NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — A new state-wide initiative is connecting college-aged tutors with school-aged children to combat two years of learning disruptions caused by the pandemic.

The Illinois Tutoring Initiative (ITI) will provide high-impact tutoring for approximately 8,500 students in grades 3-8 during a two-year period.

“High-impact tutoring means that it occurs at a high dosage, so usually three hours or more a week for hour-long sessions. It’s also explicitly tied to the curriculum that the students are learning in the classroom,” explained Dr. Christy Borders, Director of Illinois Tutoring Initiative at Illinois State University.

Borders said tutoring is tailored to each school district.

“It’s not random lessons that aren’t connected to what they are doing during their school day, and it is based on very deep sustained relationships with a consistent tutor over time,” she said.

The program’s goals are to benefit tutors and provide a workforce for communities, support school districts and help children, she said.

“Rather than being a top-down initiative, where we say, ‘Here’s what we’re doing to make it work,’ we let them tell us how this works in their community and for their students. So, think that direct response to district need is unique in this initiative,” Borders said.

Illinois State University is one of six colleges and universities recruiting tutors for the new program.

Borders said ISU has 4,000 teacher education candidates, making it the largest preparer of teachers in the Midwest and fourth in the country.

“We need as many tutors as we can find,” she said. “My hope is that kids can make up some ground that they feel like they have lost. Even if it’s not an academic gain, what I think will be really powerful for students is an ongoing caring adult whose sitting with three hours a week.”

The other participating institutions are Governor’s State University, Illinois Central College, Northern Illinois University, Southeastern Illinois Community College, and Southern Illinois University.