Choosing a Tutor for Your Child

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By Posie Boggs

June 2017

You know that summertime is supposed to be full of sunshine, chasing tadpoles and creeks, a first summer job, and budding romances. However, for many students with dyslexia summer is the time to catch up on reading and writing skills. Using summertime to powerfully close the achievement gaps is possible as is maintaining gains made during the school year. Below are some ideas that can help parents be empowered to choose tutors based on the student’s needs and desires.

  1. It may be hard to find a reputable and qualified professional so ask people in the know. Make sure you do your due diligence and ask about educational background, previous work experience, and special training in the instructional approaches designed to address the needs of students with dyslexia.
  2. Don’t be shy about asking for references from past students who also saw the tutor. You can also ask to speak to a tutor’s past client says there’s nothing better than a recommendation from another parent.
  3. You might review the IDA fact sheet A Parent’s Guide to Effective Instruction so that you know what sort of additional questions you might want to ask. 
  4. Dosages of interventions matter. In a typical summer, think of how many hours are available for students to receive an intensive dose of intervention. In my school district, there are 82 days of summer break. During the school year, we have 180 days. By calculating one hour per day of reading instruction per school year, that’s 180 hours of reading instruction, in theory. Since 1994 as a reading tutor, I’ve only had one or two students of any age needing more than 180 hours of reading tutoring to become a grade level reader. So while you might not want to have your student be tutored every single day of summer break, you might think about finding a tutor who is willing to do an intensive number of hours so that closing the achievement gap in reading and writing is in sight. For example, if you allow for a two-week vacation, a week off at July 4 weekend, and weekends off of tutoring that leaves 45 days of summer. If your child saw the tutor for two hours each of those days that’s 90 hours. That’s a lot of instruction and intervention. It’s worth the cost because the outcome is entering the next school year reading and writing on grade level.
  5. If you choose to do a summertime intensive to close the achievement gap, ask the tutor what his or her policies are on giving students breaks during an extended session. For example, during my intensive sessions I schedule in short 5- to 7 -minute breaks in our cul-de-sac playing tennis with my students. On cold, rainy days we’ll use Microsoft’s Connect games and play demolition derby. Frustrated students love ramming their car into other cars. One summer I had an intensive with a grade four student who only wanted to play chess during breaks. He beat me quite often.
  6. If you’re making a huge investment in tutoring, consider asking the tutor for progress monitoring reports for every 10 hours of tutoring. Progress monitoring reports should match best practices or what your school district is already using. For example, some schools use AIMSweb™ or the DIBELS™, so that’s what I use to monitor the progress of my students. Try to schedule your student’s sessions when your student is at his or her best. Try to avoid taking a night owl to early morning sessions and vice versa.
  7. If you plan on summer tutoring with the goal of maintaining the gains from the school year, find a tutor who will focus specifically on those areas of gain instead of their “same old same old.” Always ask to see the work that’s being done so you know it matches.
  8. Choose a tutor who will communicate with school staff by sharing the progress monitoring reports and a final brief report at the student’s summer project. It’s helpful for the tutor to forecast the student’s needs going into the next school year.
  9. Finally, when you’re asking your child and your family to give up a fabulous summer of sunshine to close your child’s achievement gap, fill the rest of the day with lots of outdoor play, social time, music, laughter, and naps.

Posie Boggs is an active advocate for educating students, parents, educators, and policy makers on the necessity of improving literacy in our nation and the world. She has emphasized that providing comprehensive research-based literacy education early to all our students and adults who struggle with literacy is essential to increasing our nation’s educational outcomes. Equally important is providing educators extensive, rigorous, and multidisciplinary training in the knowledge and practice of teaching the “3 Rs.” As founding president of the Alaska Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, she uses every opportunity available to communicate that research about dyslexia provides a critical base of knowledge that contributes to all aspects of literacy acquisition and instruction. Ms. Boggs has a Masters in Educational Diagnostics and a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. She haunts the Institute of Education Science and the What Works Clearing House to keep her knowledge on the cutting edge of literacy science. She has received training in and utilizes the following scientifically evidenced methods for teaching literacy and reading:  The RAVE-O™ program, Lindamood-Bell™ programs, including On Cloud Nine Math©, LIPS©, Visualizing Verbalizing©, Seeing Stars©, LAC3 Test©, Slingerland™ – Level 1, & 2 and the Writing Institute™

Opinions expressed in Dyslexia Connection and/or via links do not necessarily reflect those of IDA.

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