Category Archives: Tutors for All Blog: One Student At a Time

One Student At a Time

Tutors for All believes that the achievement gap will be closed in the trenches, one student at a time. This blog builds on our experience running individualized education programs for the last 8 years in district, charter, and parochial schools.

Element #7 of Highly Effective Tutorial: Leveraged Subsidies for Service (Part One)

You’ve followed our series this far, so you know what it takes to run a highly effective tutorial program. High-quality oversight, professionalized tutors, and balanced collaboration and autonomy, to name a few factors. You’re ready to go. There’s just one question, however. What’s all this going to cost?

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Well I’m not going to lie to you — individualized instruction changes lives, but it doesn’t come cheaply.  There’s a reason why the highest quality Tutoring and Test Prep orgs (shout out to local start-up Signet Education here, one of the best) can charge upwards of $100 an hour and still have students waiting in line for their services.

That being said, if you’re going to truly have Tutors for All (not some), you have to take advantage of each and every available economy at your disposal.  That means mastering the bewildering landscape of subsidies for service and then leveraging the heck out of them.  Below are a few sources for highly subsidized (or free!) tutors that you should have available..  Check back in a few days for some tips on how to make each work for you.

College and Graduate Students

  • Federal Work-Study
  • Service-Learning programs, especially ones that are tied to scholarships
  • Education, Sociology, Public Policy Classes and Departments
  • Fraternities and Sororities, many of which have service requirements

Recent College Graduates

  • Stipend for service “Corps” programs
  • Volunteer placement organizations such as Boston Cares
  • Networking events by groups such as Socializing for Justice

Professionals, retirees and/or mid-career changers

  • Partnership with local retirement community
  • Partnership with local churches
  • Partnership with local service organizations (Kiwanis, Elks, etc)

#BridgingtheGap Annual Appeal Campaign – We Did It!

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In case you haven’t heard, the results are in on this year’s annual appeal – and we’re proud to announce that we’ve raised a record-breaking $21,460! Thank you to all our supporters, including former tutors, friends and family, and our anonymous matching donor for all their generosity. This year, we set our sights on raising $20,000, an ambitious 33% more than our goal of $15,000 last year and more money than we’ve ever raised for our annual campaign – so being able to surpass that has been an even greater accomplishment. 

What made this year’s fundraising campaign so successful? We made a variety of changes this year that helped us surpass our goal. First was the addition of Development Coordinator Bob Hornstein, whose background in fundraising proved an invaluable resource. Secondly, we began our campaign at the beginning of December, allowing us more time to reach donors at multiple touch-points throughout the month and in a variety of ways. We sent letters and emails, made phone calls, and spread word via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to reach as many people as possible to let them know about the campaign and the opportunity they had to give back. Finally, we reached out to our former tutors, many of whom have since graduated college and are pursuing diverse career paths, from earning PhDs in psychology and biology to working for CBS, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and City Year. It was a great opportunity to reconnect and hear about their work, and even greater to receive their support.

So, what comes next?  

  1. For those who have donated, look out for an email from us about matching gifts, which are an easy way to double your impact through your workplace. Have a gift eligible for matching, or want to check if you do? Email bhornstein@tutorsforall.org with your information.
  2. Making sure that we don’t just talk with our supporters once a year, but that we keep in touch throughout the year, reconnecting with former tutors and students and connecting with new friends of the organization. Help us keep in touch! If you are a former tutor or student, send an email update to spark@tutorsforall.org letting us know how you’re doing and what you’re up to so we can feature you in future posts!
  3. Lastly, even though spring is far away, we’re already hard at work on a certain beloved springtime athletic event… stay tuned for more details soon!

With all our gratitude,

Tutors for All Staff

Staff Profile: Bob Hornstein, Development Coordinator

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Bob started off in the for-profit world, but nowadays he uses his sales and marketing skills to help build a better world – most recently by helping us raise our greatest annual appeal amount yet. He sat down with us and talked about his background, what brought him to T4A, and what he’s looking forward to in 2016.

 

 

1) Tell us about yourself (where are you from, what do you like to do):

I grew up in Rhode Island and while I was in college I knew that I wanted to live in Boston, so the day after I graduated I moved to Boston and have been here ever since.  My first job was working as a cabana boy at a private beach club and I have always enjoyed being near the ocean.  Nowadays I constantly question why I live in a place where summer isn’t year-round, but I have no desire to move.  

2) What were you doing before you began working with Tutors for All?

The first half of my career was in sales and sales management in the for-profit world.  As I climbed the corporate ladder I was motivated by money and success.  Then I went through some life-changing events and made the decision to do mission-driven work in the nonprofit sector. I spent ten years working at a nonprofit health clinic, Pathways to Wellness, where I created a marketing department and worked on client retention, outreach and fundraising.  

3) What drew you to Tutors for All?

The mission of T4A is what interested me the most about my position here.  Access to a good education at all grade levels is the key to a successful future, not just for the individual student, but also for the community at large.

4) What has been the best part of working here so far?

I really enjoy being a team player and I like the way Mark encourages everyone to contribute ideas.  I am also very proud that my first major project here, our annual appeal campaign, has been a great success. I have to admit, the old salesperson in me really likes achieving goals. Actually, that’s not true – I really like over-achieving, so when I am given a goal I love to go above and beyond what is expected.     

5) What are you most looking forward to in your work with T4A in 2016?

When I was interviewing for my position here I became keenly aware of some of the long term goals that were being set for T4A.  While these goals will take several years to accomplish, I look forward to working hard to propel T4A to the next level and getting us closer to hitting the long term goals.   

6) Lastly, did you make any new years resolutions? If so, what were they and why?

I generally do not make New Years resolutions.  I have always believed that if you want to set a goal for yourself you shouldn’t wait until January 1st to do it; as soon as you decide to set a goal (or resolution) for yourself, you start that day.  But yes, in the past I have made different resolutions and found myself breaking them within weeks or days.  One year I made a New Years resolution to lose weight and cut down on sweets.  But around 2:00pm on New Years day I decided to bake a cake.  Oh, well – so much for that!   

Bridging the Gap: Tutors for All’s 2015 Annual Appeal Campaign

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“I like when Natashia knows that I don’t get something, and I also like how when she comes in to tutorial she always has a smile on her face… I would recommend tutorial for my friends that need it because you get paired with someone who cares about your education and wants to help you.”
Deja, 8th Grade T4A Student
 
Dear readers,
Tutors for All is experiencing exciting growth this year. We’re expanding our work at Codman Academy, continuing our work with the Tobin School and Massachusetts General, establishing a program at Boston Green Academy, and crafting a partnership with Squashbusters, a sport-based youth enrichment program. 

 

As our programs expand, we are embarking on our most ambitious organizational growth plan yet: laying groundwork that will take us from a small non-profit under the wing of Third Sector New England to a stand-alone non-profit venture. With your help, we hope to reach beyond the city of Boston and introduce our programs on a statewide level within the next three to five years. We have some hard work ahead of us, but we know that it is possible. 

 

With your help, we will achieve success. This year more than ever, your tax-deductible donation will go a long way as we prepare for these momentous changes. If you have donated to us previously, we ask you to join our “one-up” challenge by increasing your previous donation. If you have never donated, we ask you to dig deep, remembering either your own struggles when you were in school or those of a close friend, and how a program like ours could have helped. 
 
Make a tax-deductible donation to us today by donating online or by sending us a check made out to Third Sector New England/Tutors for All at 89 South Street LL02, Boston, MA 02111. 

 

All gifts, no matter the size, will make a difference. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Mark Destler, Executive Director

Element #6 of Highly Effective Tutorial: Tutors for All, Not Some

Welcome to Part Six of our “Seven Key Elements to Effective Tutorial” series. These are aspects we’ve identified over our long history of working with students, tutors, teachers, and schools that we believe are necessary for a successful tutorial program.

Today’s topic, “Tutors for All (Not Some)” is one that’s incredibly important to us – so much so that it’s our name! So why is a “tutors for all” mindset so important to running a successful tutorial program?

The easy answer would be “because ‘Tutors for Some’ just doesn’t sound as catchy.” The truth, however, is that while not all students struggle in the same way with the same problems, all students do benefit from greater individual assistance while learning. Providing individual tutorial time for all students, not just those who need it the most, positively impacts each student on an individual level and carries massive benefits for the class as a whole.

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No matter where you might lie on the growth spectrum, all of us always have room to improve.

There are four main reasons “tutors for all, not some” is so important to our model.
1) It removes stigma. Students are hyper-aware of how they are perceived by their classmates. If a group of students is singled out for tutoring while others are not, everyone knows that they need help, those students feel self-conscious as a result, and tutorial time risks turning into a space of embarrassment and resentment. By instituting tutorial across the board,  this dynamic disappears. Since everyone is required to attend, struggling students don’t feel singled out for needing help. And even students who aren’t get the chance to further sharpen their skills. In essence, there’s never an end to learning.

2. It empowers teachers to raise expectations. All teachers have faced this timeless dilemma: challenge students who are at or above grade level, or meet the needs of students who struggling to keep up? This question is even more difficult for those working with underserved students, as most students enter their grade several years behind and the question becomes, “Do I teach to the students, or teach to the curriculum?” Tutors for All came from Executive Director Mark Destler experiencing this exact problem and then seeing the transformation that occurred when his students received tutorial. “When my students were well prepared, I was a pretty good teacher,” he noted. “But when they weren’t, I wasn’t – I couldn’t be.” With the addition of tutorial, teachers are able to take that time that would’ve otherwise been spent going over fundamentals and instead spending it doing what they should be: engaging all students in the material.

3. It leverages economies of scale. On a more practical side, ‘tutors for all, not some’ makes more sense not just from an educational standpoint but also from a logistical standpoint.  Certain costs come with establishing any program no matter the size; the more students you have participating, the more you benefit from the resources provided.

4. Finally, it raises up the whole student cohort. Like the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats,” tutorial for all students provides both tangible benefits, like all students being better prepared for class, and intangible benefits. You can’t measure the shift in students’ attitudes as they begin feel more capable, confident, and excited about learning, but you can feel it.

Tutor Spotlight: Russell Thomson

12188397_132812243743582_2067484692_n (1) 12202099_132812200410253_141794553_n (1)Russell Thomson, a tutor at Maurice Tobin K-8 School program, is a senior at Boston University majoring in biomedical engineering (“As a kid I loved reading sci-fi so I figured this was my best chance to bio-engineer dragons,” he says). Though he’s only been with us a short period of time, he has already formed a tight bond with his student, Geo. He talked with us about his relationship with Geo, how rewarding tutoring is, and how his T4A experience has shaped his plans to run his own classroom one day.

How did you hear about Tutors for All?

I was looking for opportunities to get involved with the community. As an engineering major, a lot of my time is very, let’s say, self-oriented. All you do is work: homework, projects, et cetera. I like to feel useful, and I wanted to find a way where I could help by helping others.

Honestly, I found Tutors for All just by Googling. My first time meeting anyone from Tutors for All was when I met Kate and Joe (Tobin’s Program Manager and Program Coordinator) at my training interview; it wasn’t your typical interview, and I liked that it was part of the training course – it seemed a little more dynamic, and less of a spotlight situation. I was hired as a tutor, and I’ve been with Tutors for All since mid-September, and so far it’s been great.

Tell us about the student you work with.

My student’s name is Geo, and he’s in the 6th grade at Tobin. Our relationship started off a little rocky, because he didn’t really want to be there, and didn’t understand why he had to be there. Now, it’s a little better, and he’s started opening up about his personal life. One thing is that he’s really into starting his own business – he’s even started his own little business in school. He likes to craft and make little paper figures like stars, and claws, and he sells them to other students, and even teachers. So a lot of the time we end up talking about that, and how his business is going.

What’s been your most memorable experience so far?

I can’t say that I have one favorite single moment – but my favorite part of tutoring so far is seeing how far I’ve come in building a relationship with Geo. He started off pretty antagonistic, and just didn’t want to do anything; the process of breaking down his barriers, getting to know him, finding out who he is, and what makes him tick – the sum total of that experience, and being able to look back on our progress, is definitely my favorite part.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

I actually want to become a teacher, a high school math teacher to be exact. I love the experience of teaching, of breaking down concepts so that they can be more easily understood.

I’d made the decision before working with Tutors for All, and that was actually partly why I wanted to get involved. I plan to keep myself open to whatever’s needed most as a teacher, but working with Tutors for All has really helped open my eyes to the various components of education, and how many different things need to come together in order for a teacher to be effective. So it’s definitely helped evolve my perspective on teaching.

What kind of student were you when you were Geo’s age?

I was kind of a shy, reclusive student. Especially at that age, since I loved to read more than I loved math, I probably would’ve been that student who’s reading a book under the desk, ignoring the teacher’s instructions.

Any final words of wisdom for fellow tutors, or others who hope to go into education?

Enthusiasm is infectious. You need to be excited to be there for your students to be excited to be there; otherwise, they’ll latch onto your negativity and it’ll become a sort of motivational disease. So no matter what, it’s important to stay positive.

Making A Difference This Semester and Beyond

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Paul Mykos first discovered his love for tutoring as a student in his native country of Greece when he and a friend organized a weekly tutoring program for 1st-9th grade students. Now he’s a sophomore studying Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University, a choice which he credits to his own mentors in high school who imparted in him a passion for math and science.

Photo2Having first learned about Tutors for All his freshman year, Paul was quick to get involved. “I was looking to get involved with a tutoring program, but Tutors for All in particular impressed me, partly because it was the only organization that could prove it was making a difference, and partly because T4A’s reps clearly did what they did because they believed in it,” he said. He worked for a semester at the Mass General program and found himself partnered with Jennifer, a high school student originally from Colombia. “We contributed to each other’s growth,” he said. “When Jennifer mastered concepts which she previously thought were way beyond her level, we both felt so proud!”

When Paul’s English professor gave his class an assignment to present on something they felt passionate about and wanted to advocate for, he knew immediately what his topic would be. As he began researching for his presentation, however, he found that Tutors for All’s impact was even bigger than he first realized. “What we do is not just plain tutoring,” he said. “Through tutoring and mentoring, we are achieving something much bigger and significant. I strongly believe that any student should have the opportunity to attend college if they work hard regardless of ethnicity, social status or family income, and everyone should have the right to build a better future for themselves. What we do helps people achieve that, through education.” Paul’s passion for T4A even helped educate his fellow classmates.  “I could see everyone nodding in agreement while I was talking,” he said.  “Some classmates even told me that they had never thought about how lucky they were to be able to attend college.”

Paul sees tutoring as an important part of his life, and hopes that his work will convince others to see it that way, too. “Tutors for All has helped me realize how rewarding and precious it is to be able to help others and contribute to their improvement,” he said. “In the same way that my mentors were able to inspire me, I also hope to inspire and make a difference for everyone I have the privilege of mentoring.”

Element #5 of Highly Effective Tutorial: Regular Assessment and Progress Monitoring

Over the past few months, we’ve been discussing what we call the “7 Key Elements to Effective Tutorial” to break down the uniting themes among our programs, provide a road map to providing a successful tutorial program, and generate a conversation among experts and beginners alike on how effective programs work. Those elements are:

  1. High Quality Oversight
  2. Professionalization of Tutors
  3. 1:1 or 1:2 Ratios
  4. Balanced Collaboration and Autonomy
  5. Regular Assessment and Progress Monitoring
  6. Tutors for All (not Some)
  7. Leveraged Subsidies for Service

This month, we’ll be discussing Element #5: Regular Assessment and Progress Monitoring, and why these are so important.

91dbee0d-26d4-42ed-bd02-7a3af8296aac At an early Tutors for All planning meeting, erstwhile Match School Dean of Students (and current Assistant Principal of Central Queens Academy) Glenn Liebeck shared his vision of assessment in tutorial programs: they should be frequent, they should be regular, and they should be a big deal.

Think about The Biggest Loser on TV, he said.  Everyone knows when they’re going to be weighed in, and everyone knows how they do on the scales. The result is a level of excitement, accountability, and investment in results that is absent in everyday life, let alone school.

While Tutors for All never went all in on the publicity front — NBC didn’t offer us the airtime — we have been informed by and always believed in Glenn’s vision.

What does that mean in practice? First, that we start our tutorial programs with an assessment, the “Show What you Know.” We do leave time for relationship building, clear articulation of expectations, and other areas of importance for effective instruction.  However, we are up front with tutors and kids that tests happen, that tests matter, and that they will have multiple opportunities to get get better at these tests over the course of the a program.

Second, we give the assessment regularly, about once every 4 or 5 tutorial sessions.   This may seem like a lot; what kind of gains could realistically be expected after three or four hours of instruction?  The latest research on testing, however, shows that sitting down and being assessed has instructive as well as evaluative value.  The process of taking a test requires and reinforces certain skills: recollection, connection, and application — that “stick” long after the assessment is over.  Up to point, the more students take tests, the more they apply what they’re learning, the more they learn.

Third, we identify and celebrate growth as it happens, in as close to real time as possible.  Take that second assessment, for example.  While most students won’t have achieved big gains after three or four tutorial sessions, invariably a few will.  Identifying and celebrating those students makes a huge difference for the level of investment for the tutors and the students moving forward.

Making the Show What You Know central, frequent, and important plays a big role in how we run our programs and why they are successful.  At the same time, it’s not the only assessment that happens in Tutors for All programs.

We assess our tutors through observation of their sessions with students.  Our tutors assess us, giving us feedback as to how to better structure and administer programs. Finally, our students assess us, using criteria that were developed through years of talking to kids and learning what is really appreciated.   In all of these areas, the frequency and regularity of the monitoring is what makes the difference.

 

Tutor Spotlight: Super-Recruiter Melinda Pigeon

Melinda, a second year pre-med student at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, has been a tutor with us since fall 2014. In that short time, she’s recruited six new tutors to our ranks – the most referrals ever accomplished by one person! We asked her to tell us more about how she got involved and her passion for student progress.

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How did you first find out about Tutors for All?

I found out about Tutors for All last year during my freshman year, when I was looking for work study jobs to apply for. I love kids and have always been good at math so it seemed like the perfect way to spend my time.

What made you want to come back and serve with Tutors for All again?

Tutors for All became something that I looked forward to each week. I loved watching my student progress each week. Not only did my student seem to be understanding more, I noticed that she was growing more and more confident with herself. My second semester with Tutors for All I was a lead tutor. This was a great opportunity as it gave me more opportunity to reach out to the other tutors and hear about their experiences. Tutors for All became so much a part of my weekly schedule that upon getting my tentative fall 2015 schedule last spring, I moved classes around so as to free up some time for tutoring. I think that Tutors for All is a great program and very beneficial to not just the students, but also the tutors throughout Boston.

How many friends did you get to join up?

I believe last year I got around 5 or 6 friends to join up. This year, I’ve been spreading the word on many Boston college Facebook pages and through email, so hopefully we will see some new faces resulting from that.

What did you do to convince your friends to join T4A as well?

A lot of people I knew had heard me talking about how proud I was of my student and with her progress throughout the first semester. They would ask me how I found the position and how they could get involved. Everyone seemed to really just jump at the opportunity, whether it was volunteer or work study. With the people that I didn’t know, the ones that reached out due to my Facebook posts, I presented them with my story. I focused on describing how rewarding it had become to actually be able to see the progress and to know that what you’re doing for these kids really will impact their future. In the beginning, you really could see the impact of the achievement gap; the lack of opportunities present for encouragement and teaching skills inhibited students from reaching their full potential. Tutors for All provides these children with the encouragement and skills that they need to not only get ahead for the time being, but also provides them with a sense of confidence they can continue to build throughout life.

What did you end up using your Amazon gift cards on?

I used my Amazon gift cards to buy myself a Fitbit. Going into the medical field, I try to lead a healthy lifestyle. Buying a Fitbit has helped me make a few lifestyle changes such as eating healthier and taking up running.

Want to become a super-recruiter like Melinda? We offer a $25 Amazon gift card to the source of all referrals that end in a hire. We seek experienced individuals who have a passion for education and community outreach with skills in leadership and teaching. Recommenders can direct applicants to http://www.tutorsforall.org/tutoring/.

Meet Tutors for All’s New Staff!

This month was a busy month at Tutors for All as we said hello not just to a new year of students and tutors, but to three new staff members: Program Coordinator Joe Alvarez, Program Manager Kate Ferrell, and Growth and Partnerships Coordinator Stephanie Park! They shared a little bit about themselves and what brought them to Tutors for All.

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 From left: Kate Ferrell, Joe Alvarez, Stephanie Park

Kate comes on board as the new Program Manager for the Tobin School and Boston Green Academy.  She is a ten year veteran educator who spent 8 years in the classroom teaching high school history and Adult ESL, then two years running a vocational program for a non-profit agency that served youth in foster care throughout the greater Boston area.  She graduated from UMASS, Amherst in 2004 with a B.A. in History, and went on to graduate from the same higher learning institution with a Masters of Education in 2005 through the “180 Days in Springfield” Project.  She has committed her career to providing excellent educational services to youth in underserved communities and is thrilled to be part of the Tutors for All team.  Her passions also include spending time in nature, learning new things, yoga, meditation, and bringing mindfulness into all aspects of daily living.

Stephanie joins Tutors for All as a 2015-16 AmeriCorps New Sector Resident in Social Enterprise (RISE) fellow. She will be working to develop and execute the Tutors for All growth plan by engaging in board and fund development, partnerships, and marketing. After graduating from Scripps College in 2013 with a major in cultural studies, she spent two years abroad in South Korea, first as an English teacher at an all-boys high school through the Fulbright program, and then as the assistant projects coordinator with a grassroots progressive Korean organization. Her experiences as a teacher and community organizer have led to her passion for providing organizations with the support and capacity they need to carry out their work, and have provided the perfect nexus for her work at Tutors for All.

Joseph is the new program coordinator for Tutors for All, and will be working to help support the Codman, Tobin, and Boston Green Academy sites.  After graduating from Boston University in 2013, Joseph spent two years an AmeriCorps service member.  His first year he worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in Waukesha, Wisconsin helping to oversee a youth mentorship program run through Carroll University and Waukesha County.  His second year brought him back to Boston to serve as AmeriCorps fellow with Tenacity, serving at the Mario Umana Middle School in East Boston.  His experiences from his service have made him passionate about education and bridging the achievement gap that exists here in Boston.  In his spare time, Joseph loves to play soccer and tennis at Moakley Park or spend a nice day reading out on the Esplanade.