NYC tutoring is everywhere. The city seems to have a cram school / tutoring center on every block, each urging parents to give their children a head start on school. Many New York parents, eager for their kids to achieve admission to the NYC specialized public high schools, better grades, entry into honors classes and more, easily succumb to the tutoring centers' pitches.
Often NYC tutoring and cram schools are joyless offices, staffed by private tutors who have a financial incentive to scare parents and keep their children enrolled for as many paid hours as possible. While New York is a competitive place and prepping is often necessary thanks to there being too few seats at too few good schools, I always try to help my clients find the most efficient and savvy success strategies. Childhood is short, and children deserve better than to spend unnecessary hours in tutoring centers.
The trend in New York City is for children to work harder and harder. Se-woong Koo's superb article An Assault Upon Our Children:South Korea’s Education System Hurts Students illustrates the terrible cost when the tutoring culture runs amok. Koo's point--that single-minded parental focus on test scores can lead to horrific outcomes at worst and child unhappiness at best--is a good lesson for 21st Century New Yorkers. Let's tutor and enrich judiciously, and always keep our whole child in mind.
Responding to low enrollment by Hispanic and Black youth, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed a civil rights complaint challenging the admissions process at Stuvesant High School. Stuyvesant's admissions requirement now consists of prospective high school students needing to garner high scores on a single multiple choice math and verbal exam called the SSHSAT.
Sheldon Silver, Assembly Speaker, supports a bill in Albany that would eliminate the Stuyvesant test requirement in favor of a range of criteria including grades, extracurricular activities, and "proven leadership skills" . New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, whose son, Dante, attends another prestigious specialized science high school, Brooklyn Tech, that uses the same SSHSAT exam requirement, also supports new admissions criteria.
Dennis Saffran, a Republican lawyer from Queens, has an interesting opinion piece in City Journal: The Plot Against Merit. Saffran believes that the proposed changes would discriminate against the striving Asian students who now make up the majority of the student body at Stuyvesant and the other specialized science high schools. Saffran writes:
The poor students get into such schools through hard work and sacrifice—both their own and that of their parents. The students typically attend local tutoring programs, which proliferate in Asian neighborhoods, starting the summer after sixth grade and for several days a week, including weekends, during the school year prior to the test. The costs are burdensome for poor and working families, but it’s a matter of priorities. ...
All this once would have been the stuff of liberal dreams: a racial minority group historically victimized by discrimination begins coming to America in greater numbers because of an immigration reform sponsored by Ted Kennedy. Though many in the group remain in poverty, they take advantage of free public schools established by progressive New York City governments. By dint of their own hard work, they earn admission in increasing numbers to merit-based schools that offer smart working-class kids the kind of education once available only at Andover or Choate.
As a NYC educational consultant who works with many New York families applying to prestigious private schools as well as to public Stuyvesant High School, I am leery of admissions requirements that rely on one day's work, which seems like a snapshot rather than an in-depth, reliable picture of a student's potential. I am also dismayed by the rise in test prep and the sacrifice of children's childhoods to prepare for exams. I believe that Stuyvesant and other NYC admissions test-based high schools like my alma mater, Hunter College High School, should move to a system that considers students' school performance in admissions.
AABL by the ERB: Are You Smart Enough for NYC Private School Kindergarten? Amy Zimmer of DNAinfo New York wants to know in her brilliant piece: QUIZ: Are You Smart Enough to Get Into Private School Kindergarten?
Taking linkbait to a whole new level, Zimmer asks you to try sample questions from BrightKids' prep materials for the new Admission Assessment for Beginning Learners (AABL) given by our old friends the Educational Records Bureau (ERB).
The AABL test, meant to be given by iPad to NYC preschoolers for NYC private school kindergarten admission, is so challenging that my friends and colleagues all over Facebook are reporting their dismal scores. Smarter than a 5th grader? As if!
While the new test is much cheaper for families — it's $65, rather than $568 for the old test, because the new test is taken by iPad rather than by a trained examiner — experts believe many parents will shell out even more on classes and books to prepare their toddlers for it.
"The AABL is supposed to identify a child's ability and achievement," Glickman said. "That achievement part — how much you learned — is totally new. You usually think of an achievement test as something you take in high school. It's not something you think of for preschoolers."
The AABL tests early literacy and math skills, subjects that were not tested on the old ERB, the WPPSI. Besides pointing out the change in price (significantly lower on the AABL), skills (significantly more on the AABL), tester (an iPad rather than a human on the AABL), Zimmer helpfully quotes Bige Doruk of BrightKids. Doruk insightfully notes that this new ERB test will reward NYC kids from more academic preschools.
Please book early to ensure you can get a spot for your child in our 2015 NYC Private School Admissions Consulting Program. 212-712-2228 or emailNew York City's Best Private School Consultant We are now accepting reservations for our 2015 school consulting schedule.
Scott C. Wilson, Tutor Tango’s co-founder and CEO, emailed this article to Abacus Mom:
Online course offerings have dramatically altered the landscape of learning in higher education over the past few years. Thousands of students have enrolled in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) offered by websites such as Udacity and Coursera, and quite a few universities have responded by accepting MOOC completion certificates for credit.
Even the most prestigious of institutions have jumped in. MIT, in partnership with Harvard, has invested 60 million dollars to develop edX, a platform to offer MOOCs. And Stanford University professors were responsible for the creation of both Udacity and Coursera; the latter alone has partnered with over 80 schools around the globe, including Brown, Columbia, Duke, Emory, Michigan, Penn, Princeton, Yale, and many others.
But are NYC private schools, whose charges aspire to attend institutions like these, doing enough to prepare their student bodies for this new online learning experience in college?
Our company, Tutor Tango, is founded and run by NYC private school educators, and was established with an aim not only to help prepare kids for college, but to prepare them at the same time for the growing online learning trend in higher education. Attutortango.com, students in grades 7 and above log-in to meet their tutors for help in any subject, including test prep, ESL, and college admissions consultation.
I’ve worked as a Latin and English teacher and tutor in Manhattan for over 10 years. When I realized a few years ago where universities were headed with online course offerings, I recognized that the private school world I’m so familiar with isn’t exactly preparing its students for this new trend in online learning. And most traditional in-person tutoring companies, who send tutors into students’ homes or even set up shop in the summertime in the Hamptons, are creating a learning culture in which kids have become too dependent on having the instructor at the table next to them.
Shelly Waldvogel, our Chief Operating Officer, has a son who attends an Upper West Side private school. One of her main jobs has been to develop a marketing plan that will convince private school parents of the effectiveness online tutoring, and--in her own words--”it’s been extremely challenging.” “I completely understand that many parents would rather have their children meet with a tutor in person,” she said at a recent parents focus group meeting. “But the reality is that college professors won’t always be there in person anymore; they’ll be interacting with our kids online. So why not do something outside of the classroom that will help our kids get ready?”
Tutor Tango’s online learning interface features video and audio feeds, instant messaging, a real-time interactive whiteboard, and a note-taking pod that, according to Colin Allen, our Chief Technical Officer, “are all designed to recreate the in-person tutoring experience as much as possible.”
In addition to one-on-one tutoring, we’ve added several new services this year: test prep packages for the PSAT, SAT and ACT, ESL tutoring, and e-Study Groups, in which 3-8 students can meet online with one tutor at the same time. Next summer we plan on offering “Summer e-Camps” and AP Primers, both of which will be six-to-eight week online classes designed to prepare students for their upcoming rigorous courses in high school and college.
But we are especially proud that Tutor Tango has a social mission and offers free and sliding-scale tutoring to students who can’t afford it. Last fall we brought on-board Johanna Giebelhaus, a former ESL teacher and producer of a documentary film about 21st Century education, to oversee pro bono operations. In June, we raised money through a crowdfunding campaign to support an upcoming project with a lofty goal: to provide laptops, wi-fi connections, and one-hour of free tutoring per week to students living below the poverty line in New York City. We’re excited to partner with other education organizations and we feel confident that our pro bono program is poised for success.