Illinois State University’s College of Education (COE) is coordinating the Illinois Tutoring Initiative in partnership with the governor’s office, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), and the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB). The goal of the $25 million program is to provide tutoring for approximately 8,500 Illinois students over a two-year period. This is one of four state initiatives aimed at learning renewal following COVID disruptions in schooling.

In addition to coordinating the project, COE is also hosting one of the six institutional partner offices (IPOs). Additional IPOs include Governors State University, Illinois Central College, Northern Illinois University, Southeastern Illinois Community College, and Southern Illinois University.

“This initiative is an exciting collaboration with ISU faculty and staff to build on our online tutoring program that was established in 2020,” said Dr. Christy Borders, director of the Illinois Tutoring Initiative and professor in the Department of Special Education at ISU. “It allows us to bring a more intensive and research-based tutoring strategy to students across the entire state. High-impact tutoring is an exciting avenue to support teachers by supplementing classroom instruction while also working to build student skills in math and reading.”

The Illinois Tutoring Initiative is designed around strategic partnerships with local school districts that were disproportionately impacted by COVID, have high percentages of students and families with low-income, and have low funding adequacy.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on learning and social-emotional well-being of so many students,” said Kim Champion, ISU IPO coordinator. “This program is unique and will be significant because it allows for a team of educators who best know each student to be involved in selecting students for tutoring, scheduling tutoring sessions, and selecting curricula and materials for the tutoring sessions, all ensuring appropriate assistance and consistency for each student.”

The Illinois Tutoring Initiative is based on research and best practices for high-impact tutoring. Each student participates in either individual or small group tutoring for at least three hours each week for periods of eight weeks up to an entire semester.

The tutors consist of college students, retired teachers, and community members. IPOs maintain a pool of tutors and will engage in ongoing hiring of tutors to refill the pool each semester.

“This innovative tutoring program is really special because all parties involved are receiving great benefits,” said Borders. “Students throughout Illinois are receiving individualized and frequent tutoring for learning gains, the college-age teacher education students are getting great experience to prepare them for the classroom, and our faculty research team is collecting a lot of valuable data to continue to improve the program and their instruction. In addition, this program provides additional employment opportunities for many communities.”

The COE develops the tutor training for all tutors across the state, manages the tutor/tutee matching systems and serves as the data collection and research hub for the program. The research team consists of multidisciplinary faculty from across the University.

“As the premier institution for educator preparation in the Midwest, Illinois State’s College of Education is perfectly poised to coordinate this project and manage the research, while impacting thousands of students across Illinois,” said James Wolfinger, former dean in the COE. “This program will have a significant impact on students and teacher candidates for years to come.”