Chances are, if you clicked on this blog link, you have experienced sticker shock when searching for a qualified tutor for your student. You may be thinking "it's just tutoring, WHY is it so expensive?"
It basically comes down to this... good instruction and intervention are not cheap, and cheap instruction and intervention are not good.
In this blog, we will dive into what you are actually paying for when you hire a truly qualified individual to work with your student.
At the end of the post, we will also share a huge hidden cost that could affect your family!
Who can become a tutor?
In fact, I find it a bit horrifying how many individuals are out in the world claiming they are qualified to provide instruction to students – let alone struggling students – because they have an expertise in the subject matter. It is all too common that people think that having specialized knowledge about a subject qualifies them to be able to teach about it. This could not be more incorrect.
Think of it like this... I happen to enjoy swimming and swam competitively when I was younger. However, I would never dream of calling myself qualified to teach a child to swim.
Unfortunately, this type of logic doesn't seem to carry over into tutoring.
What qualifications should I look for when hiring a tutor?
If we are trying to avoid the "expert" Joe Schmo who doesn't actually know anything about teaching and learning, how do we go about doing that?
First, a resume is something a tutor should offer without being asked. In your initial conversational, your potential tutor should clearly outline their teaching experience, subject matter education and experience, and other accomplishments or testimonials. You can often find this listed on their website or within their advertisement in advance, too.
Degrees and experience are all qualifications that make a tutor more expensive. This is because they have spent years training and furthering their education in order to proficiently help your struggling student learn.
If a tutoring rate seems significantly less expensive when compared to others, this is a likely reason for that.
What questions should I ask when hiring a tutor?
During your first conversation with the prospective tutor, I would focus my questions on the tutor's abilities and strategies for building relationships with students. I would also ask them to share anecdotes and success stories from previous clients. Finally, I believe a qualified tutor will be able to clearly lay out details explaining what sets them apart from other tutors.
What does an effective tutoring session look like?
It is important to remember that a tutor should never have a problem with you sitting in on a session, especially the first one.
(As a quick side note here: Many students work better without their parent present, but your tutor should communicate this with you as rapport is built and they've developed a relationship with your child.)
If you have a tutor that never wants you watching their lessons, this is a red flag.
So now that you are watching... what should you look for?
The first thing that should be very apparent is your child's comfort level with their tutor. Teachers understand that building relationships is an important part of instruction. It reduces anxiety and increases production and motivation. You should see your tutor express a genuine interest in your student and ask them about their day, likes, interests, favorite activities, etc... It can take time for your student to fully warm up, but the tutor's interest in who your child is as a person should be obvious.
Next, your tutor should have a good mix of explicit instruction and independent practice. One of the most important skills for tutors is the ability to teach and explain the same things in various ways. You should be able to notice them modeling the concept, and then gradually helping less. This leads to students ultimately doing their work confidently and with increasing independence.
Finally, and especially in the case of reading intervention, your tutor should keep the lesson moving with various activities built in to keep up student engagement. Teaching phonics can be very boring... so you want to make sure your tutor has spent an adequate amount of time prepping activities and instructional aids to make things engaging.
In general, most good tutors spend 45- to 60-minutes preparing materials that are individualized for each of their sessions, which is also accounted for in the price.
While some of these things seem simple... they're not.
It takes years of studying, practicing, and learning from varied experiences to understand how to implement these strategies effectively. All of which makes a tutor more expensive... but they are worth it.
What should I expect in terms of progress monitoring after starting sessions?
Documentation is an important part of effective tutoring.
Not only is it important for the parents to have access to information about what was covered in a session, but it is also important for the tutor. It also allows them to track and target problem areas while they plan for future areas of focus that are particularly challenging for your student. This data that is gathered is also essential data for progress monitoring and tracking.
Additionally, in a situation where the child is on an IEP or 504 plan, this data could even be shared with the school.
Documentation that is thorough and informative is also something that comes with practice and experience.
I am sure you are seeing a theme here... it contributes to the tutor's worth.
So let's break all this down into dollars...
Session Fee: $75 per hour, 2 sessions per week = $150 per week
Accounting and Expense Tracking: 10 minutes per week
Acquiring business licensure and insurance:1 minute per week/60 minutes per year
Maintaining licensure: 1 minute per week/60 minutes per year
Professional Development: 3 minutes per week/3 hours per year minimum
Marketing: 60 minutes per week
Initial and Ongoing Family Consultation: 15 minutes per week
Lesson Prep: 120 minutes per week/per student
Actual Lesson: 120 minutes per week/per student
Documentation: 20 minutes per week
*Benefit of virtual services: No travel time! Freebie!*
Total: 350 minutes at $0.21 per minute
Yes, you read that correctly.
If a tutor is charging $75 per session, and takes their business seriously enough to do all the aforementioned things, they would only be making 21 cents per hour.
It is important to understand all the behind-the-scenes effort and education that goes into an effective lesson that is delivered by a qualified and certified professional.
Also keep in mind that these calculations only take into consideration the time spent on tasks. It does not account for the monetary investment that tutors make in their supplies, training, software, and technology.
A final thought: What is the cost of NOT investing in quality intervention?
We deeply understand that investing in private intervention is a financial sacrifice for families. We understand the frustration and fear that constantly simmers below the surface and in your gut when schools aren't doing enough to support your child.
But here is where we want to ask you to trust your gut and pursue private intervention.
When students do not receive quality intervention delivered by certified professionals, they are at increased risk of becoming part of these percentages...
75% percent of children whose help is delayed to age nine or later continue to struggle through school (Vellutino et al 1996)
80% of students that are struggling to read at the end of first grade continue to be struggling readers in fourth grade (Sparks, Patton, & Murdoch 2014)
54% of US adults 16- to 74-years-old lack proficiency in literacy and read below the equivalent of a sixth grade level (US Department of Education)
This doesn't just mean they struggle to read and spell.
They struggle with self-image and self-worth. They wonder if their difficulty reading and writing somehow means that they are not smart or capable of contributing to the world.
They lose interest in becoming doctors, astronauts, veterinarians, or paleontologists...
not because they grow up, but because they begin to realize the reality of all.that.school.
This means they struggle to compete academically with their college entrance exams or when writing personal essays for scholarships.
This means that they work at least twice as hard to keep up with peers at school and then their colleagues in the workplace.