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

Tutoring needs a standard approach to assessments

Tutoring needs a standard approach to assessments

The many variations across hundreds of tutoring RFPs

Each year our public school districts issue hundreds of requests for proposals (RFPs) for high-impact tutoring support, but there is no standard approach to collecting feedback and assessments of the tutoring. Many districts require their tutoring providers to administer academic assessments, while others do not. Here at Pearl, our partners typically follow one of these 4 approaches to assessments:

  1. The tutoring provider uses a specific assessment tool (like iReady or NWEA MAP) to assess students at all stages of a student’s tutoring experience.
  2. The tutoring provider assesses each student’s progress (choosing their preferred benchmark, formative, and other assessment types) with no specific assessment tool requirement other than the assessment questions used must meet the state’s ESSA standards.
  3. The tutoring provider supports students but is not required to administer the assessments. In this case, the district runs the assessments and advises the tutoring provider accordingly.
  4. A state-based program serving multiple districts is required to use different assessment tools depending on the requirements of each district they serve. In these cases, the state agency is also left with the complicated task of comparing district progress with varied types of outputs and insights from multiple assessment tools.

The Pearl platform provides the technical scaffolding for state and district tutoring programs, nonprofits, and enterprise-level tutoring companies. For each of these different client types, we take an agnostic approach to how academic progress is assessed. Sometimes our partners have their own assessments, like district-funded programs, and other times they simply follow the requirements defined in the contracts they serve, such as outside tutoring companies responding to RFPs. 

In a “best case” scenario tutoring providers would have: 

  1. A diagnostic or benchmark assessment from the student’s school (or district) to inform gaps in learning and insights into how that student learns most effectively
  2. A viable feedback loop with a student’s school teacher(s)
  3. A formative assessment tool that:
    1. Meets the applicable state ESSA standards
    2. Aligns with the school’s curriculum 
    3. Is agile enough to be used on the fly
    4. Provides a way to regularly measure student academic progress
    5. Informs clear opportunities for tutors to employ an individualized learning pathway for their students
  4. A final “end of tutoring” assessment to measure progress against the benchmark test

If more districts had the resources to increase their level of system interoperability, the above “best case” assessment pathway would be more widely viable. It is common for even sophisticated districts to lack an elegant method for merging assessment data from providers with SIS student records. In addition, tutors may be unable to access useful academic-related data because of security concerns and requirements.

In the absence of a standard assessment methodology, a host of problems arise. To determine learning gaps, tutors often need to conduct several sessions without a baseline. If a tutor does not use a formative assessment approach aligned with the student’s starting point, he or she may be left guessing about the student’s understanding gaps. Also with so many assessment approach variations, it is difficult to compare programs district-to-district or state-to-state. 

To develop a successful tutoring program, four key data categories are needed (attendance, dosage, academic progress measurement, and SEL insights). In the absence of academic progress that relates to individual students, tutor providers are unable to measure the true picture of progress or show clear ROI to stakeholders. With the final ESSER cliff fast approaching it is critical that programs robustly measure efficacy. Only programs that demonstrate evidence of effectiveness will be sustainably funded in the future.