The Best Tutors Work on Core Skills, by Blythe Grossberg, Psy.D., Learning Specialist

By April 17, 2013Blog

A dramatic increase in tutoring for both public and private school students has been documented by recent news articles. While the work that some tutors perform can be very valuable in allowing students to learn content and skills that benefit them not only for the particular class they are taking but also for a lifetime of learning, some tutors have purportedly been paid by parents to actually do the students work for them. While this solution might seem to address the child's problem in the short term, the child does not learn skills and how to function independently. As a result, in some documented cases, the child actually fails out of college because he or she does not know how to do the work, after having had it mostly done for them in high school.

In reaction to corrupt tutoring, many private and public schools are turning to more in-class work, to be sure that students work is their own. Many teachers are aware that students are receiving too much outside help, but it is often difficult to prove. Students and parents must of course also do their part to make sure tutoring or other outside help is ethical. In addition, students should realize that teachers are usually aware when the students in-class work is dramatically different than their take-home work, and colleges generally look out for college application essays that are so widely discrepant with the students academic record and scores on the ACT or SAT. In fact, one reason the SAT and ACT added writing sections was to assess how well applicants write on their own.

While a good tutor or learning specialist can help a student improve his or her core skills, tutors who do the work for students shortchange the students and wind up hurting them in the end. Here are some other practices to follow when students and parents turn to tutors for outside help:

Tutors Should Help with Skills
The right tutor will not only help a student with content for a particular class but will also help him or her improve core skills, such as reading comprehension, writing, and study skills, that last a lifetime. Sometimes, students simply don't know how to study, and, for example, they try to cram for exams at the last minute. A good tutor can show students how to pace themselves and how to spread out their studying for optimal test results. This is the type of skill that will benefit students and help them become more independent and successful in later studies and in college.

Good Tutors Make Sure Students are Doing the Work
Good tutors, whether they work on academic or test preparation, such as for the ISEE or SSAT, make sure that students are doing their own work. They know that students learn the most from doing their work independently. Ethical tutors also work with schools and teachers, rather than hiding their work, to make sure they understand school assignments and that the students are following the teachers directions. In addition, tutors should never cross the ethical lines and culture of the school. Instead, they need to understand what schools allow and what they don't and abide by these rules. The more familiar the tutors are with the schools, their assignments, and their cultures, the more useful tutors will be to students and the more likely they are to benefit students in the long term by making sure students are working independently. In fact, the best tutors make sure that their students won't need them one day when they can do all the work on their own.

Dr. Blythe Grossberg has worked as a learning specialist in New York City for the past thirteen years. Formerly the Upper School learning specialist at the Collegiate School, she has worked with students in grades 5-12 and college students at top-flight private schools and at magnet and other public schools. Her clients include students with study-skills deficits and learning disorders such as ADD, Asperger s Syndrome, and dyslexia. She also helps students prepare for standardized tests, including the ISEE/SSAT, SHSAT, PSAT, and SAT, and she works with high-school juniors and seniors to prepare their college essays and applications. She is also the co-founder of a new tutoring company called Themba Tutors- www.ThembaTutors.com. She can be contacted at blythe@brooklynletters.com

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