Monday, August 25, 2008

Change and Growth

There is much talk of change these days. This being the year we cast our vote for the next President of the United States, we will be deciding a great many issues at the polls. As Tutorpedia begins its third year, we will be growing and changing ourselves, all in an effort to provide you with the best one-on-one tutoring services possible.

Tutorpedia is now offering free tutoring services to low-income middle schools in Alameda, Ravenswood (East Palo Alto), South San Francisco, and San Francisco school districts. Our tutors are currently working with 15 students from Chipman Middle School (AUSD), thirty students from Cesar Chavez Academy (RCSD), one student from Parkway Heights Middle School (SSFUSD), and 11 students from Visitacion Valley (SFUSD), school of the 2008 National Principal of the Year, Jim Dierke.

As a state-approved and district-sponsored tutoring provider, Tutorpedia is providing the same high-quality, one-on-one tutoring services to low-income students for free. These services are paid for by federal Title 1 funds set aside for schools who meet certain eligibility requirements, based on their student's income level and state test scores. It is a great opportunity to provide flexible, dynamic tutors, capable of motivating, encouraging, and reinforcing positive academic work ethic – notably in math and English-language arts – to students who could not otherwise afford them. With the same focus on homework instruction, test preparation, study skills and organizational strategies, we hope to improve the academic achievement of all students, regardless of socioeconomic background.

Tutorpedia is also working on its own SAT curriculum, with a unique angle. Our curriculum will focus on the difference between content and context. Our tutors will tutor not only "how to take the test" (context), but when students need additional help with specific algebra concepts or writing skills, i.e. "what's on the test" (content), our tutors can help there, too. Tutors will still set up individual schedules and learning plans based on each students' needs and flexibility, but there will be a tried and true structure, with consistent strategies, practice problems, and practice quizzes throughout.

Tutorpedia is growing and changing. We are trying to break out of the same old routine, while still staying true to our founding principles. At our inaugural Board Meeting last month, I finally flushed out our mission statement: To deliver high-quality, comprehensive, one-on-one tutoring services to meet the individual needs of all students in grades 6-12. We are following through on that mission, with our current low-income tutoring and forthcoming SAT curriculum.

As always, I appreciate your feedback, and I appreciate you giving out our name to others in need of tutoring. Remember, you receive ONE FREE HOUR OF TUTORING for every new client you refer to Tutorpedia! I am available anytime over phone or email, (415) 948- 1585 or

The Purpose of Education

What is the purpose of education? Is it to teach our youth how to behave within the cultural norms of our democracy? Or is it to foster critical thinking skills that will engage students and force them to challenge the status quo? Is it to create strong workers or strong thinkers? A strong labor force or strong intellectual force? I believe the best education does both.

This year, Tutorpedia has undertaken two major goals with this consideration in mind: 1) To serve students from low-income families at under-performing schools, and 2) To develop SAT curriculum that can stand alone and be used to teach classes.

This past summer, Tutorpedia received state approval to be a district-sponsored tutoring provider. Our SES (Supplemental Educational Services) approval means that we can now deliver the same high-quality, one-on-one tutoring services—free of charge—to low-income families at under-performing schools. The No Child Left Behind Act guarantees Title I funds to support these schools, and individual school districts pay for them the so their families can afford these additional resources (see September 2007 Press Release).

We will also begin creating and implementing a more structured SAT curriculum. This will be a collaborative effort with other tutors, credentialed teachers, and free-lance writers. Right now, our tutors use their unique combination of education and experience to create a personal, customized curriculum for each student. This will still continue. What will be especially useful to both our tutors and students will be a set of well-tested and well-used skills and strategies that can be taught across the board.

Tutorpedia's basic services of homework instruction, test preparation, study skills, and organizational strategies won’t change. We will continue to mentor and prepare students for college and beyond.

It is exciting to expand our market to families who cannot afford private tutoring on their own, and it is exciting to create curriculum that we can call our own. As always, please feel free to call or email me with any questions or concerns at (415) 948-1585 or I look forward to another great year!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Maintaining Balance

For all of us, stress increases greatly near the end of August and the beginning of September. Summer has ended, Fall has begun, and the start of school is around the corner. As anxiety runs high – whether beginning sixth grade or applying to college – we need to remember to maintain balance and keep a healthy perspective.

Applying to college consumes the average 17-year-old life, and actually choosing which college to attend creates an agonizing decision. Scoring well on the SAT or ACT becomes the crowning achievement of high school teens, as you have heard, "It's the most important test of your life." So how do we do this? How do we tell our kids to apply to college, take your standardized tests, and choose the next four years of your lives, all while keeping your sanity and maintaining balance and perspective? Here are three strategies:

STAY CURRENT: You keep your sanity and maintain a balance in your life by staying current with your work. Keep up with homework, take good notes in class, and remain diligent in your studies. There is no better cure for a frustrated and uncertain future in class than to stay current with your assignments. The more up-to-date you stay, the more reliable your notes and understanding of the material will be.

CREATE A RESEARCH PROJECT: Think of applying to college as a research project. You must put in more time ahead of the deadline to really make sense of the assignment. Figure out what schools interest you, and why. Create a list of priorities – Location? Price? Academics? Athletics? These are all important criteria, and they will vary in priority from student to student. Create a checklist of schools and rank them according to what you read about, hear about, and see firsthand when you visit.

BE OPEN: This is a great opportunity for you to explore your interests and boundaries. Be open to new ideas, challenge yourself, and challenge others. Most of all, don't limit yourself. This is a tough year, but an exciting year.

Whether beginning middle school or ending high school, please count on Tutorpedia as your guide to coaching you through these challenging yet exciting academic times. I am here for any and all questions you have along the way. Best wishes for a successful academic year!