When should you hire a tutor and what type of tutor is best for your child? GCP sat down with several established tutors who work with students in Maplewood, New Jersey and New York City to get some expert advice on what to look for, what to expect and how best to work with tutors.
A threshold question is when parents should seek the assistance of tutors. According to Sasha Gronim of Tutor Associates in New York City, parents should seek out tutors for their students whenever they are struggling in an academic subject, preparing for a standardized test or seeking extra enrichment in a subject that they enjoy. Jennifer Payne Parrish of the Academic Resource Center in Maplewood, New Jersey recommends that parents not limit their use of tutors to remediation, but engage a tutor whenever “academic goals change,” such as the desire to improve from a “B” to an “A” in a particular subject. JoAnn Smith of the Little Angels Literacy Program in Maplewood, New Jersey recommends tutoring for all students in need of supplemental help, whether the student is simply in need of remediation or has a learning disability.
Once you’ve decided to engage a tutor, what credentials should you look for? All of the experts we spoke with agreed that experience and subject matter expertise are key attributes. It is not necessary to limit yourself to tutors who are certified teachers, unless your child has learning disabilities. Smith states that for those students, it is critical to engage tutors with advanced degrees or certificates in the particular instructional models used with the learning disabled. Gronim stresses that tutors need to be able to “build a rapport with a child and communicate clearly and effectively.”
Parents also have to decide whether their child would benefit from a small group setting or one on one sessions. According to Payne Parrish, individual sessions are preferable if the student needs to focus on a specific weakness or concept, rather than just reinforce and review material that has been covered in school. Gronim adds that “many of the learning obstacles present in the classroom are replicated in a small group setting.” Smith stresses that while one on one sessions are critical for children with attention deficit disorders or behavioral issues, children with similar weaknesses can benefit from a small group setting.
All three professionals stressed that it was important for parents to support the tutor’s work between sessions. Smith stated that the parents should “partner with the tutor to practice the instruction delivered during that week…and follow any suggestions/recommendations that the tutor recommends with consistency.” Gronim concurs that “keeping systems established by the tutor in place” is important and added that “most importantly, parents can help the tutor by communicating regularly with the tutor about their personal insights about the child.”
Tutoring sessions can range from 60 to 90 minutes and can be as frequent as four to five times per week or as infrequent as once every few weeks before important exams. Costs vary dramatically. In New York City, according to Gronim the range can be from $75 per hour to as high as $1000 an hour, with typical rates between $100 and $200. In Essex County, New Jersey, the range is from $50 per hour to approximately $200 per hour.
Given the significant cost involved, parents should not hesitate to ask the tutors when they can expect to see an improvement in their child’s grades. Payne Parrish says that while parents can expect to see immediate improvement on quizzes, they should not anticipate significant improvement earlier than three months. Gronim says that the pace of a student’s improvement depends upon how much catching up there is to do, but that parents should expect to see immediate improvement on tests, quizzes and essays and more substantive improvement in the course of one month. All in all, though, if parents choose experienced tutors who develop a bond with their children, they’ll find that it is money well spent.
Sasha Gronim, Tutor Associates, New York, NY (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jennifer Payne Parrish, PhD, Academic Resource Center, Maplewood, NJ (email@example.com)
Jo-Ann Smith, Little Angels Literacy Program, Maplewood, NJ (firstname.lastname@example.org)