During the parent-teacher conferences last week, many parents were informed that their children were not performing well or falling behind in school. If poor attendance, unaddressed hearing and vision difficulties, learning disabilities, and second language issues were ruled out as contributing factors, parents could look to tutors for help. Since not all tutors are created equal, and individuals working as tutors have different levels of education, skills and experience, parents should first determine what type of assistance their child requires prior to hiring one. Knowing this information will help guide parents toward a tutor with the appropriate skills and qualifications to match their child’s needs.
The first step in determining what kind of assistance your child needs is to talk with his or her teacher. The following are some questions to ask:
• What type of help does my child need? Does my child need to learn some specific skill that he or she did not master in previous years or does he or she need extra instruction to master a large group of skills he or she is missing? If so, what skills? What subject areas?
• Is he or she missing so many skills that intensive instruction is required to build an educational foundation? If so, in what subject areas? What are my child’s academic strengths and weaknesses? Would you be willing to communicate with a tutor about my child’s instruction?
After determining your child’s needs, it is time to research your options. Below you will find a brief description of the different types of tutors available, and the two of the most popular settings for tutoring – private tutoring and learning centers.
Types of tutors
1. Nonteachers: These individuals are interested in helping children succeed academically and have an expertise in a specific subject area or general subject knowledge. They may or may not be college graduates. They can help your child with specific subjects, homework, projects and research.
2. Credentialed Teachers: These individuals are trained in the general education curriculum at the elementary school level or in specific content areas at the middle and high school levels. They can help your child improve his or her knowledge and skills in general subject areas such as math, reading, or writing as well as in specific subject areas such as Japanese or trigonometry.
3. Credentialed Special Education Teachers: These individuals are very knowledgeable about various disabilities, and are specifically trained to work with children with disabilities and use instructional strategies specifically geared toward children with disabilities. They can access learning strengths and weaknesses, teach academic skills and learning strategies, help identify classroom accommodations to support your child’s learning, and can follow the goals and objectives of an IEP (Individualized Education Plan).
• Private tutors: A private tutor works one-on-one with your child. The biggest advantage of hiring a private tutor is the individualized attention your child will receive. The rates for private tutors range from $15 per hour for a college student to $30 per hour or more for a credentialed teacher.
• Learning centers: In center-based tutoring, students usually work with an assigned tutor in small groups. The biggest drawback of learning centers is that tutors frequently work with three to five students at the same time so their attention is divided. The advantage is that students have peer support and they see that they are not alone in facing academic difficulties. The rates for learning centers range from $200 to $500 per month.
While tutoring may be somewhat costly, and time-consuming for both you and your child, keep in mind that you, as the parent, are the main person responsible for your child’s success in school. Therefore, if your child is struggling academically, decide what type of tutor he or she needs as well as the setting in which the tutoring will be delivered, and ask your child’s teacher, other parents, friends or co-workers if they can recommend a tutor or learning center.
Elizabeth Hamilton, M.E., MA, is a teacher with 31 years of professional experience. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or comments.