“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
Having a dedicated tutoring coordinator on your campus greatly streamlines the integration of tutoring into the scheduling framework
Engaging kids in the data that shows their personal academic growth can be a powerful motivating factor.
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
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.
Although new technologies have a tremendous amount of promise, the “relationship” between student and tutor is still a critical aspect to learning.
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
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.
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.
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.
So how are we going to find all those tutors we need?
2021 saw the birth of the so-called Great Resignation as, around the nation, workers fled jobs by the droves. Many businesses laid-off workers because of a lack of customers. Some workers used the opportunity to finally switch careers and leave behind jobs they hated. Others quit because of frustrations with Covid protocols or other problems brought on by the pandemic. One sector slammed especially hard? Education.
Teachers have been in exodus mode for months now. Burned out, tired of getting blamed for student knowledge gaps (since even before the pandemic) or just plain fed up from dealing with angry parents, K-12 teachers around the country have decided to opt-out and either retire or look for other work. Indeed, the Learning Policy Institute noted in January 2022 that “the current staffing crisis in public schools is taking center stage in communities throughout the country.”
Meanwhile, an Education Week survey clearly demonstrated that school districts are struggling to staff vital teaching posts, with 37% reporting “moderate” problems, 25% claiming “severe” shortages and 15% warning of “very severe” issues.
How did we get here and what’s the way ahead — if there even is one?
Shortage of Teachers: An Old Problem, Exacerbated
Interestingly, the teacher shortage isn’t a new issue; it’s simply been thrust into the spotlight as the gap widened due to Covid.
In a recent Pearls of Wisdom webinar with Pearl CRO Nate Casey, Patrick Steck, Senior Director of Policy for Deans for Impact, points out that: “Teacher shortages are not a new topic in our field of education. The US has long struggled to attract, train and reward enough teachers to actually serve our students adequately.”
But Steck also observed how “uniquely different” this round of shortages has been. “At the start of the school year, teachers reported levels of exhaustion that we might expect heading into the end of the school year.” Clearly, stress overload has been a prime driver behind teachers exiting en masse, and it’s impacting certain hard-struck communities worse than others.
“Teacher shortages,” Steck says, “are often vexing for specific subject areas like Math, SpEd, ELA, and English Language Arts, and geographies — particularly our rural communities across the country. We have a hard time recruiting a workforce that actually reflects the students it needs to serve.”
How much of a negative impact has the shortage caused so far? Such measurements are difficult to calculate with precision, yet one indisputable fact is that teacher shortages are exacerbating the learning loss problem, which has already reached epidemic proportions.
The Pandemic-Fueled Learning Loss Crisis
Learning loss and knowledge gap problems are detrimental to this generation’s students and their futures, but the impacts can get passed on to their own children, too. Many studies have been done on the correlation between academics and income potential. In particular, a study by the University of Miami succinctly concluded, “High school grade point average (GPA) is a strong predictor of future earnings.”
In contrast, students who don’t fare well in K-12 classes may not make it to college and may struggle with a lifetime of lower earnings. They’re thus at greater risk of raising children in impoverished conditions. Over time, the cycle repeats, creating intergenerational poverty. Indeed, the National Center for Children in Poverty highlights this issue, noting “Poverty rates for adults who were poor during childhood are much higher, especially for those individuals with high levels of exposure to poverty during childhood.”
Beyond the long term impact on individual families, the problems caused by learning loss and the knowledge gap extend even to the economy on the whole. Indeed, a look back in time highlights the future problems awaiting the nation if we cannot fix these issues immediately. For example, McKinsey & Company’s COVID-19 and learning loss—disparities grow and students need help emphasizes that in 2009, if the achievement gap within students of color communities had been properly addressed, then “today’s US GDP would have been $426 billion to $705 billion higher.”
Although it is not a sole factor, the nationwide teacher shortage is at the root of this complex tangle of problems. The shortage is not only obviously real, it’s creating tangible long problems for students, families, communities, states…and for the entire nation.
The question is, how can it be fixed? Without sufficient teachers standing in classrooms, what can be done today to get students on the road to recovery from the deleterious effects of Covid on their learning?
Tutors to the Rescue
As a leader in the field of tutoring software, we at Pearl believe that tutoring is the clear evidence-based winner when it comes to solutions for filling the teachers gap and addressing learning loss. In fact, America is currently experiencing a “Renaissance in tutoring” as evolving technologies make it easier than ever to introduce qualified tutors into homes and classrooms — without the need for their physical presence.
Finding the Right Tutors
Finding qualified, suitable tutors comes with its own unique set of challenges. “Communities are really struggling to find enough tutors to meet student needs,” Patrick Steck notes in the webinar, while highlighting that districts are even mobilizing teacher candidates as tutors to help fill the gap.
Meanwhile, passively advertising tutoring jobs on the usual job portals like Indeed is bound to net plenty of applications, but sometimes it pays to be more proactive. Reaching out to the areas where potential tutoring pools exist can be fruitful. As Steck further states, savvy districts are “seeking support from retired teachers, in-service teachers, college students, community volunteers, and in some cases even high schoolers to support their younger peers.”
Integrating Online Tutoring
It may take time to find and train the right tutors, but the search can be easily expanded with one simple change — expanding the parameters to include online tutors. While in-person tutors are perfect for many situations, online options are great alternatives, especially with a bit of foreplanning. The key is to work out the logistics in advance. “Some…logistical challenges exist across the virtual tutoring field,” said Tutored by Teachers’ co-founder Shaan Akbar in an interview with Education Week.
Too often, school administrators and staff scramble to cover for teacher shortages by implementing virtual tutoring without sufficient preparation. They sometimes fail to take into consideration the practical implications of incorporating such lessons into the school day (for example, they must physically usher students into areas where they can make their online tutoring appointments). But when done right, the online tutoring can be a lifesaver for everyone involved.
Online tutors have far more flexibility, as well, which is critical for ensuring consistency. As EdSource writes, “Consistent tutoring with the same tutor can go far. In addition to helping students develop and make progress on their learning goals, tutors can serve as caring, reliable and inspirational role models to students who historically have not had the same access to personalized and stable resources and supports as those able to afford them.”
The Not Too Late: Improving Academic Outcomes Among Adolescents study conducted at Chicago Public Schools discovered that, “By providing personalized instruction and coordinating closely with teachers, students, and families, tutors were able to complement in-classroom learning and help students progress two to three times faster than their peers.” Their findings discredited “conventional wisdom” by proving that it is not “too difficult or costly to substantially improve the academic skills of children who are behind once they reach high school.”
Professional Development for Tutors
Regardless of whether tutors and students are meeting physically or via online platforms, schools must commit to supporting tutors so they, in turn, can properly assist students. This tutor support should involve ongoing training and professional development similar to what teachers are offered.
As Education Week advises, “Include tutors in teacher professional learning. Whenever possible, have tutors attend curriculum-specific professional learning and training alongside teachers. This will build a shared investment in the materials and better prepare tutors with the knowledge and skills they need to accelerate instruction.”
Feedback is another vital element of a successful tutoring program. Ideally, teachers and students should have the ability to provide feedback directly to administrators through surveys or other means. Insightful, candid feedback regarding tutor performance helps schools gauge the success of individual tutors or groups, so that issues can be properly addressed in a timely manner.
In conjunction with that, there should be mechanisms in place to use that received feedback and incorporate it into constructive feedback provided to the tutors, so they can adjust and improve as needed.
The national teacher shortage is real, but so are the solutions — finding and training qualified, motivated tutors ready to engage students with high impact sessions…via virtual platforms (like tutoring platform Pearl), when needed. Implementing flexible online tutoring can quickly alleviate problems related to onboarding the right tutors and helps maintain consistency and motivation. Advanced platforms like Pearl were made to facilitate these types of lessons, so schools can deliver on-target tutoring where and when it is needed the most!
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.”
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.