Tutoring Takes a Village (and an Ecosystem)

Sep 20, 2023 | EdTech, Tutoring Ecosystem, Tutoring Industry

As summer comes to an end and kids are back in school, learning and learning loss is top-of-mind for parents and educators. Unfortunately, current learning loss has reached levels unseen by any previous generation. According to the NWEA, only a quarter of students are up to grade level in math, with one-third at grade level in reading. It would take more than 7 months and more than 9 months for eighth graders to catch up in reading and math, respectively. That’s not the kind of deficit that can be made up in a few after school sessions./span>

The Power of High-Impact Tutoring

Fortunately, high-impact tutoring (HIT) is proven to mitigate learning loss, and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding has allowed many districts to take advantage of its benefits. In 2022, the market size in revenue of the online tutoring services industry was $1.9 billion, an increase of 17.7% over 2021.

But HIT only works if done correctly, and while billions of dollars are going into tutoring, the data landscape for the industry is so fragmented that administrators are forced to make buying decisions in the dark. States and districts unfamiliar with the principles of HIT lack the tools to identify the partners who are best positioned to help the students they aim to support.

Decision-makers need their own support in designing their programs, finding and communicating with the right tutors, and, perhaps even more importantly, engaging researchers that can properly perform a third-party evaluation to prove compliance to evidence-based tutoring standards, overall impact, and ROI of their program.

The Need for New

Seeing the challenges our existing tutoring partners were facing, Pearl used our network of top educational connections to build a tutoring ecosystem, benefiting states, districts, and independent tutoring organizations. 

The Tutoring Ecosystem gives Pearl tutoring platform users access to resources and organizations to help them with content and curriculum, funding support, program design, third-party research and evaluation, tutor management, and professional development, as well as streamlining operations and reporting actionable data. This kind of arrangement gives tutors and administrators the tools they need to succeed, which translates tangibly to student success.

Relationships Matter

It all comes down to relationships and consistency. In his 2009 meta study, Visible Learning, John Hattie found that a student who has a strong relationship with a teacher will learn 72% faster than a student without one. That means meeting with the same tutor for at least 30 minutes, three times a week. This consistency accounts for two of the five pillars of successful HIT. The other key components are small groups of no more than three students, sessions embedded during the school day, and data-driven instructional materials and assessment tools.

Community-Based Tutoring Programs

One way states and districts can build a tutoring program is to connect K-12 schools with colleges and universities to establish community-based tutoring. Through the Federal Work Study program, college students are hired to tutor part-time, which helps finance the cost of their postsecondary education while providing dependable tutoring services to K-12 schools at a fraction of the conventional cost. In addition, the National Partnership for Student Success infuses the educational landscape with resources while fostering community connections and establishing a talent pipeline from universities to schools.

Future Forward

The new school year is upon us, as is the ESSER cliff (though thankfully it’s been extended!). With academic anxieties steadily rising, the magnified threat of learning loss stands as an unanticipated challenge for this generation. While high-impact tutoring offers a promising solution, it’s crucial that it’s implemented with precision and backed by evidence. The fragmented nature of the current tutoring model often leaves educational decision-makers navigating in obscurity. 

Pearl’s Tutoring Ecosystem is illuminating a way forward, combining proprietary technology with invaluable resources from the best in education. By fostering robust relationships and leveraging community connections, we’ve created a tutoring framework that doesn’t just patch learning deficits but propels students towards success. Instead of merely injecting funds into ad-hoc tutoring bandaids, the path ahead calls for an integrated, holistic approach where tutors are empowered to make lasting impacts. It’s not just about catching up; it’s about reinventing the way we support our students’ academic journeys.

About the Author

John Failla is the CEO and Founder of Pearl, a leading research-based, tutoring ecosystem. Inspired by his experience as a struggling student and the positive impact created by his high-school tutor, John built the proprietary Pearl platform in 2019 to help his tutoring company scale, while keeping relationships at the core. Pearl prioritizes relationships by uniting teaching with technology, helping relationship-based educators and students achieve meaningful and measurable success.

Today, John is on a mission to create equitable access to relationship-based education that is impactful, scalable and sustainable. Pearl is the platform provider behind many of the nation’s largest community-based, tutoring initiatives including Arkansas, New Jersey, Illinois, and Virginia, with the Ecosystem bringing together the most progressive and respected education organizations including the National Student Support Accelerator at Stanford University. 

John is a graduate of the University of Richmond where he serves as Founder in Residence, fostering relationships between the university and its burgeoning startup community.

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