2024 Tutoring Trends: Funding & Budgeting

2024 Tutoring Trends: Funding & Budgeting

Shaped by emerging trends and innovative approaches, the tutoring landscape in education is poised for significant transformations, Currently, Pearl is looking at trends in funding and budgeting allocations. Read on to learn our top 5 research-backed predictions for 2024.  

ARP ESSER Funding Cliff

The looming September 2024 ARP ESSER funding cliff will continue to generate a wave of concern, but amidst this, high-impact tutoring stands out as a beacon of hope. This evidence-based approach is key in addressing student learning loss. As the deadline nears, here are some funding trends in high-impact tutoring to watch.
Evidence-Based High-Impact Tutoring

School districts are increasingly adopting high-impact tutoring as an evidence-based, cost-effective strategy to support student learning post-federal funding (REL West, 2021).  As an example Accelerate.us has supported organizations that collectively serve more than 178,000 students and work with more than 30,000 tutors. At Pearl, our partners have successfully completed over 288,900 high-impact tutoring sessions in 2023, demonstrating a 212% increase from 2022.

Focus on High-Poverty Schools

High-impact tutoring is being prioritized in high-poverty schools to mitigate the impact of the ESSER fiscal cliff.  This is a critical focus as “…in high-poverty districts (over 75% poverty) the end of ESSER has a six percent impact on budgets, compared to two percent for districts serving more affluent students (under 25% poverty)” (Brookings, 2023.).

Budget Cuts

Without additional state investments, district budgets might face an average cut of $1,200 per student in the 2024-25 school year. This is due to a combination of declining enrollment and ESSER Funds. For an average high school with 850 students, this could amount to a loss of over $1 million. (The Education Trust, 2023)

Budget Realignment

Schools are increasingly adopting high-impact tutoring as a cost-effective strategy to preserve educational standards during times of financial pressure (Accelerate, 2023). Preliminary discovery into integrating high-impact tutoring within Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) shows potential benefits, including the early identification of learning gaps. This approach could reduce the need for more expensive interventions in subsequent grades, thereby curbing overall costs. With 900+ schools already using Pearl across all 50 states, the adoption of high-impact tutoring is clear. 

Equitable and Effective Planning

Integrating high-impact tutoring into strategic planning equitably and effectively is key for schools to address individual student needs during financial transitions (National Student Support Accelerator, 2021).  As an example Illinois has created pathways for districts to provide high-impact tutoring, funded by COVID-19 relief funds, and coordinated with higher education institutions to focus on K-8 math and literacy and high school math.  Also, Georgia invested $6 million in partnership with AmeriCorps to provide tutoring for up to 5,000 students, showing a commitment to integrating tutoring at a systemic level​. (National Student Support Accelerator, 2023)

References:

Accelerate. (2023, August). Beyond Recovery: Funding High-Impact Tutoring for the Long-Term. Retrieved from https://accelerate.us/beyond-recovery/

Brookings. (2023, September). The ESSER fiscal cliff will have serious implications for student equity. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-esser-fiscal-cliff-will-have-serious-implications-for-student-equity/

Council of Chief State School Officers. (n.d.). Road to Recovery: How States are Using Federal Relief Funding to Scale High-Impact Tutoring. https://learning.ccsso.org/road-to-recovery-how-states-are-using-federal-relief-funding-to-scale-high-impact-tutoring

The Education Trust. (2023, August 22). Running out of time: ESSER spending deadline looms and fiscal cliffs approach. The Education Trust. https://edtrust.org/press-release/running-out-of-time-esser-spending-deadline-looms-and-fiscal-cliffs-approach/

National Student Support Accelerator. (2021, May.). Equitable and Effective Planning for High-Impact Tutoring. Retrieved from https://studentsupportaccelerator.org/briefs/equitable-and-effective

National Student Support Accelerator. (2023, November). A snapshot of state tutoring policies. https://studentsupportaccelerator.org/briefs/snapshot-state-tutoring-policies

REL West. (2021, September). High-Quality Tutoring: An Evidence-Based Strategy to Tackle Learning Loss. Institute of Education Sciences. https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/west/blog/tutoring-learning-loss.asp

Watershed Advisors. (2023, July.). Solutions that scale: How Watershed is supporting leaders to address America’s biggest education challenges. [PDF document]. Retrieved from https://watershed-advisors.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/TutoringCaseStudyv8.pdf

New Jersey Tutoring Corps: Finding Success in a Statewide Tutoring Program

New Jersey Tutoring Corps: Finding Success in a Statewide Tutoring Program

The New Jersey Tutoring Corps is addressing learning loss in New Jersey’s highest-need districts. Established within the last two years with funding from the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund and the Overdeck Family Foundation, New Jersey Tutoring Corps is finding success in high-impact tutoring following the guidelines of the National Student Support Accelerator at Stanford and using assessment and curriculum from iReady.

More than Homework Help

“The New Jersey Tutoring Corps is not homework help. We are following research to combat learning gaps by working with school districts, YMCAs, and Boys and Girls clubs to offer high impact tutoring during the school day, after school and during summer break,” said Katherine Bassett, CEO of the New Jersey Tutoring Corps. “Students in need are identified through state testing and placed into small groups of no more than three, where they meet with the same tutor to review material in reading and math several times a week for as many as 15 weeks per cycle.”

The New Jersey Tutoring Corps offers three student support models, all proven to be effective:

    1. Embedded School Day: A 12 to 15-week cycle where students meet several times a week for 30 to 60 minutes per session.
    2. After School Tutoring: A 12 to 15-week cycle where students meet several times a week for 30 to 45-minute blocks of content.
    3. Summer Tutoring: An 8-week cycle where students meet for 30 to 60-minute sessions.

Relationship-Based Learning & Retention

An important component of effective tutoring, as identified by the National Student Support Accelerator, is relationships. By skillfully matching students and tutors and by providing students access to the same tutor for their entire learning cycle, the pair is able to build trust and consistency, leading to stronger educational outcomes. Tutors that have an in-depth understanding of a students’ needs allows him or her to develop special and specific lesson plans for each student.

In addition to positive student / tutor outcomes, the New Jersey Tutoring Corps has a 71% retention rate of field staff, which includes pre-service educators, substitute educators, community members with experience, and certified teachers. Bassett says it’s rewarding to work with pre-service educators. As students themselves, pre-service educators get to practice and hone their skills by working with students before obtaining their degrees.

Data-Driven Results

    • Students in grades Pre-K through Eighth participating in the New Jersey Tutoring Corps program receive in-person support in literacy and math.
    • Student gains have been significant with grade level performance improving from 18-28% in math and 24-27% in literacy.
    • In addition to academic achievements, students are also evaluated based on their social-emotional growth. Many begin seeing themselves more confidently as learners and viewing learning with more enthusiasm.

The Pearl Partnership

The New Jersey Tutoring Corps partnered with Pearl, a leading research-based tutoring platform, to collect the data they needed to measure the success and growth of each student in the program. Instead of juggling Google Sheets and Docs filled with information, the New Jersey Tutoring Corps now has one location where everyone on the team can find and review quantitative data including attendance, dosage, SEL surveys as well as other open fields for the collection of qualitative insights. In this way, Pearl makes it easy for the New Jersey Tutoring Corps to serve its communities.

“Before Pearl, tracking what was done in each tutoring session was convoluted,” said Bassett. “It’s much more effective for our staff to review reliable data in the format generated by the Pearl platform. Our staff are also able to keep notes in a central location that can be referenced by themselves, parents and teachers.”

The New Jersey Tutoring Corps also uses Pearl to track attendance. Bassett says connecting a student’s success to how often they were able to attend a tutoring session offers valuable insight.

Looking to the Future

“The folks at the New Jersey Tutoring Corps follow a philosophy we strongly believe in and support,” said John Failla, founder and CEO of Pearl. “Not only do they implement evidence-based programs, but they are developing their own research to contribute to the high-impact, relationship-based format. It’s a pleasure to work with passionate educators to support student achievement.”

Relationship-focused tutoring has the potential to significantly alter the learning path for students in need. By utilizing advanced platforms like Pearl, the New Jersey Tutoring Corps provides not only premier instruction but also adeptly manages data-centric decision-making and reporting.

Overseeing a statewide tutoring program, with its diverse stakeholders and multiple locations, is inherently intricate. Choosing the right tools is essential for effective scaling. The collaboration between New Jersey Tutoring Corps and Pearl emphasizes the need for constant innovation and flexibility in high-quality tutoring, guaranteeing that every student is positioned to excel in our fast-changing educational environment.

To learn more about the New Jersey Tutoring Corps, visit: njtutoringcorps.org

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.

Summary

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.

Summary

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.

Building a Logic Model for Your Tutoring Program

Building a Logic Model for Your Tutoring Program

More than ever before, community tutoring programs have the potential to fundamentally transform K12 education. When starting a community tutoring program, it is imperative to maximize your potential based on the resources available to you and the greatest identified needs. By creating a model that outlines your program’s goals, activities, and expected outcomes, you can identify potential challenges and be equipped to evaluate your program’s success. 

An overview of the five key steps you need to take to build such a model is provided below.

Step 1: Needs

Performing a community landscape analysis allows you to evaluate the full context in which you are operating.  In a landscape analysis, data collection and information-gathering activities are used to identify a community’s strengths, resources, and needs.  During this exploration period, your ultimate objective is to clearly define beneficiaries and community needs.

It is important to balance several strategies for collecting intelligence. You must  consider the stakeholders who will contribute to your program and ask the tough questions: 

Once you have compiled information, it is critical to evaluate the community’s strengths, gaps, needs, opportunities, and threats. If there is a clear opportunity, the next step is to share your findings and align with your stakeholders. The elegant part of this last step is that, if done correctly, you will build buy-in for your program.

  1. Do the students need tutoring in the first place?
  2. Does the district or school currently have access to a tutoring program?
  3. What are the strengths of current academic support in the community?

Step 2: Inputs

The next step after completing your needs assessment is to ensure access to all critical resources. Students and tutors are among these resources, as well as curriculum, physical space, and sustainable funding. The capacity to scale without digital solutions must also be assessed.  These solutions include rostering, matching, scheduling, and maintaining all of the data required by funders for reporting.  Also, examine, as well as legal and safety restraints.

When assessing your tutor resources, It is imperative to clarify where the tutors will come from. You have to ask the difficult questions, for example:

  1. Will local universities participate, or will I need to recruit on campus?
  2. Is there a willingness to source tutors across other supply options, such as retired teachers, non-profits, community groups, volunteers, etc.?
  3. Will some tutoring be conducted online for logistical reasons?

Step 3: Actions

Once your needs and Inputs have been aligned, it’s time to create a clear path. In order to execute your strategy, you need to assemble a step-by-step plan that utilizes all of your newly acquired critical network and data.  

Repeatable and scalable actions are needed. Every program will come with its own set of challenges, so planning well in advance is crucial. Here are a few examples.

  1. In some cases, districts may provide very narrow insight into which students should be tutored. 
  2. School schedules are often constructed in downtime (Summer), making advocating for tutor slots a timely exercise
  3. If the tutoring program is left to administer assessments, timing and choosing the assessment tool can slow things down considerably. This is especially true if you have varied core curriculum approaches across multiple districts.
  4. Challenges in hiring tutors, including:
    1. If you are using university students as tutors who need clinical experience, how well are your training materials aligned with the University’s approach?
    2. What are the criminal background check requirements in your state? 
    3. Do criminal background check requirements vary from district to district?

Step 4: Outputs

Outputs are immediate goals that you can (most often) quantify.  These goals can include a host of different metrics to help you guide the timeline and overall impact that your program is making as you begin the initial stages of implementation.  

It is imperative that the output component of a logic model does not measure success. These are merely metrics needed to understand how well you are executing. There are many outputs in a logic model. As an example, based on your program’s design, you might track:

  1. The number of tutors that apply are trained and tutor their first session.
  2. How many tutors report that they are enjoying the tutoring?
  3. How often are tutor managers interacting with tutors over a specific period?
  4. How many students feel like they are learning what they need to learn in a certain amount of sessions?
  5. How many students increased their GPA across a semester or a single year?

Step 5: Impact

In the final section of a logic model, you define your short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. In addition to quantitative goals, qualitative goals can also be set. The National Student Support Accelerator recommends focusing your impact measurement on three key areas: learning, skills, and conditions.

Measures of learning can vary but are usually related to assessments, improvement gaps covered, and general attitudes toward learning. Also, by regularly gathering data on social-emotional learning (SEL), you can get a sense of student sentiment.  

Ultimately, the ability to teach oneself is a key goal, usually measuring studying habits and approaches to learning that build curiosity. It’s important to measure performance in order to understand the sustainability of the program. You should stay focused on the question, “Are students (and tutors) more confident academically, and more proud of their achievements than they were before tutoring?”

Summary

It is difficult to create a comprehensive logic model for your tutoring program, especially one that involves the community. Nonetheless, without this crucial work, you will inevitably hit roadblocks, which will slow things down and possibly halt progress. Furthermore, the actual process of assembling a logic model is equally as important to the information gathered. During this journey, you will establish connections with the stakeholders necessary to realize your vision. When you gain community input and buy-in on your project, you greatly increase your chances of success.  

For the most comprehensive guide to building a logic model for your tutoring program, we highly recommend spending some time leveraging the resources on the National Student Support Accelerator (NSSA) website.  Once on the NSSA website, click on the Toolkits tab in the menu.  Here you will find a treasure trove of resources.

At Pearl, we work with our partners to create a logic model so that they implement tutoring programs that actually work. If you are interested in learning more about how we can help you create an evidence-based logic model, shoot us a note at nate@tutorwithpearl.com.

Why is it so challenging to conduct research in K-12 education?

Why is it so challenging to conduct research in K-12 education?

The Intricacies of Conducting Research in K-12 Education: An In-Depth Analysis

Our country desperately needs an overhaul in K-12 education. In order to make this a reality, the quality of supporting research is essential. Research in K-12 education is often hampered by a number of challenges, making it difficult to conduct rigorous studies. This blog explores the challenges our K-12 researchers face today as well as possible solutions. 

Ethical Considerations

Human subjects research is governed by ethical considerations, especially when involving children. Any legitimate research that includes humans must go through an Internal Review Board (IRB). This process can vary from institution to institution as well as the nature of the research being proposed. Generally the steps include determining if the IRB is necessary, developing a research plan, completing an application to the IRB, submitting the application, responding to follow up requests and questions form the board, IRB edits and/or potential research design improvements, then receiving approval or “sigh” more required  changes prior to approval. This is a lengthy process and further complexity is introduced by funding and the needed consent from participants.  

The well-being and privacy of students will always be prioritized by parents, educators, and researchers alike. Therefore, obtaining informed consent from parents or guardians can be arduous and time-consuming. Study designs must respect students’ rights and protect their welfare while also remaining scientifically valid. Balancing all of the components of privacy, consent, and meeting the expectations of your institution and/or funders is not for the faint of heart.

Diverse Settings

From public to private institutions and from rural to urban environments, K-12 education encompasses a wide range of school types. The diversity of these populations can make it difficult for researchers to generalize their findings to broader populations or to draw conclusions that can be applied to a variety of contexts. There may also be unique policies, procedures, and curricula within each school and district that may affect research results.  It is also important to consider the intent of any study performed within the K-12 setting. There is some precedent for data being misused in ways that offset equity in the US.

“If we are imposing measures of success on communities, we are essentially also then imposing our values and agenda on them. Communities have been burned and harmed by the ways that measurement has been weaponized in past education reform efforts without their involvement.”

Confounding variables

It can be difficult to isolate the effects of a particular intervention or practice in educational research because of the complex interplay of factors that influence student learning. Among these factors are classroom dynamics, socioeconomic status, student motivation, parental engagement and teacher quality. Accounting for these different variables is often complex and time-consuming. The teacher shortage is also causing inconsistencies in resources that exacerbate the teacher quality and can strain new strategy implementation.

Resource constraints

K-12 education research often requires significant time, money, and human resources. In order to understand the long-term effects of educational interventions, longitudinal studies can span several years and require ongoing funding. Schools and teachers are often reluctant to participate in research projects having concerns about disrupting their daily routines and time away from instruction. Many teachers are also very much focused on raising state test scores and often fear variation from prepping towards their teaching goals. Lastly, even with district buy-in for a study, researchers also end up having to coordinate directly with individual schools for execution. 

Messy Data Issues

The arduous process of accessing K-12 education data can be extremely frustrating. This is especially true when the data is messy and almost impossible to aggregate for research purposes.  In spite of the fact that schools and districts have enormous amounts of valuable data, that data is often siloed, difficult to aggregate, or disorganized. Researchers are often unable to extract useful insights from school data due to its disorganization and disaggregation.

Additionally, because centralized school data is already difficult to parse, bringing in outside systems (such as disparate assessment providers) or giving them access to school insights from outside tutoring companies or professional development providers can also hinder or slow down progress.

Political and policy pressures

Changing policy priorities and a heated political climate also affect education, creating more challenges for researchers. It is possible for political agendas and policy changes to dictate which research areas receive support or funding, hindering the exploration of innovative ideas. Policy makers are focused on ROI in the final year of ESSER due to high expectations for reporting. State tests and NAEP scores in 2024 will remain the primary focus of governors’ offices. 

The level of focus on ROI may make it challenging to try new things or implement research that goes beyond basic third-party evaluations.  It is also possible for researchers to be pressured to produce results that support a particular policy or program. Their objectivity and integrity can be compromised by this kind of pressure. 

Conclusion

Educating children is a complex endeavor, involving ethical considerations, diverse learning environments, confounding variables, and  resource constraints. In order to overcome these challenges and contribute to the improvement of education, researchers, educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders must collaborate and be willing to adapt and innovate.

A number of solutions are possible, including simplifying the informed consent process, creating standardized research methodologies across multiple educational contexts, and advocating for increased funding and support for long-term, objective research.

Some additional solutions might include:

  1. Creating Collaborative Research Networks that establish long term research relationships with key K-12 stakeholders.  
  2. Interdisciplinary Approaches: Researchers can collaborate with experts from other fields to bring a multidisciplinary perspective to their research. This can help to address the complex and multifaceted nature of the challenges facing K-12 education, and can lead to more innovative and effective solutions.  This approach may also help with LEA and school level buy-in. 
  3. Technology-Based Solutions: It may be possible to set up more robust data aggregation that are inherently part of native school data systems.  This could streamline the research process and make it more efficient. For example, online survey tools, data management software, and educational data analytics platforms could help researchers identify possible research and better collect, manage, and analyze data already collected. 

Our goal at Pearl is to unlock educational research’s potential to improve K-12 education in the US. We are always looking for creative ideas and partners to help bridge the research to practice gap.  Please reach out anytime to schedule a discussion.

To Access Great Education Research with a focus on tutoring – NSSA Research Repository

Unsure of how to tackle the challenges of your large online tutoring program? Schedule time to speak to a Pearl expert and learn best practices for evidence-based tutoring with Pearl.

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