How ARP ESSER Is Changing the Tutoring Landscape

How ARP ESSER Is Changing the Tutoring Landscape

Learning loss is one of the most alarming impacts of the pandemic as COVID-19 upended — and continues to disrupt — day-to-day life in communities around the world. Initially, the pandemic led schools to shutter their doors and attempt improvised distance learning. Using curricula designed for in-person classrooms, educators with little to no online teaching experience struggled to adapt to the new stay-at-home model. 

Students logged in late or not at all. They grew distracted or tuned out of the lessons being presented. Some 1.1 million students were “lost” from the nation’s public schools, according to education nonprofit The 74. That student dropout crisis has since extended beyond K-12, with dismally low college enrollment figures showing nearly 1 million fewer students signing up for classes, per Inside Higher Ed

The unprecedented knowledge gap left in Covid’s wake is now combining with the worst national teacher shortage in recent history to form a perfect storm. These critical teacher shortages are adding fuel to a fire that continues to char our children’s educational futures. But there is one ray of hope that has managed to break through: the government-sponsored American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (APR ESSER) Fund. 

Among the resources being offered by APR ESSER are a myriad of tutoring-related initiatives aimed at helping school districts partner with tutors who can not only help mitigate the learning loss, but perhaps overcome it altogether. 

What is APR ESSER?

The American Rescue Plan was signed into law in March 2021, dedicating $1.9 trillion to addressing various Covid-related problems. Out of that jaw-dropping sum, an impressive $122 billion was earmarked for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief. Some estimates are as high as $190 billion in total going to schools across the country. 

As noted on the ARP ESSER Fact Sheet, states were directed to disburse at least 90% of funds to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) to “[h]elp meet a wide range of needs arising from the coronavirus pandemic, including reopening schools safely, sustaining their safe operation, and addressing students’ social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs resulting from the pandemic.” 

From their respective allocations, LEAs must use at least 20% of the funds granted to “address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions and ensure that those interventions respond to students’ social, emotional, and academic needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups.” 

These underrepresented subgroups are defined on the fact sheet as:

  • Each major racial and ethnic group
  • Children from low-income families
  • Children with disabilities
  • English learners
  • Gender
  • Migrant students
  • Students experiencing homelessness
  • Children and youth in foster care

But how are schools using their ARP ESSER funds to “address learning loss?” What are the “evidence-based interventions” being implemented, and how do administrators ensure those interventions are sufficiently responding to the myriad and complex needs of so many different student groups? 

As mentioned, tutoring has proven itself to be the best solution for these issues. That is why so many schools are using ARP ESSER funds to ramp up their tutoring programs on such large scales. They’re literally altering the landscape of the tutoring profession. 

How is APR ESSER tied to tutoring?

In the past, when the nation’s educational system faced troubles, the federal government tried to solve things by throwing money at the problem. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is a fair example. Even though there were “pros” to the initiative, the list of “cons” overwhelmed the positive results. As posted by the NGO Vittana, “the structure of NCLB was more about money than student learning.” In fact, there were even instances of districts declining federal funds to avoid “bureaucratic nightmares” or being “liable for the outcomes.” 

Obviously the Department of Education wants schools to be comfortable accepting ARP ESSER funding, and it wants administrators to feel secure knowing what is expected when they do. That is one of the main reasons why access to ARP ESSER funds come with the strict criteria it does — so that schools don’t run afoul of the same mistakes again. Hence the need for utilizing “evidence-backed” strategies like tutoring. 

In the race to address learning loss in the face of twin predicaments — a pandemic followed by a national teacher shortage — tutoring has emerged as the clear winner, with plenty of supporting research behind it. 

How to implement effective, high impact tutoring with ARP ESSER funds?

One educational center leading the charge for tutoring research is the National Student Support Accelerator (NSSA), run by  The Annenberg Institute based at Brown University. NSSA declared its mission to “accelerate the growth of high impact tutoring opportunities for K-12 students in need.” Indeed, the Accelerator’s core values of “student-centered acceleration,” “equity-based,” and “evidence-backed” align perfectly with the demands of the ESSER. 

Tutoring, as defined by NSSA, “is a form of teaching, one-on-one or in a small group, towards a specific goal.” But, more specifically, NSSA advocates for high impact tutoring, which it claims “leads to substantial learning gains for students by supplementing (but not replacing) students’ classroom experiences. High impact tutoring responds to individual needs and complements students’ existing curriculum.” 

How do districts integrate high impact tutoring effectively? The National Student Support Accelerator lists five key features of effective tutoring which can serve as steps for districts to take when implementing programs. These steps are:

  1. Embed tutoring into school days (or immediately before or after)
  2. Schedule at least three 30-60 minute, high-impact sessions per week with 1-4 students per group
  3. Maintain tutor consistency and ensure tutors receive oversight and coaching
  4. Inform sessions via use of student progress data, when available (note, Pearl’s tutoring software is able to collect data points to help programs improve and show impact)
  5. Align materials with research and state standards

District Administration’s article “Do this, not that: Using ESSER funds for tutoring” suggests similar goals. In terms of implementing high-dosage tutoring programs, the five things they recommend for districts to prioritize are:

  1. Giving students more tutoring time 
  2. Building strong tutor-student relations
  3. Monitoring individual student progress
  4. Aligning tutoring sessions with the classroom curriculum 
  5. Quality engagement during sessions

School leaders should take note of both sets of guidelines as they go about putting their ESSER funds to good use. In its High Impact Tutoring Toolkit, NSSA offers advice to LEAs to ensure their programs are established “with fidelity and equitably across student populations.” LEAs are encouraged to create teams of key players who can set vision and strategy, monitor progress, and ensure district needs are being met. 

These teams are also responsible for finding and partnering with appropriate tutors who can match those high impact tutoring needs. In many cases, schools should consider online tutoring providers. After all, tutors don’t always have the flexibility to come out in-person three times a week for only a half hour at a time. When searching for quality tutors, it’s important to keep their interests in mind and not just the schools’. 

But the online format gives extra flexibility to students, too. Sometimes tutoring sessions must be done before or after school, making an online lesson more manageable, especially when parents’ schedules don’t allow them to alter the pick up and drop off times of their children. The key to effective tutoring is to make it accessible and convenient.  

Naturally, online tutors still need to align their work to complement the school’s curriculum. When tutors use only their own materials, it can increase student frustration and potentially lead to confusion. Thus, teachers should share with tutors which instructional materials they’re using, along with details on where the class is currently at and which areas tutored students are behind in. 

How is the tutoring industry changing because of APR ESSER?

In Pearl’s recent Pearls of Wisdom webinar interview with Patrick Steck of Deans for Impact, Steck discussed best practices for schools who are receiving APR ESSER funding to hire and train “rockstar tutors.” Given the large number of tutors needed in many districts, Steck suggests looking for qualified, trainable tutors in areas such as:

  • In-service teacher pools
  • Retired teachers 
  • Teacher aide undergraduates or graduate students 
  • Undergraduates majoring in subjects other than the ones needed
  • Community volunteers 
  • Organizations that employ tutors 

But finding tutors is only the first step. The trick is ensuring they are properly trained and monitored for performance. ARP ESSER funds can help in these areas. The extra funds allow for closer partnerships by providing schools the means and incentives to offer tutors professional development, better feedback for improvement, and better tools such as high-tech, online tutoring platforms (like Pearl). 

As Mr. Steck noted in the webinar, tutor training and performance monitoring are vital elements to success. He advises providing on-the-job training (or OJT) similar to in-service teacher coaching, along with timely feedback related to their instruction. The persons providing this feedback to tutors should speak with students and parents to garner their personal insights. Feedback providers may also refer to surveys, which can help schools gain deeper understanding into how well tutoring programs are working in relation to predetermined goals. 

Finally, tutoring feedback should be informed by data which can be drawn from using a system to track student growth over the course of sessions. Pearl works with educational institutions and tutoring companies who’ve received ARP ESSER funding to incorporate scalable tutoring software technology into their programs which can help capture such data. Pearl also offers educational institutions direct assistance to help them take advantage of ARP ESSER funds

These are just a few of the many changes in the world of tutoring, which can continue to evolve and align with district goals when APR ESSER funds are implemented in an informed and timely manner.

Hiring and Training Rockstar Tutors With Patrick Steck of Deans for Impact

Hiring and Training Rockstar Tutors With Patrick Steck of Deans for Impact

Pearl’s CRO Nate Casey recently conducted a broad-ranging interview with Patrick Steck, Senior Director of Policy for Deans for Impact, an organization committed to improving student learning outcomes by stewarding the transformation of educator preparation. Patrick also served as a legislative assistant in the Texas legislature and is currently on the front lines ensuring future educators learn what’s needed to become great teachers. 

Below are time stamped highlights and key takeaways from our February 28, 2022 webinar about hiring and training rockstar tutors. You can also find the video of the full webinar embedded at the bottom of this article. And don’t forget to sign up to receive notifications of future Pearls of Wisdom webinars!

Impacts of the nationwide teacher shortage 

[Timestamp 3:51]

As Casey points out during the interview, there is a huge demand for educators nationwide, with “over 50 million K-12 students and a need for over 3.5 million teachers.” Unfortunately, there aren’t enough teachers to go around, with the Learning Policy Institute calling the teacher shortage a “crisis” that’s “stretching schools to the breaking point.” 

An October 2021 survey by Education Week confirmed the severity of the teacher shortage crisis, highlighting dire feedback coming in from districts around the country, noting: 

  • 37% reported “moderate” shortages
  • 25% reported “severe” shortages
  • 15% reported “very severe” shortages

Steck says he isn’t surprised. “At the start of the school year, teachers reported levels of exhaustion that we might expect heading into the end of the school year.” One of the main reasons for that exhaustion has, of course, been the widespread and ceaseless disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. While the pandemic isn’t the only factor behind the dearth of teachers, it has obviously been a major one, with Covid driving up early teacher retirements by a whopping 26% in 2021. 

However, the federal government is fighting back, funding a range of timely programs to bring tutors in to fill the gaps. “The pandemic unleashed tremendous energy, resources, and plans around tutoring as a means to facilitate learning recovery,” Steck says on a positive note. 

From national service programs such as AmeriCorps grants to Federal Work Study programs, federal funds through ESEA and IDEA, and other relief funds such as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, there seems to be no shortage of available cash coming in. But simply throwing money at the problem isn’t enough. Districts must find and train the right tutors who can augment schools during the teacher shortage and beyond. 

But how do districts find such tutors in the first place?

How the tutoring landscape is evolving 

[Timestamp 49:55]

As Casey points out, America is experiencing a “Renaissance in tutoring.” From in-person to online services, tutoring is the evidence-based winner when it comes to addressing student learning loss effectively. And, as mentioned above, tutoring is also a viable solution for tackling the crippling national teacher shortage at the same time. For these reasons and more, tutors are hot commodities these days. 

But not all tutors are created equal and not every tutor is suitable for every district or student population. That is why both quality and variety are essential. Luckily, as Steck points out, there is a treasure trove of potentially excellent tutors out there who simply need the right training to evolve and help students succeed. 

Effective tutoring training should be:

  • Grounded in the best scientific understanding of how students learn, using evidence-based practices tutors can deploy
  • Arranged to ensure tutors can create equitable inclusive learning environments through relationships they build with students
  • Aligned to a well-sequenced curriculum, particularly for tutors who might not be in-service teachers and are earlier in their development
  • Sequenced so tutors can engage in ongoing professional development opportunities so they can improve their skills. 

Clearly schools have a lot of work to do to ensure the correct training and opportunities are provided. As education author Ron Berger noted in Edutopia, “Districts face a hard reality. Many children lost a great deal of academic growth last year. Districts need to know which students need extra support, including tutoring in and outside the classroom. But educators need to assess students’ abilities in a way that motivates them to grow.”

Once districts know what their students need and what they want tutors to know before starting, then it’s time to source those tutors. Alas, that’s not as easy as it sounds, because while teachers are in exodus mode, tutors are finding themselves in increasingly higher demand across the board. 

Building a roster of amazing tutors 

[Timestamp 11:45]

Districts around the country are eager to put their federal funding to work hiring tutors who can get started as soon as possible. But where should program leaders be looking for great tutors? 

Given the sheer amount of tutors needed (and the already existing demands on the most qualified tutors), Steck suggests considering traditional as well as overlooked alternative sources. 

Where to look for qualified, trainable tutors: 

  • In-service teacher pools
  • Retired teachers serving as paraprofessionals
  • Teacher aide undergraduates or graduates at university schools of education
  • Undergraduates majoring in subjects related, but not identical, to the ones needed
  • Qualified community volunteers 
  • Organizations that employ tutors 
  • Other sources, such as Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and faith-based organizations

Mitigating risks of hiring tutors too quickly

[Timestamp 21:59]

When the government offers funding, school leaders feel they must act fast to allocate those dollars in a certain amount of time. But while trying to move quickly, they shouldn’t cut corners or they could end up squandering the resources made available by hiring the wrong tutors. 

Unfortunately, there’s an absence of any coordinated national effort, putting billions of relief dollars at risk of not being properly managed to produce effective results. It wouldn’t be the first time. Schools have been left in such conundrums before, of being offered funds but not knowing exactly how to properly utilize them. No district wants to repeat the mistakes of the past, such as with some of the poorly managed implementations of No Child Left Behind.  

Schools do want to hire quickly to meet deadlines, but need a feasible plan of action to do it right. They must ensure they’re using evidence-based strategies, as exemplified by the Annenberg Institute’s National Student Support Accelerator based at Brown University. The focus, as Steck discusses, should be on finding high-quality tutors from the previously-mentioned talent pools. However, when possible, he also recommends to “incentivize the use of teacher candidates as tutors,” because “creating opportunities for teacher candidates to tutor really is a win-win!” 

Best practices for vetting and monitoring tutors

[Timestamp 25:45]

After selecting the best sources for recruiting tutors, it’s time to vet the candidate pool. This involves knowing one’s district, its students, the unique challenges being faced, and the best ways to address those problems. Again, not every tutor fits readily into every situation, and so it is crucial to find candidates who are a strong match and who can align with both the needs and culture of the affected communities. In other words, it’s important to find tutors with the flexibility to adapt practices to student needs as well as to the requirements and conditions dictated by the school. 

Deans for Impact also promotes the idea of hiring tutors who possess a firm understanding of how the brain works, and a scientific understanding of how students learn. Simply being an expert in a needed subject doesn’t make a person suitable for tutoring children. The tutors must have a firm grasp of applicable pedagogy, as well as an awareness of the differences between teaching in-person and teaching online. 

After tutors are onboarded, Steck suggests monitoring and promoting tutor effectiveness to ensure positive student outcomes. 

Some methods to monitor a tutor’s performance include:

  • Providing on-the-job training, similar to in-service teacher coaching
  • Offering tutors timely, actionable feedback related to their instruction 
  • Establishing a system to track student growth for the length of the tutoring session
  • Speaking to students and parents to gain their insights and feedback about what’s working and what could be improved upon
  • Using surveys to obtain feedback from school leaders and teachers who can assess the tutors’ ability to support students and contribute to school culture
  • Applying incentives in a way that is meaningful to the tutor (not always monetary)

Summary

The knowledge gap has set some American students back by months, with underprivileged and underserved communities impacted harder than average. It’s up to educational leaders to implement the proper tutoring solutions…and to get things done right for students this time. We owe it to them, their futures, and their future families, who may be affected by the progress — of lack of progress — our efforts lead to in their lives. 

That is why Steck emphasized during our recent interview that his hopes are for tutoring to be “routinely available at no cost to students who need the additional support, especially those in communities historically underserved.” With luck and hard work, we’ll be able to continue the transformation of the tutoring industry so that, in ten years’ time or less, tutoring might “serve as a means for expanding and strengthening the pipeline of future teachers.” If successful, the nation might never face another teacher shortage again! 

Make sure you sign up to receive notifications of future Pearls of Wisdom webinars.

Interview with Susanna Loeb (Part III): Tutoring Strategies and the Effectiveness of Remote Learning

Interview with Susanna Loeb (Part III): Tutoring Strategies and the Effectiveness of Remote Learning

Across the country, education leaders are scrambling to address the pandemic’s detrimental impacts on student learning. One of the biggest questions school districts are trying to answer is how to find the most effective tutoring strategies to combat learning loss

Dr. Susanna Loeb, director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, and her colleagues propose high-impact tutoring as the most promising, evidence-based solution. A second concern is whether online tutoring is proven to be as effective as in-person tutoring sessions. 

In our January 2022 Pearls of Wisdom webinar (embedded below), Dr. Loeb shared her thoughts on these vital questions with Pearl CRO Nate Casey.  We’ve summarized the webinar discussion into a three-part blog series to highlight Dr. Loeb’s key points. In Part I, we discussed the benefits of high-impact tutoring. In Part II, we reviewed Dr. Loeb’s work with the National Student Support Accelerator at the Annenberg Institute.  And now, in the third and final part of our webinar recap, we’ll be discussing the best tutoring strategies and comparing the effectiveness of online vs. in-person tutoring. 

Finding Effective Tutoring Strategies

In the webinar, Dr. Loeb revealed that she’s been “working with districts across the country to test the effectiveness of different approaches to tutoring (…) and to better understand the challenges of implementing high-impact tutoring to overcome those challenges.” 

Among the initial findings from the Annenberg Institute’s research was that “the desire to increase scale comes with a push to decrease quality.” That problem, in turn, quickly cascades into other issues such as assigning too many students per tutor, offering too few tutoring sessions per week, and providing insufficient coaching for tutors. 

By contrast, “high-impact tutoring focuses on quality,” by decreasing the number of students, increasing the frequency of tutoring sessions, and supporting tutors with training. Dr. Loeb noted, though, that “building tutoring into the school day can be tricky. Schools need to be creative to do this well.” 

The most effective tutoring times, her group found, were during homeroom or intervention periods, electives, or before and after school. However, having in-person tutors on hand during these times isn’t always easy, which is why the advantages of online tutoring options are being further explored.  

It is important to note that the problems with K-12 remote learning during the first year of the pandemic were not because online instruction is less effective; the issues were related to curricula not being designed for online lessons, teachers who lacked experience teaching online, and the use of platforms that weren’t designed for teaching in the first place. Online learning also suffered during the first part of the pandemic because of poor internet access and too few modern devices in the hands of underserved students.  These issues don’t necessarily apply to online tutoring, especially if the right tutoring platform is utilized. 

For High-Impact Tutoring to Work Online, Convenience Is Key

Accessibility is a crucial ingredient to making high-impact tutoring work. It also happens to be a key feature of online learning. Indeed, accessibility is one of the leading reasons why college students look for online degree programs. Per Inside Higher Ed, the Department of Education cited that “51.8 percent of students took at least one online course in 2019-20.” Among other benefits, there are no commutes involved, which saves time and energy.  

“Tutoring is an excellent way to increase equity in schools,” stated Dr. Loeb. “However, it can only do this if the students who need it the most get it. That is why it is important to offer tutoring as part of the school day for students who need it the most.” 

When attending tutoring sessions becomes a hassle, students and parents lose interest because access isn’t convenient. Convenience, therefore, is key — but scheduling in-person tutoring isn’t always convenient. That’s where flexible online sessions come into play. Online tutoring removes such barriers to access. So why aren’t more schools doing it?

“Most research on high-impact tutoring looks at in-person programs,” Dr. Loeb told us, noting EdResearch’s “Design Principles Series.” She added, however, that “we’ve seen a lot of virtual school work and virtual tutoring as a result of the pandemic and the initial evidence is very positive. Virtual tutoring can be very effective.” 

Dr. Loeb noted that tutoring during the day “can be virtual even if students are in school. Students would be in classrooms on computers, perhaps with a teacher monitoring the class while the tutors come in virtually.” She raised the idea that in-person sessions might be “ideal” when they “allow [tutors and students] to get to know each other better.” But even the most ideal scenario can’t be effective when all parties don’t show up. Strong tutoring relationships help address students’ academic needs, but this requires attendance and enthusiasm from all sides. 

The Importance of Tutoring Software

Reviewing benefits of online tutoring platforms and software like Pearl, Dr. Loeb pointed out that they “offer the possibility — through audio and video recordings of sessions, for example — of studying the interactions between students and tutors to see what is working and what isn’t.” This capability can greatly help tutors adjust their methods so their work is more effective with each student. 

“Technology-based programs could learn about students’ needs and make those tutors great on the academics while the students benefit from a much more diverse group of educators,” she said. “I’m excited for the learning that we can have from the tutoring that is going on at scale. I am excited about models that use new technologies so that the relationships can be even better and so that the tutor can focus on student needs.”

On How to Attract and Retain Tutors

Schools must not only ensure that tutoring sessions are convenient for students, but for tutors, as well. 

“Districts across the country are having trouble finding teachers, substitute teachers, and, relevant for us, tutors,” Dr. Loeb said. “They need to think about how they can attract and retain the tutors they need.” 

Perhaps the best way to entice qualified tutors is to offer remote work opportunities. This seems especially true given the fact that so many workers have fled the labor force during the “Great Resignation” and are looking for online work they can do from home. 

“A rural school looking for high school math tutors may be better off with virtual tutors,” Dr. Loeb said. “I wouldn’t rule out online tutoring, especially given the new evidence that it can be effective.” She went on to note that “it may be difficult for schools to find tutors with the skills they want — maybe they want tutors who speak a language other than English or tutors with strong high school math skills. In this case, they may attract tutors with these skills if they use online tutoring, but not if they use in-person tutoring.”

She also highlighted the difference between teacher and tutor education and training. “One of the great things about tutoring is that many people can be excellent tutors. Many people with less teaching experience or no teaching experience can also be exceptional tutors, especially if they get some initial training and have some coaching and oversight while teaching.” 

Final Thoughts

It seems certain there are many potential tutors out there just waiting for the right opportunities to come along where they can teach online. The challenge is integrating them into the school day and providing them with the most up-to-date resources so they can establish positive academic relationships with the students they tutor. This includes the right software (like Pearl!) to facilitate such positive learning experiences. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Part III recap of Dr. Susanna Loeb’s webinar with Pearl’s Nate Casey. If you missed them, don’t forget to check out Part I, How High-Impact Tutoring Helps At-Risk Students Impacted by COVID-19, and Part II on the Annenberg Institute’s National Student Support Accelerator. 

You can also watch the entire webinar below, and be sure to sign up to be notified of upcoming webinars!

Interview with Susanna Loeb (Part II): The Annenberg Institute’s National Student Support Accelerator

Interview with Susanna Loeb (Part II): The Annenberg Institute’s National Student Support Accelerator

By now, every educator in America has seen firsthand the results of learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While covid has negatively impacted most students, it has especially exacerbated pre-existing educational inequities for low-income and other at-risk students. The impacts of the pandemic on the educational system are both immediate and long-term, as alarming news headlines such as “Learning loss to become $17 Trillion in earning loss for students not in school” become all-too-common. 

Dr. Susanna Loeb, the Director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, has been leading discussions among academics who’ve offered very promising evidence-based solutions to combat learning loss. In our January 2022 Pearls of Wisdom webinar interview with Dr. Loeb (embedded below), she shared exciting details of her organization’s work with Pearl’s Chief Revenue Officer Nate Casey. We’ve summarized the discussion into a three-part blog series to highlight the webinar’s key points. In Part I, we discussed the benefits of high-impact tutoring and now, in Part II, we’ll be summarizing Dr. Loeb’s work with the National Student Support Accelerator at the Annenberg Institute.  

Learning Loss: A Pandemic-Fueled Crisis

“Early in the pandemic, it became clear that the disruptions to schools—and the economic and health shocks to families—were going to create severe challenges for many students,” Dr. Loeb noted in the webinar interview. “Some students thrived at home and in online settings, but others experienced extreme hardship and were fundamentally disengaged from school.” 

After meeting with educators and education thought-leaders to review the problem, Dr. Loeb and her colleagues found the ideal solution. “We quickly identified tutoring as a high-potential option for catching students up, re-engaging them in school, and broadly reducing some of the striking and expanding inequalities.” 

“Tutoring,” she stated, “quickly rose to the top of the list of potential solutions because of the large body of research pointing to its effectiveness in catching students up across grade levels and content areas. Research also shows specific success in supporting those students who are furthest behind.” 

Dr. Loeb was quick to point out, however, that simply throwing money at the problem has never been an effective approach. “Many of us remembered the No Child Left Behind era in which billions of dollars were spent on a different type of tutoring that turned out not to be terribly effective or equitable.” Her group’s goal was to avoid such wasteful outcomes while addressing other challenges simultaneously. 

Enter: the National Student Support Accelerator 

Dr. Loeb and her peers needed a solution that would remain effective while scaling. “We were aware that tutoring on a large scale had been attempted before, but with low quality and poor results,” she noted. To tackle the issue, the Annenberg Institute proposed to launch the National Student Support Accelerator to scale high-quality, high-impact tutoring. “Our mission at the Accelerator is to increase access to high-impact tutoring for K-12 students in need,” she stated, clarifying how the work will involve “conducting and coordinating research to know more about what makes tutoring effective and cost-effective” and “what enabling conditions allow it to scale.” 

Another vital attribute of the Accelerator is collaboration across the board to ensure everyone is actively working toward goal achievement. “We work to engage and activate stakeholders to support districts and states to implement high-impact tutoring more easily,” Dr. Loeb said before transitioning to the numerous features and benefits of the Accelerator program. 

The Accelerator’s Resources and Tools for High-Impact Tutoring

“The Accelerator has a range of tools to support the implementation of high-impact tutoring that are available free on our website,” affirmed Dr. Loeb. “Each of the tools is developed with the field to ensure they are practical and easy to use.” 

Below is a summary of each currently available tutoring resource:

Toolkit for Tutoring Programs 

“Toolkit for Tutoring provides guidance for creating a high-impact tutoring program or improving an existing program. It will take you step by step through the process, including identifying needs, and all the way to sample letters to send to parents and job descriptions.” 

The toolkit focuses on the seven elements of high-impact tutoring: Program Design, Tutors, Learning Integration, Data Use, Instruction, Equity, Safety, and Cohesion. 

District Playbook

“The District Playbook provides guidance for districts interested in implementing high-impact tutoring. It has everything from checklists of how to plan for tutoring or how to partner with a tutoring organization to what type of human resource capacity is required to be successful.”

Specifically, the free, downloadable Playbook shows users how to develop and launch programs via the following steps: Lay the Foundation, Plan for Effective Operations, Design for Impact, and Implement High-Impact Tutoring. 

Tutoring Database

A comprehensive database that “provides details on over 200 tutoring providers to assist districts in identifying potential tutoring partners.” 

The database was made primarily for districts, states, and nonprofits seeking tutoring partners. Organizations can easily request access to the database by completing this form.

Educator Guide 

Created for High-Impact Tutoring Advocacy, the Educator Guide “provides educators with the information and tools to understand the value of high-impact tutoring and how it might work at their district or school how to encourage their district or school to consider adopting high-impact tutoring.”

This useful guide was made in conjunction with the Tutoring Advisory Group and offers sample emails, program examples, FAQs, presentations, talking points, and a one-pager about the benefits of the Accelerator. 

Tutoring Quality Improvement System

The free Tutoring Quality Improvement System “allows tutoring programs to quickly assess their program against a set of research-based quality standards and provides detailed recommendations for how to improve their program’s quality.”

Tutoring Research

The Annenberg Institute publishes its research on tutoring to date, along with “priority questions to guide for future learning.” Additional research soon to be released includes data on Early Literacy programs and more. 

Given that low-income families were hit hardest by the pandemic (with impacts including profound student learning loss and increased school absenteeism), the National Student Support Accelerator “envisions a time when every student in need has access to an effective tutor who champions and ensures their learning and success.” We wish the best of success for this urgently-needed national program.  

Stay tuned for Part III of our recap of the webinar with Dr. Susanna Loeb which offers an insightful comparison of online and in-person tutoring effectiveness and reviews the best tutoring strategies.

You can also watch the entire webinar below, and be sure to sign up to be notified about Pearl’s upcoming webinars!

Interview with Susanna Loeb (Part I): How High-Impact Tutoring Helps At-Risk Students Impacted by COVID-19 

Interview with Susanna Loeb (Part I): How High-Impact Tutoring Helps At-Risk Students Impacted by COVID-19 

Soon after the COVID-19 pandemic began, the combined consequences on health, the economy, and K-12 schools started to take their toll. Students around the country found themselves attending classes online from home, but while some thrived, many experienced hardships and struggled to stay engaged. The pandemic’s effects were especially hard on students from low-income families, with impacts such as more profound learning loss, wider knowledge gaps, and increased absenteeism. 

The country is now well into its third year coping with this continuing crisis, and many valuable lessons have been learned along the way. Several academic organizations have researched the above-mentioned impacts that remote learning has had on at-risk students and have explored ways to address the damage of learning loss and mitigate it moving forward. One such institute is the Annenberg Institute at Brown University in Rhode Island, whose director, Dr. Susanna Loeb, is featured in a Pearls of Wisdom webinar on our YouTube channel (full video embedded below). 

This article will summarize some of the key points on high-impact tutoring that Dr. Loeb made in the January 2022 webinar with our CRO Nate Casey. In the webinar, Dr. Loeb noted that “studies across the nation have shown that students this year are significantly behind similar students in their pre-pandemic learning.” Among the many studies which support her claim is one from curriculum provider Amplify. Amplify’s research revealed that of ~400,000 kindergartners whose data was reviewed, only 37% were on track in their early reading skills, equating to an 18% drop from pre-pandemic years. It further observed that students’ learning loss “due to COVID may have life-long consequences if they are not provided with additional instructional support.” 

McKinsey and Company published an equally alarming report entitled “COVID-19 and education: The lingering effects of unfinished learning” last year. McKinsey’s analysis concluded that K-12 students were left an average of “five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the [2021] school year.” 

The McKinsey report further cited that the “pandemic widened preexisting opportunity and achievement gaps, hitting historically disadvantaged students hardest.” Black students experienced particularly harmful effects, with “six months of unfinished learning” in math alone (and seven months for those in low-income schools). 

As a result, McKinsey projected that affected high school students are more likely to drop out and seniors are less likely to attend college. As a result, long-term effects might likely include significantly lower lifetime earnings and putting future generations at risk by perpetuating a cycle of educational and economic obstacles. 

To break the cycle, Dr. Loeb has met with educators and education leaders to discuss and identify solutions. Chief among the listed possible solutions is tutoring. “Tutoring rose to the top,” asserted Dr. Loeb in the webinar, “because of the large body of research pointing to its effectiveness in catching students up across grade levels and content areas.” She praised tutoring as a “high-potential option for catching students up, re-engaging them in school, and broadly reducing some of the striking and expanding inequalities.” 

However, tutoring is not without its own challenges, which is why Dr. Loeb and others aim to avoid the mistakes of past decades. “Many of us remember the No Child Left Behind era in which billions were spent on a type of tutoring that turned out not to be terribly effective or equitable,” she cautioned. She also acknowledged the challenge of scaling tutoring efforts to a magnitude large enough to make a difference. 

To address these hurdles, Dr. Loeb suggests a method known as high-impact tutoring. “Effective tutoring requires more than just high-dosage (the amount of tutoring a student participates in). The consistency of the tutor, the tutor’s training and ongoing coaching, and the use of data and high-quality materials for instruction are also important to ensure effectiveness.” 

In the webinar, Dr. Loeb reviewed the hallmarks of high-impact tutoring, which include:

  • Embedded tutoring – done during the school day, a minimum of 3 days per week
  • Use of small groups – up to 3 students
  • Use of student learning data – to inform tutoring sessions and focus lessons on student needs, thus accelerating learning
  • Consistency – using tutors who are trained and supported, resulting in positive and effective tutor-student relationships

Discussing these highlights, Dr. Loeb noted the key element of maintaining quality while scaling. “The desire to increase scale tends to come with a push to decrease quality, increasing the number of students per tutor or decreasing the number of times per week or not providing coaching for tutors.” For this reason, she emphasizes “high-impact instead of high-dosage” approaches. 

“High-impact programs provide a lot of tutoring with quality,” she stated in the webinar. “It is clearly better to give a smaller number of students really high-quality tutoring than all students low-quality tutoring to increase equity.” 

“The benefit of tutoring,” she continued, “comes from two mechanisms: the close relationship that students and tutors develop, and the focus on the individual student’s specific needs. The tutor has to have the data and take the time to know what the student knows and doesn’t know.” Homing in more on the importance of data, she pointed out that “high-impact tutoring uses formative assessments to understand what students know and don’t know.” Thus, data is vital “to identify and address issues and to continuously improve.”

In closing, Dr. Loeb reiterated how modern research offers ample proof in support of her proposals. “Rarely in research do we have so much evidence pointing to the promise of a specific intervention. High-impact tutoring is really the only intervention that has proven effectiveness across a range of grade levels, content areas, and locations. The driving force behind its effectiveness is the excellent relationships tutors and students develop. Our goal at the Annenberg Institute is to provide all students with the same access to high-impact tutoring.”

Stay tuned for Parts II and III of our recap of Dr. Susanna Loeb’s webinar with Pearl’s Nate Casey. These upcoming articles will review how the Annenberg Institute’s National Student Support Accelerator aims to help students recover from learning loss (in Part II), and will offer a comparison of online and in-person tutoring effectiveness and how to find the most effective tutoring strategies (in Part III). 

You can also watch the full webinar below and be sure to sign up to be notified of upcoming webinars!

6 Signs You Need Tutoring Business Software 

6 Signs You Need Tutoring Business Software 

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to devastating learning loss among student populations around the country while creating a chance for entrepreneurial tutors to rush in and save the day! The year 2021 saw tutoring become a hot side hustle for some and a full-time business endeavor for others. Now, in 2022, many tutors are continuing to offer their tutoring services as part-time gigs, while those with broader goals are launching highly-profitable, scalable tutoring enterprises. 

No matter how big or small your tutoring business is, at some point, you’re going to need professional software to help you stay organized and manage your tutoring enterprise. Here are 6 signs you’re ready to take things to the next level with professional tutoring business software.

1. Your inbox is clogged

Your tutoring business must stay on top of communications to maintain a professional reputation. If you’re struggling to keep track of important messages with clients via email, it’s probably past time to move on to a better way of doing things. 

Pearl’s tutoring business software lets you keep all your business messaging in one place, so you never lose track again! 

2. You’ve missed appointments with students 

Each time students miss scheduled tutoring sessions, that’s a loss of revenue for your business. Of course, you can set a policy to charge for missed appointments, but that might lead to frustrations with clients. 

The simplest way to address this issue is with a built-in reminder system that keeps students, parents—and you—on time and on schedule. Pearl lets you book, view, and manage appointments quickly and send calendar reminders for upcoming tutoring sessions.

3. You need an easier payment management

Are you tired of wasting time with manual accounting for your business tax purposes? Want to get rid of the hassle of checks or cash payments, but need a more efficient way to manage credit card payments for your tutoring sessions? 

At Pearl, our tutoring software offers easy-to-use storefront payment management features that help you do all these things and more!

4. You’re struggling to keep track of student progress

Tutoring is a financial investment for clients, and sometimes clients wonder how effective their sessions are. The fastest way to show them is through progress tracking, which helps your business demonstrate the value of your tutoring services. When clients see their return on investment, you’ll retain them longer. 

Pearl was built by tutors for tutors, so we’ve built progress tracking tools right into our tutoring platform.

5. You need more virtual classroom features

Many tutors conducting online lessons rely on video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Meet to connect with students. Unfortunately, such tools weren’t built for educational purposes and often lack essential features you may need to share information or hold your students’ interest. 

Pearl’s tutoring business software includes more engaging video conferencing with whiteboards and screen sharing conveniently built into your dashboard.

6. You need the ability to review lessons 

Both clients and tutors love the ability to record sessions for later viewing. This capability allows students to go back and review material while enabling tutors to look for areas where students might be losing focus during lessons. 

Too many tutoring entrepreneurs try to scrape by without the proper tools at their disposal, leading to wasted time, points of frustration, and potential loss of customers. 

Pearl takes the headache out of managing your daily operations so you can focus on the things that are most important—such as teaching students effectively…and growing your tutoring business! 


To schedule a demo and see Pearl in action, get in touch with us today by filling out this contact form.

VIRTUAL SUMMIT: "The Future of High-Impact Tutoring with AI" | June 5 from 12-3 pm ET
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