Accelerate.us Conference 2023

Accelerate.us Conference 2023

“Charting the Path Forward for Tutoring Based in Evidence and Practice” was the first time Accelerate.us hosted an in-person gathering.  Held April 26-27th in Arlington, Virginia, this invite-only event was extended to 31 grantees and provided valuable insights, fresh ideas, and networking prospects within the tutoring community and K-12 Education System.

Investing in the K-12 Education System

John Failla, Founder and CEO at Pearl, and Nate Casey, Chief Strategy Officer at Pearl, spent the day with the Acclerate.us Community of Practice listening to panel discussions, participating in breakout sessions, and connecting with fellow grantees. The dedication to incorporating tutoring as a fundamental component of the K-12 education system in the upcoming years has never been more apparent.

Attendees were a wonderful blend of K-12 Education professionals ranging from classroom educators, researchers, policy experts, to EdTech innovators. As panel discussions unfolded and workshops began, everyone contributed their unique knowledge and valuable experiences, making this a truly inspirational event.

Accelerate.us Conference Key Takeaways

Accelerate’s CEP, Kevin Huffman initiated the conference with an optimistic, yet grounded, perspective on the past two years and the challenges ahead. The room was pervaded by a palpable sense of urgency to demonstrate the efficacy of our approach before the ARP ESSER funding expires in September 2024.

The opening panel featured district leaders from Baltimore and Washington DC, who shared intriguing insights into the complexities of implementing tutoring programs within the K-12 education system. In particular, Arthur Mola, Principal of the Cardoza Education Campus captivated the audience through his discussion on the importance of having a dedicated tutoring lead and the necessary steps to foster genuine collaboration with external support. 

Implementing Tutoring Programs
    1. Having a dedicated tutoring coordinator on your campus greatly streamlines the integration of tutoring into the scheduling framework
    2. Engaging kids in the data that shows their personal academic growth can be a powerful motivating factor.
    3. Rolling out MTSS anew is hard, but can become a strong catalyst for weaving tutoring more thoughtfully into the K-12 experience.
Future of Tech
    1. ChatGPT and AI writing software is not just a clear game changer, it has the opportunity to impact education in many ways, including professional development, assessment, and driving deeper individualized learning pathways.
    2. Although new technologies have a tremendous amount of promise, the “relationship” between student and tutor is still a critical aspect to learning.
    3. New technology is focused on driving down the cost of individualized learning which may soon allow for a single teacher to teach a classroom of students with individual learning gap data feeding “in real time” to the teacher. 
Ensuring Outcomes Through Policy
  • Every case study examined (Arkansas, Tennessee, and Texas) took a different approach to leveraging policy as a way to move quickly on tutoring.
  • In many instances, the most meaningful policies are the ones that unblock heavy barriers to entry, like streamlining criminal background checks or incentivizing tutors with better pay.

There is a great opportunity to incentivize programs that adhere to strict evidence-based approaches to delivering tutoring (i.e. – TQIS as defined by the NSSA)

Sustainability and The Future
    1. Increased emphasis on personalized learning: With advances in educational technology and the availability of data-driven insights, more school districts are likely to adopt personalized learning models that cater to the unique needs and preferences of individual students. This may include a greater use of adaptive learning platforms, virtual tutors, and other tools that enable students to learn at their own pace and according to their own learning styles.
    2. Greater collaboration between schools and external stakeholders: To address the increasing demand for high-quality tutoring services, K-12 education systems and school districts may partner with external stakeholders such as community organizations, non-profits, and private companies to provide additional resources and support. This may involve the development of public-private partnerships, grant programs, and other initiatives that bring together various stakeholders to improve access and equity in education.
    3. Enhanced infrastructure to support remote learning: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many school districts have already invested in upgrading their infrastructure to support remote learning. This trend is likely to continue in the next five years, with more schools adopting blended learning models that combine traditional classroom instruction with online and remote learning opportunities. This may require investments in new hardware and software, as well as training and professional development for teachers and staff to support effective remote instruction.

Accelerate actively builds the country’s knowledge of tools and practices that significantly advance student learning. [They] do this by bridging the gaps between research, communities, and systems to ensure the rapid and widespread adoption of proven strategies.

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. 

Tutoring Program Designs Addressing The COVID Education Recovery

Tutoring Program Designs Addressing The COVID Education Recovery

Various tutoring approaches are being implemented across the US to address learning loss.  The most common are high-impact tutoring, on-demand tutoring (sometimes referred to as homework help), and a hybrid model in which certain students in a program receive scheduled high-impact tutoring and the general student population has access to opt-in on-demand academic support. 

High-Impact-Tutoring (also sometimes referred to as High-Dosage-Tutoring)

A high-impact-tutoring model optimally leverages the NSSA’s “Tutor Quality Improvement System (TQIS) and include “substantial time each week of required tutoring, sustained and strong relationships between students and their tutors, close monitoring of student knowledge and skills, alignment with school curriculum, and oversight of tutors to assure quality interactions.”  Although this model has strong examples that are grant based and self administered at the state or district level, it can also be outsourced to a tutoring vendor. 

On-Demand Tutoring (also sometimes referred to as Homework Help)

24/7 access to tutors via chat and whiteboard across all key subjects is the most popular style of on-demand tutoring.  On-demand homework help (or as-needed academic assistance) allows students to meet with tutors as needed, often in a short time frame (like 10-15 minutes) to discuss something they do not understand – usually related to preparing for a test or completing homework (often due the next day).  Curriculum or learning management systems are not usually required in this model, although tools aligned with specific approaches may be used. Most often, this model is outsourced to an outside tutoring company, but some examples of this model are found in community tutoring partnerships, such as Dakota Dreams in South Dakota. 

Combining High-Impact-Tutoring and On-demand Tutoring (Hybrid)

On-demand homework help and high-impact tutoring are combined in the final model. In the early stages of exploring this hybrid model, vendors are scheduling out high-impact tutoring as usual but also giving students the option to receive on-demand help in other subjects online. Furthermore, on-demand access is being explored across an entire district in the same environment where high-impact tutoring is taking place. 

Deciding on Your Approach

An effective tutoring program should not be developed based on a best guess or someone’s perception of what is possible.  The design of a successful tutoring program should be based on logic.  According to the National Student Support Accelerator’s (NSSA) toolkit for program design, any tutoring program should outline: needs, inputs, actions, outputs, and impact. 

Needs: what needs the program address?

Inputs: what goes into the program?

Actions: what actions does the program take?

Outputs: what happens as a result of those actions?

Impact: What are the benefits of participating in the program?

Based on the logic model and clear definition of each component of the model, stakeholders can design a program for the desired outcome.  

A new approach to tutoring: University partnerships and community building

A new approach to tutoring: University partnerships and community building

By Christy M. Borders, Ed.D., Director, Illinois Tutoring Initiative, Illinois State University

Original publication by EdTech Chronicle

State leaders have their eyes on tutoring as a potential approach to counteract the academic effects of the pandemic as they continue to release their plans for spending their COVID-19 federal relief funds. And while tutoring has promising results for student learning, not all programs are created equal. As the director of the Illinois Tutoring Initiative (ITI), I’ve seen first-hand how high-impact, relationship-based tutoring in partnership with local colleges and universities is not only possible but is scalable, sustainable, and affects positive change for the communities served.

In 2021, in an effort to better support students, educators, and the broader community, the Illinois P-20 Council created a guide with evidence-based strategies to support learning renewal and student well-being, including high-impact tutoring.  As a result, the State of Illinois invested $25 million in high-impact tutoring as one part of their COVID-19 recovery plan.  The Illinois Tutoring Initiative involves strong partnerships across state agencies, higher education institutions, and K-12 priority school districts to support student learning in reading and math in grades 3-8, along with tutoring in high school math. 

Continue reading at edtechchronicle.com.

Pearl Awarded $250,000 to Develop and Scale High-Impact Tutoring Models to Boost Academic Achievement for All Students

Pearl Awarded $250,000 to Develop and Scale High-Impact Tutoring Models to Boost Academic Achievement for All Students

Pearl is excited to announce it has been awarded $250,000 in a competitive grant that will increase interoperability between tutor data and district systems via single-sign-on rostering and school-information-system integrations. Pearl will use the funding to support partners including the Illinois Tutoring Initiative, a statewide program, and enterprise tutoring platform, OnYourMark serving the Texas area.  

The award, presented by nonprofit organization Accelerate, is part of a broader national effort to develop and scale sustainable, cost-effective models for high-impact tutoring that boosts academic achievement for all students. The Annenberg Institute at Brown University will act as the research body that will study the impact of Accelerate’s grant to Pearl.  

“Pearl is honored to partner with Accelerate to combat learning loss and help bring sustainability to tutoring,” says John Failla, CEO. “Our platform is rooted in the core values of relationships, research and efficacy. This grant money will help us to continue our research-based approach to filling the current gaps in high-impact tutoring programs across the United States.”  

Pearl is one of 31 research and education partners selected to receive the award, as well as to join a community to share best practices and resources and ultimately help inform Accelerate’s national research and policy agenda.

“We know that good tutoring programs work — partly because well-off families have used them to boost student success for generations. And we know that those same programs can be a powerful tool to close racial and economic opportunity gaps when we give less privileged students the same access. What we haven’t figured out yet is how to make high-impact tutoring available for everyone,” said Accelerate CEO Kevin Huffman. “With districts deciding how to spend one-time federal funds to combat the effects of the pandemic, solving that challenge has never been more urgent.”  

Accelerate’s announcement of the inaugural cohort of grantees follows a competitive national selection process. In spring 2022, Accelerate, as part of its launch, released a Call to Effective Action to recruit partners to help it design, launch, and scale high-impact tutoring efforts and to build a community committed to impact and to shaping the evidence base for tutoring. Partners interested in the initiative were asked to first submit a letter of intent outlining their high-level vision. Following review of more than 200 letters by a panel of diverse experts, finalists were selected and invited to submit a full-length proposal. Beyond the inaugural cohort of grantees, Accelerate will continue to make additional investments in tutoring innovation over time.  

Learn more about Pearl’s vision.

View a list of all grantees and a summary of their tutoring models.

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