, challenges, and most effective action steps related to properly integrating High-Impact-Tutoring with MTSS. The following is a primer on the brief.

    What is High-Impact Tutoring

    The NSSA defines high-impact tutoring as tutoring that enhances student learning without replacing classroom instruction. Its key features include:

    • Regular tutoring sessions, ideally more than 30 minutes per week.
    • Strong, ongoing relationships between tutors and students.
    • Continuous assessment of student progress and tailored instruction.
    • Consistency with what students learn in school.
    • Regular training and support for tutors to ensure quality.

    In short: High-impact tutoring is intensive, tailored, and aligned with classroom teachings.

    The efficacy of this tutoring isn’t universal; it hinges on the right implementation. Research reveals that the tutoring’s impact is maximized when specific features and methodologies are applied with utmost fidelity. More on HIT here.

    What is MTSS and Tiered Intervention?

    MTSS or Multi-Tiered Systems of Support is a holistic framework adopted by districts to provide tailored support to students based on their individual needs. The essence of tiered intervention lies in its ability to cater to students at various tiers of academic competence, ensuring no student is left behind.

    By relying on data, MTSS identifies and tracks struggling students, offering insights into effective interventions. Furthermore, its collaborative essence fosters unity among teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders, ensuring optimal student support. The rising adoption of MTSS in some districts may also be driven by state or federal mandates, a push to elevate specific academic outcomes, or a focus on addressing social-emotional student needs.

    Why Marry MTSS with High-Impact Tutoring

    When high-impact tutoring is infused into MTSS, districts witness:

    • Enhanced student outcomes: The combined effect of structured support from MTSS and the tailored, evidence-based methods of high-impact tutoring leads to significant learning gains.
    • Implementation ease: Challenges inherent to introducing new systems are minimized, thanks to the cohesiveness of this integrated approach.
    • Streamlined operations: The dual systems, when working in tandem, eliminate redundancies and pave the way for smoother school operations.
    • Instructional coherence: Aligning the objectives of both systems ensures that students receive a consistent and unified learning experience.

    Steps to Successful Integration

    Successful integration demands coordinated efforts at multiple levels:

    • State level: Review and, if necessary, amend conflicting guidelines in existing state policies to make room for this integrated approach
    • District level: Clearly define the scope of integration and set expectations for its seamless implementation
    • School level: Ensure that the practices are implemented with unwavering fidelity

    The Clock is Ticking

    Although states now have a path to file an extension on ESSER funding, the time is ripe for educational agencies to bolster their support systems. Embedding high-impact tutoring within tiered intervention is more than just an effective strategy—it’s an opportunity to bridge learning gaps, foster equity, and elevate educational outcomes.  Yet, success doesn’t come on a silver platter. It demands meticulous planning, strategic resource allocation, and continuous monitoring.

    Dive Deeper

    If you would like to explore more about the power of combining MTSS and high-impact tutoring? Discover benefits, delve into action steps, and glean insights from successful implementations at

    Steps to Successful Integration

    Successful integration demands coordinated efforts at multiple levels:

    • State level: Review and, if necessary, amend conflicting guidelines in existing state policies to make room for this integrated approach
    • District level: Clearly define the scope of integration and set expectations for its seamless implementation
    • School level: Ensure that the practices are implemented with unwavering fidelity

    The Clock is Ticking

    Although states now have a path to file an extension on ESSER funding, the time is ripe for educational agencies to bolster their support systems. Embedding high-impact tutoring within tiered intervention is more than just an effective strategy—it’s an opportunity to bridge learning gaps, foster equity, and elevate educational outcomes.  Yet, success doesn’t come on a silver platter. It demands meticulous planning, strategic resource allocation, and continuous monitoring.

    Dive Deeper

    If you would like to explore more about the power of combining MTSS and high-impact tutoring? Discover benefits, delve into action steps, and glean insights from successful implementations at

    This is default text for notification bar