Wednesday, March 10, 2010


No stopping, none at all.

I started tutoring about two months ago. Well, technically, I was hired in August last year, but didn't actually have the time to take on students until now.

Anyway, one of my tutoring students is a "NCLB tutoring" kid. Which basically means that federal money is given to a school district to provide one-on-one tutoring to low-performing, low-SES students for the express purpose of improving their standardized test scores. The school district hires a contractor (my boss), and mandates that the tutors (me) MUST use certain curricula.

What happens if I deviate? I get fired. My boss losses the contract (which is a HUGE money maker).

What else happens if I deviate? My student gets a tailored-for-her-needs tutoring assistance rather than the flimsy, cookie-cutter, mass-produced education that the government says she needs. She gets something that'll benefit her for the rest of her life, rather than something that'll only benefit her for one standardized test - the one she'll take this April.

Because all the stuff I'm teaching her now, from that fancy, expensive curricula? It'll all be out of her head by May.

I didn't even know this kind of tutoring this existed until now. I knew classroom teachers do tutoring (their time is on a volunteer basis, by the way) for their low-performing students. Research says that's the most effective method of tutoring. But the classroom teacher only has so many after-school hours, and there are just so many low-performing students (I know of at least one teacher who carves 45 minutes out of every school day morning for tutoring too).

I can't help this student with her homework. I can't use resources outside of what I'm given. I can't teach this kid anything except for what the school district - and by proxy the government - says I can teach her.

Which kind of sucks. But I knew that already.

The thing that sucks the most? It's terribly difficult for me to form any sort of relationship with this kid. The tutoring sessions are free to her and her family, but I only have 18.5 hours with her in total, compared to the months, maybe even years, I'll have with my traditional students. The student knows that, and the student knows that I know that. The student knows that her school district is giving her a tutor because she's "dumb" (her words, not mine).

You can imagine the unhealthy perceptions this kid has about tutoring. That tutoring is only for "dumb" kids. That the tutor does nothing - not encouraging strengths and talents, not widening her academic view, not providing school and career and life mentoring - except "make" her "smart."

What happens when the student still doesn't get it? When they still don't feel "smart" after all the money and time poured upon them? When they still score low on those damned standardized tests, which apparently, is the One And Only indicator of how smart they are?

You and I can only imagine. But my student? She has to live with it.

No comments: