Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Update from Bianca - a Tutorpedia Foundation Scholar!

You might remember Bianca from our Tutorpedia Foundation annual event last year.  Bianca is now a college student in New York, and just came back to visit us on her winter break.  Here's an update from one of our wonderful students:  

Hi, my name is Bianca Sices. I’m from San Francisco, California, and I am a Tutorpedia Foundation student. I first started tutoring in my junior year of high school to get a better grade in math and to bring up my SAT scores. Having Fritz and Aaron as my tutors, they both were very flexible with their time and pushed me to get the grade I wanted. As a result, I was able to go to Mercy College in New York to pursue my career in Social Work. I want to become a Social Worker because I want to give back to my community. 

My college education is currently being funded by grants and loans, but it’s not enough to cover the cost of school.  I am looking for donations of any amount to help me finish my freshman year at Mercy College. Please click the link below to see my Crowdrise page through which you can make your donations. Every little bit helps!!!!

Thanks, Bianca Sices


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back to School: New Tutors!

We're excited to introduce you to a few new members of the Tutorpedia team! As always, you can browse tutors or search for a tutor in your area on the Tutorpedia website.

Ariel M.

Location: San Francisco

Education: B.S. Stanford University, Biological Sciences, concentration in Ecology and Evolution

I'm a tutor, published scientist, and an educational game designer. I love Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math - known as STEM. More specifically I like emphasizing the creativity required to excel in these fields. I have 3 years of tutoring and/or teaching experience at Stanford; I look forward to bringing my style of tutoring - informed by games and learning research - to you! When I'm not tutoring or working on games I love reading science fiction, road biking, and fiddling in a bluegrass band. Schedule a session with Ariel!

David W.

Location: San Francisco

Education: B.A. Columbia University, 2007: German Literature; M.S. San Francisco State University, 2014 (expected): Physics

I have always considered myself a well-rounded learner and now teacher. My educational history includes years of study of German, literature, physics and film (among other things). After living in a few cities, I ended up in SF, where I am now in graduate school for Physics. I have spent the past few years working as a high school teacher in Berlin, Boulder and the Bay Area, predominantly in math and sciences--although I would love the opportunity to tutor German or film. Schedule a session with David!

Todd L.

Location: Atherton

Education: Amherst College, 2012. B.A.s in Art and the History of Art and Sociology, magna cum laude with distinction.

My first teaching experience was as a photography teacher at an academic summer program for underserved youth, and it was there that I learned three important lessons that are still central to how I teach. Firstly, to be a good teacher, I also need to be a good student. Secondly, there is another way to communicate whatever I am teaching; I just have not thought of it yet! Thirdly, how I teach needs to align with how my students think and learn best; teaching according to all these lessons has helped me develop more much fruitful strategies to help my students learn better. Schedule a session with Todd!

George Z.

Location: Berkeley

Education: Lowell High School '01; UC Davis, Reed College '07 BA English Lit; UC Irvine 2010 MA English Lit; UC Irvine PhD (in progress) English Lit

I am an English Lit PhD student working towards finishing my dissertation on racial commodification in the post-War American novel. As a tutor and educator, I specialize in writing and composition, English lit, grammar, SAT verbal subjects and SAT II English. I have over 7 years of experience teaching and tutoring as well as 5 years of classroom experience teaching writing and critical thinking at the collegiate level. When I'm not reading and writing as a semi-professional reader and writer, I like to hike, play basketball, build PCs, cook as well as eat food from around the world, travel and pretend to be a photographer. Schedule a session with George!

Daniela C.

Location: San Francisco

Education: I am currently finishing up my last year of Law School at UC Berkeley. My field of interest is Patent Law which has allowed me to combine both my degree in law and degree in Molecular Biology which I previously obtained at UC Berkeley (undergrad) and UC Davis (grad school).

I have always enjoyed tutoring and mentoring students so that they can reach their true potential and get into the college of their choice. I have experience teaching and tutoring students of all ages from college students who need help with Physics, Chemistry and Biology as well as children in elementary school who struggle with Reading and Comprehension. Schedule a session with Daniela!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Spotlight on Education Pioneers

On June 18th, we welcomed Education Pioneers Graduate School Fellow Caitlin Fitzpatrick to the Tutorpedia Foundation team as our Data and Impact Management Consultant. Caitlin has been working with us this summer to help us better track our impact on the students we work with and improve our ability to serve the Tutorpedia Foundation community.
Caitlin brings a wealth of knowledge to this project from her experience working as a corps member for Teach For America, a program manager for Teach For China, and a consultant for Ashoka Arab World. Caitlin's work ethic, analytical skills, and perspective have been invaluable to Tutorpedia Foundation thus far.

About Education Pioneers
Education Pioneers is a talent pipeline that exists to identify, train, connect, and inspire a new generation of leaders dedicated to transforming the education sector.  At least one year of graduate school is required, and Education Pioneers recruits from a wide variety of disciplines including business, social work, education, law, and policy. 

We asked Caitlin to tell us more about what brought her to Tutorpedia and Education Pioneers. Read on to learn more about her story and perspective.

Interest in Education Sector
My degree is in International Economic and Political Development and through my graduate program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, I had the opportunity to evaluate Nike-funded sports for girls empowerment programs in the Middle East.  One program, Al Tanweer, a league of girls’ soccer teams and public schools in rural Egypt, was particularly successful in improving girls’ confidence and discipline and in sparking change in how the community viewed girls’ abilities relative to boys.  The success of this program hinged largely on its use of the public school infrastructure. 

This project sparked an interest in the education sector, and I went on to teach elementary school in the Bay Area through Teach for America.  Since each Education Pioneer’s background and specialization is unique, it has been a very rich learning experience to participate in discussions on different topics in education throughout the summer at weekly workshops hosted by Education Pioneers.  Having worked within the Teach for All network for the past 4 years, first with Teach for America and then with Teach for China, many of my assumptions about best practices in education have been challenged by alternative perspectives and theories of change.

Tutorpedia Foundation’s Data and Impact Project
When I joined Education Pioneers, I was particularly interested in working on a project involving impact evaluation. I was interested in the project with Tutorpedia because this data project is seeking to do just that, identify observable outcomes of successful tutoring.  Grades are one piece of the puzzle, but good grades are a means to greater opportunity and fulfillment in life—not an end in themselves. 

Working with Teach for China
During my first year with Teach for China, I worked on a taskforce of staff and teachers to design Teach for China’s intended impact, our metrics for determining success.  Our taskforce devised ways to capture academic improvement, critical thinking, and culture of achievement through exams, surveys and observations.  There was much debate about what we mean by more abstract concepts like critical thinking and culture of achievement and how to place an objective measure on these things.  Even academic achievement is not entirely black and white because these measures are only as good as the tests upon which they are based. 

The Systemic Challenge
Measuring impact in education is difficult because a quality education equips a student with more than just content knowledge, but also with other outcomes of education such as critical thinking skills, mindsets, and character traits are difficult to capture in a quantitative goal statement.  However, while it may be impossible for entities in the education sector to craft the “perfect measure” of these more abstract effects of education, it is still important to set goals in these areas and evaluate progress against them because goals drive action. 

A major criticism of national test-based education policies is that they focus solely on one measure of education quality (i.e., content knowledge) and that the pressure to perform on this single measure is causing teachers to neglect efforts to develop students in other ways.  On the other hand, observable outcomes are necessary for accountability, so it is critical that education leaders develop and refine ways to quantify education outcomes beyond academic test scores.

Future steps
I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts at the end of the summer after the conclusion of this data and impact project. Moving forward with my work in impact evaluation in the education sector, I would like to consider and develop ways that evaluation systems can efficiently capture and analyze non-numeric information about program outcomes.

Monday, August 5, 2013

What makes a tutor successful?

By Seth Linden, Founder & CEO of Tutorpedia

Several things become apparent after tutoring for 20 years.  For one, the number of students working with tutors continues to grow.  Two, working 1-1 with students is immensely gratifying, both for the tutor and tutee.  And three, a few specific yet generalized characteristics become crystalized about all successful tutors.  At our annual event Education By Design this past February benefiting the Tutorpedia Foundation, SFUSD teacher Sekani Moyenda could not have said it better:

“When you have a tutor who can sit with your students 1-1 for a significant period of time, you get insight into what is really going on.”

Cases in point: Ashanti got better at focusing and getting her work done.  Mariah raised her scores 33% on reading tests.  Bianca is now going to college.  And on and on…  

During his featured #EdByDesign talk, Brian Greenberg (CEO of Silicon Schools Fund), who advocates for “de-risking innovation,” referred to a study done by Benjamin Bloom that found that the average student tutored one-to-one using  .1  Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Beyond12 CEO Alex Bernadotte both agreed, saying we need more private partners to help increase the 8% graduation rate of low-income, first-generation students from college.  

Personalized tutoring fills a niche that can’t be filled in today’s schools alone.  Tutoring is becoming more common with blended learning more prevalent in local schools like Summit Prep in Redwood City and San Jose. The Gates Foundation is also getting involved giving grants to innovative online tutoring companies like Tutor.com and Khan Academy.  More and more parents and educators are realizing that tutoring gets to the heart of learning, personalizing the meaning and instruction of the subject at hand.  For us at Tutorpedia, it’s all about in-person, 1-1 tutoring.  With all the distraction in today’s hyper-technological world, some face-to-face interaction through mentoring, tutoring and coaching are exactly what students need most.

So what makes a successful tutor? 
After running Tutorpedia, a hybrid tutoring company providing 1-1 academic support for the last 8 years, I have found several consistent factors that continuously make for successful tutors, who routinely improve student academic performance and increase students’ self-efficacy.  We hire our tutors after carefully vetting them to align their qualifications, characteristics, reference checks and education philosophy with our vision and values. 

1) Successful tutors build strong, personal relationships with their students.  Tutors fill a different role than teachers and parents, and that puts them in a unique position to support students.  Personal relationships are foundational to student success – the more connected a student feels to his or her tutor, the more trust and respect is created, which are essential ingredients for students to learn well.  When a tutor listens and spends time building a relationship with his or her student, the tutor can truly personalize the learning, incorporate connections to the student’s interests, teach to the student’s strengths, and minimize the student’s weaknesses.  We’ve found that 95% of our students were more likely to increase their homework completion and accuracy with a tutor who builds a strong, personal relationship with them.  Also, our students were 86% more likely to set goals, use their weekly agenda, and improve their general study skills and organizational strategies. 

2) Successful tutors listen and communicate early and often with parents and teachers.  Communication and collaboration with all student stakeholders are key factors to student success.  When tutors focus on goal setting, creating benchmarks, and planning backwards, this sets students up for academic progress.  Tutorpedia tutors co-create Individualized Learning Plans with their students, in collaboration with parents and teachers, to leverage insight from key adults in students’ lives to map a better plan for success and accountability.  When tutors communicated with teachers, we found that students were 83% more likely to participate in class, and 72% more likely to engage with school.  Again, Ms. Moyenda from SFUSD agrees: “When Sarah (Ashanti’s tutor) asks me, ‘Is there anything specific you need me to know?’  That’s all I need a tutor to ask me… As Sarah gets to know Ashanti better, I get to know Ashanti better.”

3) Successful tutors have specific content expertise, and can make learning real, relevant, and rigorous.  Successful tutors are experts in their academic content – they know the subject’s concepts, ideas, and problems inside and out.  Even though most tutors may never get to facilitate a custom project-based learning session, they can discuss and introduce the rigor of real-life applications.  Tutors who can turn school assignments into project-based activities and provide opportunities for real, hands-on work instead of abstract assignments or rote worksheets, engage students more.  Tutors who can make learning relevant to students’ interests create more students who actually care about what they are learning.  And finally, tutors who make learning appropriately rigorous, who make learning challenging enough, but not too tough where students get frustrated and stop trying, the more growth we see in student progress.  We found 90% of our students improved their academic achievement as measured by grade improvement, and 71% improved their standardized test scores, with our tutors who were content experts.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Spotlight on Blue Star Admissions Counseling

Tutorpedia partners with several rockstar counselors to give our students additional support with navigating the college admissions process. This month's feature is Blue Star Admissions Consulting's Amy Morgenstern, Ph.D, also known as "Dr. M."

We like Dr. M because she has great organizational skills to keep students on schedule, she is a phenomenal writing coach, she is an expert at helping students with school-selection, and she has a superior track record with impressive results for her students and glowing recommendations from families.

During this past year, Dr. M donated her services to one of Tutorpedia Foundation's scholars, Bianca. With Dr. M's help, Bianca successfully navigated the college application process and recently enrolled at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY
Congratulations Bianca!

We asked Dr. M to tell us more about her experience working with Bianca. Here's what she had to share:
"Assisting some of the Bay Area’s most competitive students with admission to top universities most certainly provides an educational consultant with a great sense of accomplishment. Helping an under-resourced, urban high schooler get into college when he or she would not otherwise have the chance: that brings great inner joy. Just last week, Bianca, to whom I donated my services, enrolled at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY, just north of NYC, to pursue her dream to be a social worker so that, in her own words, she can “help people and make them happy.” And she means it.
An avid community volunteer (she even got herself to a remote village in Costa Rica  last summer and built a concrete floor for the church kitchen) who both laments and loves her far-less-than-ideal neighborhood, Bianca brought a unique, honest voice and strength of character to the process that translated brilliantly into an admissions profile so much more capacious than her academic profile could convey on its own.
Exciting! Yet as fulfilling as it was, the work was also hard. Each of us clear-eyed, we combed every potential target school for an undergraduate social work program, narrowed the list down to 10 schools, and over a period of five months met weekly to tackle the bureaucracy and essay writing for each.
During our sessions, I became acquainted with the struggles of Bianca’s daily reality––exposure to violence, gang activity, sexism, poverty, city and landlord neglect––while she learned a thing or two about good writing and reflective thinking, gaining steady support along the way.
Now that we have completed the process and gotten Bianca through this first hurdle, we are thrilled and a little nervous. New challenges loom: acclimating herself to an unfamiliar region of the country, getting used to a more competitive academic climate, missing her family and neighborhood, and negotiating the cultural difference she will invariably encounter in Dobbs Ferry. Challenges notwithstanding, Bianca’s world has opened up; the way is hers to take, or pave, and for that, let us feel joy."
The entire Tutorpedia team is proud of Bianca's incredible resolve and remarkable accomplishments during this journey. We wish her the best of luck at Mercy College and beyond.

Get Outdoors! - Exploring Local Summer Camps

Summer is an amazing opportunity for students of all ages to dig deeper into their interests, and learning doesn't just occur in the classroom. We're big fans of camps, as many of us (tutors, teachers, and directors) were campers and then counselors ourselves. 

Emma Bundy, Tutorpedia's Director of Tutoring (third from right), with counselors and campers at Camp Trinity on the Bar 717 Ranch.

Here are a few of our favorite camps in and around the Bay Area. Please share widely with students, parents, and friends and remember: get outside!
  • uCamps - The uCamps mission is to bring happiness to campers, grades 2-12, by providing fun, educational, performing arts enrichment programs.
  • Camp Newman: URJ Camp Newman is a Reform Jewish summer camp in Santa Rosa, CA for children entering grades 3 to 12. Newman inspires campers to apply the Jewish values learned to their daily lives, bettering themselves, their communities and the world.
  • Bar 717 Ranch: Camp Trinity on the Bar 717 Ranch is the oldest accredited co-educational summer camp in California. Since 1930, the Gates family has welcomed boys and girls ages 8 to 16 to live, work, and play on 450 acres of pristine wilderness as part our large ranch family.
  • Camp Galileo: Galileo’s audacious mission—to nurture and inspire a daring new generation of fearless innovators. Grades K-8. 
What are your favorite camps? What were your favorite camp experiences and traditions? Sound off in the comments!

Teacher Spotlight: Kyle Beckham shares his tips for staying sharp over summer

Kyle Beckham
Kyle Beckham has spent the last ten years as a teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area, specializing in alternative education. He has worked for the last nine years as teacher at Downtown Continuation High School, a project-based high school in San Francisco that helps traditionally under-served and marginalized students move towards obtaining a high school diploma. He specializes in Hip-Hop Education, People’s History, Digital Arts and Media Production. He has done educational and community work in South Africa and Haiti, helping connect his students to global educational, cultural and political issues. A historian by training, Kyle received his B.A. from Yale University and a Master of Arts in Teaching Social Studies (M.A.T.) from Brown University. Kyle will be attending Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education in the fall, pursuing his Ph.D. in the Race, Inequality and Language in Education (R.I.L.E.) program.  

We asked Tutorpedia advisory board member and SFUSD teacher Kyle Beckham what students could do to stay engaged over the summer. 
"The most important thing is to continue reading and writing about things, but this time the choice is up to the student. Students, think of the summer as a time when you get to study and examine whatever interests you, without the pressure of papers or projects or punitive deadlines."
Kyle's top tips for summer scholars:
  • Commit to reading at least one piece of fiction and one piece of non-fiction that interests them (don't pick something because you might think it's useful and skip something that jumps out at you) Buy copies of the books, write in them copiously and, if possible, do it with a friend and meet up to talk about the books (a book club of sorts). Parents can do this with their kids too and have family check-ins about books. GoodReads is a great website to discover new titles and share with friends.
  • Do something creative/artistic. This can be either going to museums on youth days (which means that there is no admission) or as simple as learning how to draw on youtube or taking a series of tutorials on garageband or photoshop. These things are always easier to do if friends are involved and create a time when they are shared with others. FunCheapSF keeps a running list of low-no cost events in the area.
  • Keep a daily journal, or even better, make an altered journal/book. Make a blog or Tumblr
  • Get lost in Wikipedia. Pick a topic and just read about it, click on as many links as you like, for at least an hour every day. Write about what you read. Share it with your family/friends. 
  • Learn how to fix something. iFixit is a great website that teaches you how to repair all kinds of things. 
  • Leverage sites like Khan Academy: start with one thing you're interested in and want to build mastery towards (animation) and one thing that you know you will need to work on (for me it would be mathematics).
Please share Kyle's top tips for summer scholars with any students in your life.

Do you have any other tips for students to help them take advantage of summer break? Have you used any of the techniques, tools, or websites mentioned in this blog? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

AP Exams are Right Around the Corner

In the first two weeks of May, high school students all over the country will sit for their AP Exams. Many students benefit from a comprehensive review of material and test-taking strategy prior to the test itself. Below is the schedule for this Spring's AP Exams. Click the links to the right to see available tutors who can help students prepare for these tests or search using location and subject at Tutorpedia.com! During March, sign up for small group review sessions of 2-3 students and receive 10% off group rates!

AP Exam Schedule 2013

Tests Offered (AM & PM)
Tutors Available
May 6
Chemistry (AM)

Environmental Science (AM)

Psychology (PM)

May 7
Computer Science A (AM)

Spanish Language (AM)

Art History (PM)
Computer Science Tutors

May 8
Calculus AB (AM)
Calculus BC (AM)

Chinese Language and Culture (PM)

May 9
English Literature and Composition (AM)

Japanese Language and Culture (PM)

Latin (PM)

Japanese Tutors

May 10
English Language and Composition (AM)

Statistics (PM)

May 13
Biology (AM)

Music Theory (AM)

Physics B, C (PM)

May 14
United States Government and Politics (AM)

Comparative Government and Politics (PM)

French Language and Culture (PM)

May 15
German Language and Culture (AM)

United States History (AM)

European History (PM)

May 16
Macroeconomics (AM)

World History (AM)

Italian Language and Culture (PM)

Microeconomics (PM)

Italian Tutors

May 17
Human Geography (AM)

Spanish Literature and Culture (AM)