Should you hire a tutor?

The school year has just started, yet you’re already worrying about your teen’s first report card. Maybe it was that so-so grade in algMath tutoringebra last year, or maybe you’d just like to see your teen finally get a better grade in history.

Is it time to think about hiring a tutor?

“When you’re a teacher, you rarely have time to offer more than one explanation, or to stop and assess each child’s understanding of the material,” says private tutor Asia Citro, a former middle school and high school teacher in the Olympia and North Shore school districts.

Middle schoolers often struggle with organization and study skills, she says. “They may understand the material, but aren’t getting their homework in.” Low grades don’t necessarily indicate that a middle school student is struggling with the subject matter, says Citro. But when high school students get low grades, it often means they’re not grasping the material.

Tutors can help kids with organizational skills — as well as with overall comprehension in different subject areas. Citro says parents should call upon a tutor if a child’s grades are falling, he seems frustrated with school, or the teacher suggests he get extra help.

Standardized-test-prep tutor Sean Siska helps his teenage clients raise their SAT or ACT scores. “The ‘great secret’ about doing well on the SAT is that you need to be familiar with the types of questions on the test,” Siska says. “Preparing for the SAT is just like preparing for a football game or a piano recital — it takes a lot of hard work and practice.”

How to find a tutor
As Seattle private tutors, both Siska and Citro agree that getting the word out about their services can be challenging. How do parents go about finding them? Word of mouth and referrals among parents help. Siska and Citro also recommend that parents ask college counselors for recommendations, and check neighborhood blogs, online parenting forums, as well as the Internet’s go-to classifieds section, Craigslist.

But they also say, “Buyer beware.” As Citro notes, “Always ask for your tutor’s credentials. You’d be surprised at how many tutor's have no former education or training. Most importantly, always check references; people are not always what they say.”

In addition to private tutors, the Puget Sound area boasts dozens of tutoring centers, which can be found in a phone book or through a quick Google search. Along with national corporate agencies, such as Sylvan and Kumon, there are also local companies, including Seattle’s oldest tutoring center, University Tutoring, with 30 years in business, and Mercer Island’s Educational Tutoring & Consulting (ETC). Both offer nearly hour-long sessions with highly qualified tutors in a range of academic subjects, with session rates as low as $48 (ETC) to $55 and up (University Tutoring).

Diane Carney of University Tutoring recommends shopping around for the right fit when looking for a tutoring service. “I advise reading testimonials or talking to parents and students who’ve recently worked with a prospective tutoring service. Also ask about the tutor’s level of experience — it is important to find a place with which the [child] can ‘grow’ over time,” Carney says.

But what about the teens who may not necessarily need the extra help — the “good” students or those who are gifted, or, as teachers and tutors refer to them, the “leapers”?

“Many of these students miss learning some basic skills because they are able to show their obvious intelligence in other ways,” says Susan Small of ETC. “They may never learn the skills of reading and taking notes from a textbook, or the organizational skills needed to manage multiple academic demands.”

Tutoring primarily for enrichment doesn’t hurt, says Citro, but make sure your child’s tutor is qualified and creative. “If the curriculum is stale, it’s a good way to burn out a kid who is otherwise doing well.”

Many schools also offer free tutoring centers on campus, typically run by volunteers or programs, such as the University of Washington’s Pipeline Project, where college students receive credit for tutoring in the public schools. Another option? The Seattle Public Library system offers free tutoring and extra help with homework. Library branches provide online tutoring every day and homework help centers throughout the school year. Further information about the services can be found online.

Jen Betterley is a Seattle freelance writer who works with children by day, writes by night and equally loves doing both.

When to look for a tutor

Consider seeking a tutor if your child has:

  • dropping grades
  • missed assignments
  • a significant difference between homework and test scores
  • poor results from standardized tests
  • teachers and counselors who recommend getting extra help

Source: Diane Carney, University Tutoring



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