Wednesday, November 23, 2011

10 Bay Area Students Need Your Help Before December 31st

"No doubt [a tutor] will provide an encouraging spirit to those who have lost hope on these subjects. I hope they not only help me but teach me to muster all efforts to accomplish academic goals." - Rachel, 11th grade scholarship applicant
"I am an unemployed parent. I have three other children and live off $1,000 monthly. I believe that all children deserve to have an opportunity to better their life, especially my daughter. Danielle is a great worker and takes pride in what she does." - Mother of scholarship applicant
By now, you’ve probably seen our video featuring Ashanti and her tutor Sarah. Ashanti is one of more than one hundred students who have received free tutoring through the Tutorpedia Foundation. We've been fortunate to have so many committed donors and supporters, and we're incredibly grateful.

This year, we received twice as many scholarship applications as last year. While several students have been matched with tutors and are making great progress, we need additional funding to provide scholarships for the remaining 10 students whose tutoring we have not yet been able to fund. Starting today, we need your help to make sure that these ten very deserving students like Rachel have the chance to work with their own tutor for the rest of this school year. By donating now, you’ll help us fund life-changing scholarships for these students, and as an extra bonus you’ll help secure us a permanent place on, where thousands of passionate donors like you can learn more about the Tutorpedia Foundation.

The GlobalGiving Open Challenge starts now, and they’ve set the goal for us of raising $4,000 from 50 individuals before the end of the year. We’re taking it a step further, and asking you to help us raise the full $10,000 we need to fund tutoring for our remaining scholarship students.
There are a number of ways to help us make this happen:
  • Make a donation of any amount today on GlobalGiving
  • Forward this email to family, friends, colleagues and others who care about providing educational opportunities to underserved students
  • Share our project on Facebook, Twitter or another social media site with this link:
Thank you for all of your support, we couldn’t do it without you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

How to Stay Involved in Your Child’s Education

Six Ways Parents Can Get Involved in Their Child’s Education at Home and at School
Guest Post by Tatyana Kuperman
Parents are the central figures in the lives of their children. In fact, parents have the MOST important influence on their child’s education and achievement in school. Researchers who study effects of parental involvement on children’s education and student achievement found that parental involvement in child and adolescent education generally benefits children’s learning and translates into academic gains in all grades (elementary school through high school). Across a range of studies, findings show that children whose parents are actively involved perform better in school, achieve greater academic success, and navigate more easily through some of the challenges of growing up. Moreover, children with involved parents also have higher self-esteem, increased motivation, better attitudes about school, and fewer behavioral problems.

Every day, parents have a fresh opportunity to get involved, increasing their child’s chances for success in school and beyond. Here is a list of six ways parents can get involved in their child’s education at home and at school.

Six Ways Parents Can Get Involved At Home:

1. Establish a daily family routine
  • Plan a routine that works for you and your child and keep it consistent
  • Provide time and quiet place to study (a study area should have good lighting, plenty of school supplies, books, pens/pencils, calculator, dictionary, and blank paper)
  • Set aside specific amount of time for homework
2. Monitor out-of-school activities
  • Set limits on TV watching and the use of technology (computers, Itouch/Ipad, etc.)
  • Check-up on children when they are at home alone
  • Arrange for after-school activities and supervised care
3. Model the value of learning, self-discipline, and hard work
  • Communicate through questioning and conversation
  • Demonstrate that achievement comes from hard work and dedication
  • Provide opportunities to develop responsibility and self-discipline
4. Express high but realistic expectations for achievement
  • Set goals and standards that are appropriate for child’s age and maturity level
  • Recognize and encourage special talents (music, art, dance, etc.)
  • Inform friends and family about success
5. Encourage your child’s development and learning progress
  • Structure a home that is both educationally stimulating and supportive of your child’s school work
  • Show genuine interest in your child’s work and progress at school
  • Have child’s work on display at home, on the refrigerator, and in their room
  • Help with homework and school projects
  • Discuss the value of a good education and possible career/college options
6. Encourage reading and discussions among family members
  • Read to your children and practice reading aloud
  • Talk about what is being read
  • Encourage the whole family to read
  • Have an open family discussion about reading
  • Build love for reading as a family
Six Ways Parents Can Get Involved At School:

1. Get to know your child’s teacher and form a partnership
  • Set-up a time to speak with your child’s teacher and schedule regular parent-teacher meetings in advance
  • Develop and maintain an on-going communication plan with your child’s teacher (weekly emails, phone calls, check-up times, and regular parent-teacher conferences)
  • Ask your child’s teacher what you can do to help at home
  • Check-in about any troublesome issues
  • Give your child’s teacher information about your child that is going to best help her/him to educate your child (Here is a video that shows how parents can communicate with teachers and create a strong parent-teacher relationship
2. Check the school’s website, newsletter, and a bulletin board on the regular basis
  • Check the school’s website for the latest school news and information (at some schools teachers develop their own web pages and post updates on homework assignments, field trips, and other information about your child’s classroom)
  • Check the school’s newsletter and a bulletin board for any announcements and updates of what’s going on in the upcoming week/month (at some schools parents can subscribe to receive the school’s newsletter by email)
3. Become a school volunteer
  • Help out in your child’s classroom or volunteer during special school events (school plays, concerts, talent shows, etc.)
  • Offer to organize an event for your child’s classroom or the entire school
  • Spend a day chaperoning school field trips
4. Attend a parent education workshop
  • Meet other parents in the community and attend a workshop together (parent education workshop are the best way for parents to learn about available resources and share ideas on how to get involved and stay connected)
  • Attend workshops on different topics (some great topics for school-age children include topics on “Bullying”, “Positive Parent-Child Communication”, and “Parenting in The Digital Age”)
5. Start a parent’s group and/or join a parent-school organization
  • Attend school board meetings
  • Join a local PTA (Parent Teacher Association) or PTO (Parent Teacher Organization)
  • Become a member of your district’s parent advisory committee
6. Become a community leader
  • Organize after school programs (mentorship programs, tutoring programs, parent education workshops, and school improvement projects)
  • Set up a meeting with teachers, parents, and community members to discuss how you can work together to improve the neighborhood school and raise student achievement
  • Collaborate with other community members and develop a “Family-School-Community Partnership Program”
  • Reach out to parents who don’t usually participate and try to get them involved
Remember that most children need their parents’ support both at home and at school. The more intensely parents are involved in their child’s education, the more beneficial the achievement effects, student learning, and overall success in school. Bottom line: High and consistent parent involvement equals greater academic achievement (which also means higher grades, test scores and graduation rates).

Looking for more tips and resources on how to get involved? Check out these great websites that parents can use as resources and guides on how to get involved.

PARENTS’ GUIDE TO RESOURCES - The National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education advocates the involvement of parents and families in their children’s education, and fosters relationships between home, school, and community to enhance the education of the entire nation’s young people. - Parent Involvement Matters recognizes the strong link between meaningful family involvement and children’s success in school and in life. Parent Involvement Matters advocates for building collaborative parent-school communities that promote networking, communication, and problem-solving. – Parent Teacher Association (PTA) is the largest volunteer child advocacy association in the nation. PTA reminds our country of its obligations to children and provides parents and families with a powerful voice to speak on behalf of every child while providing the best tools for parents to help their children be successful students. – Family Friendly Schools is dedicated to helping schools and districts around the country to increase student achievement by developing networks of integrated relationships between leaderships, staff, and families that creates a culture of high performance and learning outcomes. – Families and Schools is a nonprofit agency that designs and distributes family strengthening and parent involvement programs to help kids succeed in school and in life. Families and Schools develop programs that help families all across the world improve parenting skills and connect families to their schools. – Parents for Public Schools is a national organization of community-based chapters that promotes and strengthens public schools by engaging, educating, and mobilizing parents. – The National Center for Family Literacy inspires and engages families in the pursuit of education and learning together. - The Harvard Family Research Project is committed to meeting the growing demands for information on effective ways to support family involvement in children’s learning and development. – The mission of The Parent Institute is to encourage parent involvement in the education of their children. The Parent Institute publishes a variety of materials including newsletters, booklets, audio CDs, brochures, videos and presentation kits. – The Education Trust promotes high academic achievement for all students at all levels – pre-kindergarten through college. As part of its mission to raise the quality of education for all students, the Education Trust trains parents as Standards Bearers. It teaches parents what grade-level learning standards mean and how they can be used as tools for school reform. – Parent Institute for Quality Education creates partnerships between parents, students and educators to further student’s academic success. Their mission is t o bring schools, parents and communities together as equal partners in the education of every child. – This site networks parent-teacher organizations of all kids. PTO Today lists resources for parent group leaders and offers three products: a magazine, online discussion groups and PTO conference. Among its parent involvement suggestions are “School Family Nights” – The Project for School Innovation is an organization that has developed a series of books for parents and teachers. “Including Every Parent” highlights a model program of parent involvement that helps drive school success.

San Francisco Regional Centers and Resources

Parents For Public Schools – This is the site of a national organization with local chapters in many cities. They promote public schools and “A New Brand of Parent Involvement”

San Francisco Chapter of Parents for Public Schools – The San Francisco Chapter offers a downloadable Parent Involvement Handbook, an article on How to Market Your School and much more.

San Francisco Unified School District – The San Francisco Unified School District Web site showcases recipes by parents on how to complete various improvement projects.

Tatyana Kuperman is a child development specialist, parent educator, and a parenting coach. She supports parents in their remarkable journey of parenthood and is committed to helping parents become the best parents they can be. Tatyana's mission is to strengthen families by empowering parents to live happy, healthy, and well-balanced lives. She offers variety of education and coaching services for parents with children of all ages. For more information on Parent Education Workshops click here or visit

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dan Pink on Motivation: Not as Predictable As You'd Think

What motivates us? The traditional answer is that we are motivated by incentives. In practice, for adults those incentives tend to be money, prestige, and material goods. For students they might include grades, admission to the college of their choice, a free weekend even.

Last week, we stumbled upon an RSA Animate video adapted from Dan Pink's talk on motivation. In the talk, Dan exposes a scientific truth about motivation that is not widely discussed. Namely, that traditional incentives do not work when cognitive function is required. Dan concedes that for straightforward tasks, material rewards and incentives have the desired effect of increasing motivation. However, he points out, when the task at hand requires creative problem solving, incentives actually decrease motivation and result in poorer outcomes.

Dan focuses on the implications of this finding for businesses: how to motivate employees and keep them happy. Our thoughts turned to education. Nothing requires more cognitive, creative function than learning, and if traditional incentives are ineffective, it's critical that we, as educators, find out what is.

According to the Dan's explanation, the three cornerstones of increasing both satisfaction and performance in employees are: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Why these three things? Because when someone feels self-motivated, competent, and focused, they are happier and more likely to be productive. When we apply this model to students, the similarities can't be ignored. So the question becomes, how do we give students a sense of ownership over their educational outcomes?

At Tutorpedia, we often recall the four R's of modern education: education should be real, relevant, rigorous, and built on relationships. If these pillars are in place, Dan Pink's trifecta of motivation should follow. So how does that look for an educator, a teacher or a tutor? The truth is that thinking this way requires a significant shift. We can no longer assume that the good grade alone will be enough to truly motivate a student to learn. Instead, it is now our job to help the student become his or her own biggest educational advocate; to give them autonomy in their academic pursuits. Rather than pouring content into students' brains, we have to step back and figure out how to instill a lifelong love of learning in a student.

In a teacher-student relationship, autonomy does not mean complete independence. It means collaboration. When an educator is able to empower a student both to understand the relevance of the material and to challenge themselves to master it, the improvement itself will be enough to motivate the student to push forward. Mastery in this context means embracing and believing in the ability to improve.

Increasingly, Dan notes, both people and organizations want their actions to be informed by a purpose. There is no formula to this, but we believe that if we can help students realize their purpose; what it means to them to be a part of the world, perhaps we can help support healthy learning and, as Dan says, "get past the ideology of carrots and sticks." It might not be easy, but it will certainly be worthwhile.

Check out the video and share your thoughts:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

American Teacher: An Index

Percentage of students of color in US public schools: 35
Percentage of teachers of color in US public schools: 15
Percentage of male teachers in US public schools: 16
Economic benefit, per student's lifetime earnings, of a good teacher: $20,000
Economic benefit, per class, of a good teacher: $400,000
Avg. starting, and ending, salary for US teachers: $37,000; $57,000
Percentage of teachers in US who leave the profession within 5 years: 45
Cost of teacher turnover, in dollars per year, to the US economy: $7,340,000,000
Percentage of teachers in S. Korea, Singapore, and Finland, respectively, who leave the profession each year: 1, 2, 3
Rank of student achievement in S. Korea, Singapore, and Finland, respectively: 1, 2, 3

I saw a great movie last month, American Teacher, produced by author-educator-filmmaker Dave Eggers, and his partner at 826 Valencia, Ninive Calegari, that was simultaneously maddening and uplifting. The documentary spotlights five teachers, and was the latest in the education-as-movie genre to stir teachers, parents, and policy wonks in the debate over how to fix our public schools. The film was different, however, in its direct call-to-action: we need to recruit, develop, and pay our teachers more. More than any other factor - more than class size, more than technology, more than charter school autonomy - a quality teacher at the front of the classroom is the single most important factor that improves student achievement.

The movie is screening again November 21st at The Roxie in San Francisco, and I encourage all who care deeply about our students, our education system, and our future, to watch it. You may just want to join the conversation, and become a teacher yourself.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's College App Time!

For many the end of Halloween signifies the beginning of the big holiday season push. For us, however, and for millions of high school seniors, this time of year is connected to something even more important: college applications.

Fall of senior year can be an incredibly stressful time in a student's life. Not only are seniors working hard to keep their grades up and score high marks on the SATs, they're also faced with the new challenge of putting together applications that highlight all of the amazing things they've done over the past 17 years or so. It can be a daunting task.

Luckily, help is available. Our November deal offers 10% off tutoring services that can ease the process both for students and parents. This includes tutoring on the SAT, study skills, and college essay writing. Our tutors have been able to help students through the process and give them they tools they need to get into the college of their choice. Russ, the parent of a Menlo School graduate writes, "Hannah is headed to Princeton and I am happy to report that it would not have occurred without [Tutorpedia]'s tutoring in AP Chem. Thanks." Find your tutor now!

We'll also be doing a couple of free talks in the Bay Area for parents or students thinking about or in the midst of the college application process. We hope you can join us for one or both of the following talks:

Saturday November 5th: Tutorpedia's Director of Education, David Taus talks about the college application process. Talk will take place from 10 AM to 12 PM and will include a Q & A session. Location: Liberty Hill Baptist Church in Berkeley (at 9th and University). The event is put on in conjunction with the Berkeley High School African American Parents Group. For more information, email

Sunday November 6th: Tutorpedia Founder, Seth Linden talks about The SAT & Beyond in a combined seminar that explores skills that translate beyond the Big Test and discusses the underlying mechanisms of brain function. The talk will take place from 1-3 PM at the Marin JCC. More information here.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons ajagendorf25