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.

    3 Ways to Make Starting a Successful K-12 Tutoring Program Easier

    3 Ways to Make Starting a Successful K-12 Tutoring Program Easier

    In the world of tutoring, addressing changes, solving challenges and fostering growth are at the forefront of everything we do. The challenges are even greater when it comes to K-12 education and the need to mitigate and prevent learning loss. Many school districts across the country have launched “Grow-Your-Own” tutoring programs – all with the best intentions but not always with the best outcomes.

    So why are some districts more successful than others? Are the challenges the same from one district to the other? Is there a uniform way to approach how to start, scale and sustain a tutoring program? According to our expert partners at Framework Consulting, there are solutions to basic “Grow-Your-Own” challenges that can be addressed to make starting a successful tutoring program a lot easier.

    Challenge #1: Embracing & Implementing Instructional Methodology

    Solution #1: Finding a High-Impact Tutor Management System (TMS)

    The days of trial and error testing tutoring methodologies are long gone. Determining a methodology shouldn’t be a challenge – research-based, High Impact Tutoring (HIT), has presented the most evidence of academic impact and is backed by the National Student Support Accelerator at Stanford University. 

    BUT, here’s the challenge…High Impact Tutoring means your program must meet specific data-driven criteria:

    • Utilizing tutors with strong instructional skills
    • Developing sound relationships with students
    • Employing certified teachers or individuals with subject matter expertise
    • Tutoring in small groups of 1-4 students 
    • Meeting schedules that allow time each week for quality interactions. 

    Framework Managing Partner, David Taylor, is a big proponent of “doing as many things as possible ‘in-house’”, but warns that “creating a tutor management platform isn’t one of them”.  He encourages K-12 districts to be thoughtful in selecting the right Tutor Management System (TMS) to schedule sessions, while creating a space for tutor/learner engagement for both in-person and virtual sessions. Additionally, David emphasizes that, “an effective Tutor Platform, such as Pearl, must have strong and secure data collection capabilities to support communication between tutors and teachers, provide ongoing instructional improvement, and prove the long-term efficacy of the tutoring program”.

    Challenge #2: Sourcing Teacher-Tutors

    Solution #2: Establishing Your Own Pipeline of Talent

    Many tutoring programs work with third party providers to source their talent. This leaves limited control of the instructors who are the face of your district/organization. 

    David says that “establishing a pipeline of high-quality tutors from your community may take time but it’s worth it”. Here are his tips:

    • Start with certified teachers and subject matter experts. 
    • Use recruitment as an opportunity to engage the local community. 
    • Retired educators, local teacher groups, and community colleges are all sources of potential tutors. 
    • Other considerations: 
      • Hire a Workforce Solutions Provider (like Framework) that specializes in sourcing, vetting and qualifying K-12 Tutoring candidates
      • Create a Tutoring Operations Team to oversee budgeting staffing needs and scale positions as the program grows
      • Employ a Human Capital Management partner to execute background checks, onboarding, HR, payroll, and consultant care, amongst other needs.

    Challenge #3: Maximizing Operational Capacity

    Solution #3: Building for The Future at the Beginning

    As high-impact tutoring programs start, the need to scale is often overlooked and long-term operational capacity is maxed-out sooner than expected. From the start, you should plan for:

    • Quality training for your tutors
    • Ongoing improvement and professional development
    • Policies and procedures that support the program and enforce conduct and standards
    • Curriculum design to support your tutors
    • A robust communications plan and a feedback loop that provides critical operational and student data for your district/organization

    By considering the future at the beginning and building for future growth, rapid implementation of best practices and the ability to adapt to changes, your organization will be set up for success from the start.  

    Next Steps

    Building an internal, “Grow-Your-Own” tutoring program requires a deep investment of time and resources, but it can be done! Pearl and Framework are here to support your efforts as you explore options and implement solutions.   
    1. Start with the goal to create a High Impact Tutoring program, at scale.
    2. Find a trusted, proven, and secure TMS partner
    3. Build your own pipeline of talent to deliver the program.
    4. Always collect data, evaluate and adjust for the future as you build.
    5. Talk to an expert! 

    Guest Contributor

    Special thanks to David Taylor, Managing Partner of Framework Consulting, for his insights and expertise. Framework provides customized, effective K-12 EdTech workforce management and strategic solutions in response to challenges, change, and growth. 

    Tutor Teens: Boosting Grades & Building Relationships with Near-Peer Tutoring

    Tutor Teens: Boosting Grades & Building Relationships with Near-Peer Tutoring

    Born in the whirlwind of the pandemic, Tutor Teens isn’t just another tutoring program. This unique tutoring initiative, brought to life in 2020 by then high school siblings Erin and Aidan Finn, represents a student-led crusade to transform learning through near-peer tutoring. Their impact? Tutor Teens has empowered over 360 students (K-12) across 100+ schools in the Greater Cincinnati Area to conquer subjects and cultivate a lifelong love of learning.

    A Case for Near-Peer Tutoring

    Over four years, Tutor Teens has built a network topping 290 high-performing high school tutors (grades 9-12), connecting them with younger learners. This near-peer tutoring approach, matching high-school academic tutors with younger students one-on-one, goes beyond boosting grades. This model builds confidence, fosters independent thinking, and forges lasting friendships that extend beyond a Zoom session.

    Erin Finn, co-founder, adds, “We weren’t just another tutoring program. We wanted to create a community where students could connect with tutors who understood their challenges and could guide them in a relatable way.”

    Whether it’s conquering math facts, mastering history, or demystifying science, Tutor Teens tailors sessions to individual needs and learning styles. With an average of 12 sessions per student in Fall 2023, they help to improve grades, but also develop a curiosity for learning, as evidenced by reduced learning anxieties reported by students. The benefits extend to tutors as well, anecdotally reporting improvements in mental health, nurturing leadership skills, and empathy.

    Beyond Grades, Building Love of Learning

    Whether it’s conquering math facts, mastering history, or demystifying science, Tutor Teens tailors sessions to individual needs and learning styles. With an average of 12 sessions per student in Fall 2023, they help to improve grades, but also develop a curiosity for learning, as evidenced by reduced learning anxieties reported by students. The benefits extend to tutors as well, anecdotally reporting improvements in mental health, nurturing leadership skills, and empathy.

    A Community of Equity and Inclusion

    • 52% of Tutor Teens students qualify for free or reduced lunch, highlighting their commitment to bridging the opportunity gap and making quality education accessible to all.
    • 45% of their students identify as Black, reflecting their strong dedication to promoting diversity and inclusion in education.
    • The remaining student body represents a diverse range of ethnicities, creating a rich learning environment that celebrates different cultures and perspectives.

    Serving Diverse Environments

    • 73% of their students attend public schools across various settings, including urban, suburban, and magnet schools, demonstrating Tutor Teens extensive reach into various communities.

    Making Learning Accessible and Engaging

    Tutor Teens understands the challenges of modern life. Their online tutoring platform, Pearl, offers flexible scheduling and a dynamic learning and mentoring environment. Interactive tools like whiteboards and document sharing keep students engaged and stimulated, making learning accessible and fun.

    A Vision for the Future

    Always striving for greater impact, Tutor Teens plans to refine its program using data from Pearl and expand its reach through partnerships with Cincinnati-based partnerships. This will not only provide a wider range of tutors, but also offer valuable experience and training to young minds. 

    Erin Finn shares, “We started small, but with the belief that young people could make a difference. We applied for a 2022 Call to Effective Action grant, knowing it was a long shot. The Accelerate team believed in us and awarded us a matching grant, contingent on raising funds from our community. Thanks to the support of the Reds Community Fund, U.S. Presidential Scholars Foundation, and Main Street Ventures, we met that challenge and continue to grow.”

    The success story of Tutor Teens and its collaboration with Pearl serves as a testament to the transformative power of communities coming together to make a meaningful impact on the educational experiences of students. Tutor Teens is more than just tutoring, it is a shining example of student initiative, near-peer mentorship, and relationship-building.

    If you are based in the Cincinnati-Area and are interested in joining the Tutor Teens network as a tutor or student, visit:

     We are a teen-founded, teen-led initiative using our affinity for technology to provide FREE virtual, interactive homework help to Cincinnati-area students. 

    ADA Compliance: Elevating Accessibility for All Users

    ADA Compliance: Elevating Accessibility for All Users

    At Pearl, inclusivity isn’t just a principle—it’s at the core of everything we do. We believe that everyone deserves equitable access to our platform, regardless of their abilities. In our continuous effort to serve every user with respect and consideration, we’re thrilled to announce a significant compliance milestone: Pearl has achieved an AA rating on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standard.

    What is Web Content Accessibility?

    The Pearl tutoring platform is designed to ensure all users, including those who rely on assistive technologies, can navigate, understand, and interact with Pearl effortlessly. Here’s how our commitment to ADA compliance makes a difference:

    • Screen Reader Friendly: Users who depend on screen readers can now navigate through Pearl easier than ever. Every button, link, and piece of content is made accessible, ensuring that the information on our platform is available to everyone.
    • Comprehensive ARIA Tag Coverage: We’ve implemented ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) tags throughout our platform. These tags provide essential information to assistive technologies, helping to guide users through our interface smoothly.
    • Keyboard Navigation: For those who use a keyboard to navigate the web, our platform is fully accessible via keyboard controls. Users can employ arrow keys, tab, and enter to explore every feature Pearl offers without a hitch.
    • Enhanced Contrast for Greater Readability: We’ve improved the contrast on our platform to ensure all text is easily readable. This enhancement is particularly beneficial for users with visual impairments, enabling them to engage with our content more comfortably.
    • Assistive Tools for Notifications and Messaging: Our commitment extends to making notifications and the messaging experience as accessible as possible. With tailored assistive tools, we aim to provide a seamless communication experience for every user.

    Committed to Accessibility. Always Striving for More.

    As lifelong learners at Pearl, we’re celebrating this milestone of achieving an AA rating for accessibility. We also recognize it’s a continuous journey and remain committed to improving the platform’s accessibility for everyone, including:

    • Acknowledging areas for growth: New features and changes may introduce accessibility challenges, seen as opportunities for improvement.
    • Valuing user feedback: Feedback is crucial for identifying and addressing accessibility issues.
    • Ongoing commitment: Pearl promises to make accessibility a constant priority, aiming for an inclusive platform for all.

    To all of Pearl’s partners, thank you for coming on this journey with us and helping achieve our mission to create equitable access to relationship-based education for all.

    OnYourMark Education: The Science of Reading

    OnYourMark Education: The Science of Reading

    Established in 2021, OnYourMark Education offers high-quality, personalized tutoring services for students in kindergarten through second grade. Their science-backed approach is delivered through virtual instruction to enhance foundational literacy skills.

    A Science-Backed Approach to Reading Success

    Children’s brains are not naturally wired for reading, and teaching them to read effectively requires the ability to continuously track progress and make adjustments throughout their reading journey. At OnYourMark Education, tutors use research validated methods, like Amplify’s mCLASS Intervention curricula and the University of Oregon’s Center on Teaching and Learning’s DIBELS® 8th Edition literacy assessment, to guide children on their path to literacy.  Amplify’s phonics based method teaches children to blend the sounds of individual letters or groups of letters and decode unfamiliar or unknown words by sounding them out, and the DIBELS assessment ensures students are on the right track, by conducting regular assessments that pinpoint their reading level and determine if they’re ready to move forward. OnYourMark’s approach is proven to work by keeping students continuously challenged and encouraged by their tutors.
    “Literacy has a profound impact on a child’s entire educational journey, from self-esteem to grasping subjects like math and science,” said Mindy Sjoblom, Founder and CEO of OnYourMark. “Our mission is to support dedicated teachers and provide clear guidance as students learn to read.

    Enhancing Literacy with Data-Driven Innovation

    In the Fall of 2023, OnYourMark brought highly impactful virtual reading instruction to 11 school districts across seven states and is expanding to even more districts across new states this spring. Partnering with Pearl and the National Student Support Accelerator at Stanford, OnYourMark is optimized to collect and analyze their data in order to enhance their approach.
    Mindy Sjoblom, Founder and CEO of OnYourMark, describes herself as ‘data-obsessed,’ and praises Pearl for improving their operational efficiency by consolidating data and enabling easy interpretation of their findings. Their collaboration with Pearl is marked by their mutual dedication to partnership and commitment to improving student learning outcomes.
    “If there was ever an idea we wanted to explore, we knew we could count on Pearl as a partner to listen and help,” said Sjoblom. “Not all partners are like that and we’re fortunate for their expertise and willingness to collaborate.” OnYourMark understands that traditional high-impact tutoring models aren’t suitable for younger students with shorter attention spans, so they have adapted to shorter, more frequent tutoring sessions for grades K-2. They’ve scheduled an impressive 80,000 tutoring sessions for fall 2023 using Pearl’s bulk scheduling feature. The platform also simplifies tutor substitutions, ensuring every student receives dedicated support. “OnYourMark is a great example of how organizations can maximize the potential of Pearl’s capabilities,” said John Failla, founder and CEO of Pearl. “Their partnership fuels innovation and we are energized by their commitment to supporting those who are teaching students how to read. We look forward to seeing how their ongoing data collection efforts will impact K-2 students on their path to literacy.”

    Empowering Education Through Collaborative Support

    The OnYourMark Education team acknowledges and values the hard work teachers bring to the classroom. They understand that introducing a new curriculum can be time-consuming, which is why they are so focused on ensuring effective and successful methods are in place to support students on their literacy journey. 
    “We’ve built a business around the understanding that teaching is a demanding profession,” said Sjoblom. “Through data-backed decision-making, OnYourMark consistently provides student support and drives impactful outcomes.”
    To learn more about OnYourMark, visit:
    OnYourMark Education is an individualized high quality tutoring service providing virtual foundational skills instruction to K-2nd graders grounded in the science of reading.