Spending thousands of dollars on hours of tutoring in preparation for standardized tests like the SAT and the ACT is common among families in Palo Alto. However, hiring a professional tutor is not financially realistic for many, and with standardized testing having such importance in the college application process, a way for students to get quality and affordable help through the school is needed.
The reality for some students is paying these hefty sums for private tutoring may be a problem for their families. With the goal of leveling the playing field and supporting all students, a Paly-sponsored tutoring service could help provide tutoring for standardized tests for those that desire it.
Places like AJ Tutoring, a popular test prep location in Palo Alto and Menlo Park, charges students around $150 per hour to meet with an individual tutor. These are astronomical rates, especially considering that the tutoring service recommends 4.5-13.5 hours of tutoring. This could result in a final bill of over $2000 per week.
Getting professional help from a tutor is certainly helpful, but with a price tag of this magnitude, some students who may want assistance in test preparation are unable to receive it. This is where student-to-student tutoring would be a perfect solution.
“[T]he people who have the money [to pay for a tutor] aren’t necessarily ‘smarter’ if they get a good score,” said senior James Roake. “They’re just as smart as the people who couldn’t afford a tutor except they get to boost their college admissions chances [by getting professional help].”
Paly already houses a magnificent tutoring service through the Academic Resource Center (ARC). The ARC currently allows students to tutor other students in courses that they have already completed. Tutoring in math, language and the sciences in particular is a big part of what the ARC offers. This tutoring service is free and the students who tutor others receive community service after each meeting. This mutually-beneficial program gives students incentive to reach out for help and the opportunity to contribute to their community.
Standardized test tutoring could also be facilitated through the ARC at Paly. Seniors who have already completed their testing would be able to tutor younger students in preparing them for these crucial tests. The tutees would save thousands of dollars, and the tutors would be able to get extensive community service hours.
At Paly there are people who take both the SAT and the ACT as well as many of the different SAT Subject Test exams. Students who have been able to get professional help from a tutor and spent months studying for the standardized tests are certainly capable of teaching the strategies that helped them succeed to others. However, with the current tutoring, it is easy for the ARC to determine who is eligible to tutor.
The current rule states the tutor must have received at least a “B” in that subject in order to be eligible to tutor another student. This verification will not be possible if standardized testing tutoring was at Paly.
“The reason [as to why we do not have this kind of tutoring currently] is that it is hard to verify mastery of the standardized test except for test scores,” said Maria, the Peer Tutoring Center Coordinator at the ARC. “When students tutor specific subjects, we check that they have already taken the class and gotten at least a B in the class. This verifies that they know that material. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to accept tutors based on how well they can take a test. Where do I draw the line on a score when the scores are so different between tests-50 percent, 75 percent, 100 percent?”
These are questions which need to be addressed. Working together with the ARC and students who have experience from tutoring in the past, we should try to create certain guidelines on how we make this help available.