Tutoring: What It Can and Can’t Do for Your Child

By Beth Donofrio


Hiring a tutor is usually an effort to give the student more attention than she is able to receive in the classroom or during regular after-school homework help. But not all classroom teachers will recommend tutoring as the first option.

Kids who benefit most from tutoring include those who show a desire to improve; need organizational help; want to move ahead of the class; are interested in preparing for a specific test, such as the MCAS or SAT; or have an Individualized Education Plan for special needs.


Who is the Right Tutor?

Choices range from peer tutoring, to on-line tutoring, private tutoring, and agency tutoring. For the safety of the student, all potential tutors should be screened with a CORE (Criminal Offenses Records Evaluation), which is required in many school systems.

Large tutoring agencies, found in the phone book or on-line, may offer a guarantee of measurable success. Most offer courses in reading, writing, math, study skills and SAT prep. They also generally utilize national diagnostic tests to evaluate a student initially.

On-line help
is now available from a variety of sources, including eSylvan, a live, on-line tutoring Web site. You can also contact a reference librarian for help with services such as, which connects fourth through 12th graders with expert tutors for up to 20 minutes per session.

While some students may be more inclined to accept academic help from their peers, some professionals hesitate to recommend peer tutoring to parents, because teens may be unreliable or prone to straying from the task.


What Goes on During Tutoring?

In a tutoring session, should your student review work from the day’s classes, do homework, study for upcoming tests, or look ahead in the text to feel more ready for new concepts?

Tutors should be flexible, doing some of each of these tasks, according to your child’s needs.


How to Get Started

• Ask your child’s teacher for skill areas and materials to focus on.

• Write down the questions you want to ask of the tutor or the agency, including his qualifications, whether he will be in contact with your child’s teacher, and how you will be informed of your child’s progress.

• Check out agencies’ Web sites for more information on their techniques, structure and tutor qualifications.

• Talk to your child about school and tutoring.

This last point is crucial to the academic success of your child. Listen to any apprehensions he or she may have, and explain your own concerns as well. It’s essential that the child realize the importance of his own role in his educational success. Encourage him to view tutoring not as a punishment for poor progress, but as a means of tapping into untapped potential. Remind him of the great accomplishments that result from positive thinking, followed by goal-oriented action. And surround him with examples of great minds who have succeeded through sheer force of will.



The following area organizations offer tutoring for children. Visit their Web sites or contact each by phone to learn more about their services:

• The Learning Lab@ Lesley – 617-349-8570; – Affiliated with Lesley College, the Learning Lab offers numerous services for students of all abilities.

Commonwealth Learning Center – in Needham, 781-444-5193; in Danvers, 978-774-0094; in Sudbury, 978-579-9914.

• Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes, Arlington, 781-643-4567;

Huntington Learning Center, Liberty Tree Office, 85 Constitution Lane, Danvers, 978-777-1533 (or 1-800-226-5327 to find another location).

• Sylvan Learning Centers, multiple Massachusetts locations, 1-888-EDUCATE;

• Kaplan Inc., multiple locations,

Beth Donofrio is a freelance writer in Charleton, MA.