August 29, 2013

The five things that every tutor trainer should know

By Daniel A. Weinstein, PhD, Director of Faculty Development & Assessment, Capital University, originally printed in the National Tutoring Association Tree Newsletter, Fall 2012

Dan Weinstein conducts a tutor training at the 2012 National Tutoring Association conference.

Tutoring is perhaps the most engaging and enriching form of instruction there is!  More and more students today benefit from the tutoring experience than ever before.  Most teachers are well versed in good pedagogy, but sometimes to the exclusion of good andragogy.  The key is making a positive connection with the student on a one-to-one or small group basis.  This is instruction and enlightenment that is sort of at variance with our usual way of going about teaching, yet it is an easy switch for most teachers to make once they are shown how to approach it.

Tutor training, as well, is a delicate and intricate process.  The guidelines are fairly simple – present to teachers much of what they already know at a pedagogical level, yet better suited for individual instruction.  Always remember that they are already teaching professionals and that sensitivity with them will go a long way.  In this piece, I lay out for the reader the five hallmark things that every tutor trainer should know.  By no means is the list exhaustive or exclusive.  It is meant to highlight some of the main points that tutor trainers should keep in mind and certainly abide by as they gravitate toward the world of individualized and small group instruction.

  1. Ethics: It is actually easy to cross the ethics line without even giving it much thought.  Tutors have been known to “teach to the test,” do home-work for the students and test students in the manner they see most ᴀt.  Part of tutor training clearly addressed this issue and presents ideas and options for tutors given the ethics involved in tutoring.
  2. Communication: The importance of good communication cannot be emphasized enough.   A lot of trouble in most of life can be traced back to poor communication.  Certainly given the instructional nature of tutoring, tutor training addresses skills, best practices and teachable moments that focus on appropriate communication in a one-on-one and small group instructional environment.
  3. Critical Thinking: Tutor training features the important component of teaching students how to think and question – especially when it comes to critical thinking.  A good tutor knows how to instruct students to ask questions, rely on facts and interpret information, to name just a few.  In addition, good thinking instruction teaches students to avoid thinking ruts and procrastination.
  4. Assessment Methods: Assessment is often viewed as testing, but it’s really more than that.   Tutors should know that assessment is measurement that’s based on a standard or target.  Tutors must be able to assess if students are achieving intended outcomes and if they are ready to move up to the next level of learning.  End-of-session summaries, think-alouds and observations are additional ways that tutors can do assessment of intended student learning outcomes. With doing proper assessment, there’s no real way of knowing that students got what you intended out of tutoring.
  5. Tips for Successful Studying: While this one may seem “tongue in cheek,” it is crucial for any student who wishes to be successful.   The establishment of mutual expectations and preparation for the learning process are top tips for successful studying.  Students should also be aware of appropriate study areas and learning styles.  It is truly amazing to see the difference that these tips can have on student success.

All in all, tutor training is an opportunity for teachers to engage in professional self-reflection.  Tutor certification helps to ensure that teachers understand and abide by the basic rules of tutoring.  These are skills that are not just innate within all teachers.  Most of these skills have to be learned – sometimes over and over again.  And every tutor trainer should know that.


This article was featured in Fall 2012 issue of The Tree, and reprinted with permission of the National Tutoring Association, © 2012.

Filed under: Associations,Small Private Practices,Training/Education

August 23, 2013

Woot Math: Program mimics tutor for middle schoolers

Summary: Woot Math, scheduled to launch in August 2013, includes concept explanations, examples and the opportunity for students to do problems on their own. Teachers can then check how students did the work, allowing them an additional window into what students did right and where they went off track. The program can be customized by a teacher or parent to meet individual learners’ needs.

By Heather McWilliams, originally published 6/7/2013 in the Boulder County Business Report

The braintrust of Nimbee LLC includes vice president for engineering Sean Kelly and chief executive Krista Marks, standing, and vice president for products Jeff Ward, left, and vice president for research and development Brent Milne, seated.

Members of the tech team that created the wildly successful creative learning software Kerpoof — acquired by Disney in 2007 — hope to forge a trail into math classrooms across the nation later this summer with new educational software.

The Boulder-based startup Nimbee LLC was formed in March and already is creating buzz with its Woot Math program.

Woot is a term in social media that means excitement.

“Essentially, Woot Math is targeted at helping middle-school mathematics teachers with the range of fluency in math learners,” said Krista Marks, Nimbee’s chief executive and co-founder. Nimbee’s other founding members include Tom Fischaber, Sean Kelly, Brent Milne and Jeff Ward, all part of the Kerpoof leadership or creative team. After moving on from Kerpoof, the group wanted to continue work in education.

“I think we are so committed and passionate about helping teachers,” Marks said. “We decided to focus on how to do more and how to make their job easier.”

The company is currently self-funded and hopes to address common stumbling blocks among middle-school math students, such as understanding fractions, decimals, ratios and percents. Such gaps in learning or fluency must be bridged for students to succeed with increasingly complicated material presented in middle school and beyond, Marks said.

While still in the early stages — Woot Math won’t officially launch until August — the initial iterations of the program offer students an electronic experience meant to mimic that of a personal tutor, Marks said. The program can be customized by a teacher or parent to meet individual learners’ needs. Such individualization means a student needing supplemental instruction in one area doesn’t have to wade through superfluous instruction on additional topics.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Study Tools,Technology

August 14, 2013

School district to forgo private companies, pay teachers to tutor struggling students

Summary: Alachua County Public Schools will stop using private tutoring companies as part of a federal initiative to improve learning at low-performing schools, and instead will pay teachers to provide after-school tutoring. This follows an amendment to NCLB by the Florida Board of Education to allow school districts to discontinue the use of agreements with private SES-approved tutoring programs. The Title 1 District Supervisor reviews how in the past SES funding was allocated by providers to students, student enrollment was managed, and the impact of evening tutoring.

By Erin Jester, Staff writer,, originally published 6/19/13

Alachua County Public Schools will stop using private tutoring companies as part of a federal initiative to improve learning at low-performing schools, and instead will pay teachers to provide after-school tutoring.

The Florida Board of Education on Tuesday approved a measure that would give school districts more flexibility with Supplementary Educational Services, a tutoring initiative established under the No Child Left Behind Act. With Tuesday’s amendment, school districts will have more freedom to negotiate with SES-approved private tutoring companies, or to end partnerships with the private companies and use the funding for other services that are allowed under Title I. Title I funding is provided to low-income schools that need the most academic support.

Everett Caudle, director of project development for Alachua County Public Schools, said the district is opting to stop using outside providers. “We could do things like provide tutoring here, in house, so to speak,” Caudle said.

For the 2012-2013 school year, Alachua County received $612,079 in Title I funding specifically for SES tutoring. With that money, Caudle said the district instead could pay teachers to give after-school tutoring, buy supplemental curriculum programs, provide pullout programs for struggling students, hire additional teaching staff or extend the school year to allow for more summer programs.

While the full plan hasn’t been finalized, “we’re not going to do SES, and we’re not going to do private providers,” said Pam Diaz, supervisor II for Title I programs in the district.

To read more click here.

Filed under: NCLB

August 6, 2013

Federal audit dings Columbus schools on tutor money

Summary: The Columbus City Schools Title 1 tutoring program has come under renewed scrutiny following a shutdown of the program under the federal waiver program. A recent federal report notes the district didn’t carry over some unspent SES program funds while failing to notify the state of unused funds .

by Bill Bush, The Columbus Dispatch, originally published 6/3/13

Columbus City Schools didn’t spend millions of federal dollars it was allocated for student tutoring and didn’t provide records showing the money was properly spent on other allowable programs, a U.S. Department of Education report says.

The report concluded that the district didn’t comply with federal requirements over three school years for spending more than $5.6 million of federal Title I money intended to help poor children through after-school tutoring. The money was allocated from fall 2008 until spring 2011.

The tutoring program was shut down by state officials through a federal waiver amid an allegation of fraud by some tutoring providers. One Columbus tutor has been indicted federally so far. The district didn’t carry over any unspent tutoring funds for the program, called Supplemental Educational Services or SES, from one year to the next, nor did it notify the state that it had any unused funds, as required by federal law, the report states.

“Critically, however, (the district) also did not provide documentation that it met the criteria to spend unexpended amounts on other allowable activities, nor did it provide the requisite notice” to the state that it was spending the money on other things, the audit found. The federal agency also requested that the state Education Department provide documentation to prove the money was spent on allowable programs.

The federal report essentially overturns a state Education Department finding from 2011 that the district had met the requirements of the tutoring program. The program used federal No Child Left Behind dollars, and districts were required to set aside 20 percent of the yearly grant for after-school tutoring to qualified students.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Government,NCLB


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