Breaking Down the 3 Benefits of District Partnerships in Higher Education

Breaking Down the 3 Benefits of District Partnerships in Higher Education

Across the nation, Community Partnerships are forming, where HigherEd institutions partner with local K/12 school districts to provide evidence-based tutoring to younger students in their backyard. These partnerships offer states and districts an interesting alternative to traditional, for-profit tutoring partnerships. These community partnerships offer 3 unique advantages that could lead to a greater impact on student success than traditional tutoring programs and a more sustainable tutoring model. 

  1. If designed correctly, these partnerships can help improve the academic achievement of K/12 students. Providing access to high-impact tutoring, which meets the standards set forth by the National Student Support Accelerator, gives students the individualized support they need to succeed in school and mitigate learning loss. This can help close the achievement gap and ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed.
  1. These partnerships can provide valuable professional development opportunities for university students interested in careers in education and create a pipeline of talent for local districts. By participating in tutoring programs, university students can gain hands-on experience working with K/12 students and can develop the skills and knowledge they need to become effective educators. They will also build relationships with local principals and superintendents, leading to career opportunities in the schools and inevitably addressing the teacher shortage. Deans For Impact is a non-profit that is focusing on these partnerships and has developed specific training content for future educators who are participating in community-tutoring partnerships. 
  1. Last but certainly not least, these local partnerships between universities and local school districts can foster a sense of pride and ownership within the community. By working together to support the academic success of K/12 students, universities and schools can demonstrate their commitment to the local community and can help build stronger, more supportive relationships with families and other community members. Because both the university and district are in the same town/region, these programs can provide more culturally relevant instruction and mentorship to their students. We see this in the state of Virginia, where Urban Leagues are partnering with HBCUs to provide academic mentorship to students in local districts. This approach can help create a sense of shared responsibility for student success.

Overall, these sustainable partnerships between universities and local school districts can provide a wide range of benefits for K/12 students, university students, and the community as a whole. By providing evidence-based tutoring and other support, such partnerships can help improve academic achievement, develop a talent pipeline for future teachers, and create a more collaborative, supportive learning environment for all students.

What is a community partnership?

What is a community partnership?

Pearl - Community Partnerships
Pearl – Community Partnerships

While some state agencies, non-profits, and district leaders viewed the ARP-ESSER dollars as a stop-gap measure to learning loss, others developed programs that could help fundamentally change K-12 education. At Pearl, we refer to these evidence-based, sustainable tutoring programs as Community Tutoring Partnerships.   

A Community Tutoring Partnership is any funded state, district, or non-profit organization that leverages the tutoring resources of their community to serve schools within that community. These programs focus on evidence-based practices (like High-Impact-Tutoring) to support local schools to prove results and make their program(s) sustainable.  

Community Tutoring Partnership programs often leverage universities as the core supplier of qualified tutors. Universities can offer a wide range of talented, energetic students as tutors. Education students, in particular, are great tutors. They have the interests and the need to gain real-world teaching experience. With university students as their primary tutoring resource, program managers can augment their tutoring group with additional support from retired teachers, volunteers, and federally funded groups like Americorps. 

If done correctly, community tutoring partnerships can foster a sense of pride and ownership within the community. By working together to support the academic success of K/12 students, universities and schools can demonstrate their commitment to the local community. They can help build stronger, more supportive relationships with families and other community members. This can create a sense of shared responsibility for student success and improve student outcomes.

At Pearl, we have seen the success of these community tutoring partnerships firsthand through our work with the nation’s largest and most innovative programs. From our partners in Illinois & South Dakota to Virginia & North Carolina, evidence-based community programs are answering the call and investing in the future of their communities. 

Increasing the Impact of High-Impact Tutoring with Accelerate

Increasing the Impact of High-Impact Tutoring with Accelerate

In April 2022, the team at Pearl was excited to hear about the launch of Accelerate, a new nonprofit organization on a mission to embed high-impact tutoring programs in public schools across the US.

With schools still struggling with widespread learning loss stemming from the pandemic, and districts still figuring out how to best apply their ARP ESSER funds to tackle it, Accelerate couldn’t have launched at a more critical time. Incubated and launched by the nonprofit organization America Achieves, and helmed by Kevin Huffman, the former Tennessee Commissioner of Education, Accelerate was launched with three principal goals in mind: 1) to fund and support innovation in schools, 2) to launch high quality research, and 3) to build a federal and state policy agenda to support this work.

To date, America Achieves has raised $65 million for Accelerate and aims to raise a total of $100 million by 2023. Initial funding was generously provided by Arnold Ventures, Kenneth C. Griffin, the chief executive officer of Citadel, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Overdeck Family Foundation.

Dr. Miguel Cardona, the current U.S. Secretary of Education serving under President Joe Biden, has praised the efficacy of high-impact tutoring and the launch of Accelerate, saying: “The evidence is clear: high-impact tutoring works, and I’ve urged our nation’s schools to provide every student who is struggling with extended access to an effective tutor (…) The effort announced today—Accelerate—is a rallying cry to schools, districts, states, and others (…) We must seize this moment to use federal relief funds to help students, including those most impacted by the pandemic, to close gaps in opportunity and achievement that grew even wider over the last two years. Together, we can ensure our elementary and secondary school students receive the support they need to learn and grow.”

Fund Your Use of the Pearl Tutoring Platform with Accelerate

Accelerate has issued a Call to Effective Action (CEA) to support educators, policymakers, entrepreneurs, and education organizations in their efforts to design and implement evidence-based, scalable models of high impact tutoring, and other interventions to support individualized learning. 

Awards vary in size from $50,000 to $1,000,0000 with an emphasis on being ready to leverage the funds immediately. One of the most important things to understand about the Accelerate opportunity is that it does not pay for tutoring.  The program was established to speed the deployment of evidence-based high impact tutoring, increase the impact through innovation, and take the friction out of reporting data about programs to researchers. There is also a huge emphasis placed on bringing quick solutions to traditionally underserved populations.  

Interested participants must submit a Letter of Interest (LOI) by August 1, 2022.  It is critically important to ensure that you qualify, can make an immediate impact on students’ lives, can build on-the-ground proof points for more effective and equitable tutoring and individualized learning, and can generate additional evidence of these proof points.

Click here for more information on submitting a Letter of Interest to Accelerate as a way to fund your use of the Pearl tutoring platform or get in touch with Pearl’s Chief Strategy Officer Nate Casey directly at

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.

5 Signs Your Child Needs a High-Impact Tutor

5 Signs Your Child Needs a High-Impact Tutor

In a recent article, we defined high-impact tutoring and discussed the benefits of hiring a high-impact tutor for your child. If you’re still unsure if your child might need more help to achieve optimal academic success, scroll below to discover the 5 signs that your child needs a high-impact tutor and then review our tips for finding one:

1. Your child is falling behind in school

If your child struggles to grasp basic concepts and topics, making it near impossible for them to understand complex ideas, they may benefit from a high-impact tutor. Your child may also not be at the same level as his or her peers in class, a disadvantage which tends to get worse as each academic year passes by. But with high-impact learning sessions, they’ll receive personalized materials to fill in the gaps.

2. Your child lacks the right learning tools

You may also notice that your child lacks certain learning tools and techniques necessary to expand their understanding across multiple subjects. A high-impact tutor can teach your child specific tips and tricks to keep up with learning demands. Having high-impact tutoring means there’s an expert who can heighten your child’s ability to build a strong learning foundation with the best tools at their disposal.

3. Your child struggles with focusing in class

Does your child have a hard time focusing in school? Perhaps they’re easily distracted in a classroom full of other students, or maybe you notice they’ve been consistently missing important lectures? With the help of high-impact tutoring, your child can review the lessons at their own pace, and learn how to maximize their attention span and improve their focus so they can better retain their lessons.

4. Your child is gearing up for exams

If your child is about to take an important entrance or national exam, he or she will need extra help to study the necessary topics and subjects included in the tests. High-impact tutoring sessions can give pointed materials to cover all grounds and a high-impact tutor can ensure that your child has an optimal chance of succeeding at their exams.

2. Your child is highly curious and enjoys in-depth learning

Does your child enjoy learning new things independently? Do their current classroom structures not provide the environment for them to explore subjects in depth? With high-impact tutoring sessions, your child can truly chase his or her curiosities and help them achieve a more in-depth understanding of the subjects they seem particularly passionate about. 

Tips for Parents Looking for the Best High-Impact Tutor

The benefits of high-impact tutoring are clear, but how does one find the best high-impact tutor or high-impact tutoring companies? Let’s look at the ways you can identify one that will help your child optimize their education:

  • Find tutors who will build personal relationships with your child. The best high-impact tutor will personalize learning approaches and materials, incorporating your child’s interests with their academic needs. They’ll also teach according to the student’s strengths to compensate for their weaknesses.

  • Find tutors who are good listeners and communicators—both with you and your child. Collaboration is key to success. You want your high-impact tutor to set goals, create benchmarks, and plan backward to set your child up for the best academic outcomes.

  • Find tutors with specific expertise. Depending on your child’s needs, you want to find a tutor who can help fill the gaps in your child’s knowledge. High-impact tutors should engage with your child, providing opportunities for stimulating, hands-on work instead of boring lessons and worksheets. 

Ask potential tutors how they plan to measure the growth and progress of your child, and how they plan to check in with you. More than just another teacher, high-impact tutors are long-term partners in your child’s academic success.

Learning loss is not just an issue for children, it affects adults as well. The longer their gaps in learning remain unaddressed, the more difficult it becomes for children to recover and go back to school. Parents also feel this strain, because they only want the best for their children. So, to help your child succeed in school, consider engaging a high-impact tutor.

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