Tutoring Center or Private Tutor: Which Is Better for Your Child?
Struggling students are often in need of academic support that goes beyond what they can receive from extra time at school or parental assistance at home. While parents have access to a variety of options, most choices can be boiled down to two categories: retail tutoring centers or private tutors. As someone who has worked as a tutor in both a tutoring center and private tutor capacity, I have seen, first-hand, that there are very tangible differences in the types of attention and support students get in each of these environments. So which is better for your child: a tutoring center or a private tutor?
Do Retail Tutoring Centers Work?
A simple online search for the phrase “tutoring center” or “learning center” will bring up a plethora of local options for commercial tutoring services. These centers tout qualified tutors, proven remediation strategies, and guaranteed results for your child. Having worked at one of these centers, I can attest that these statements are generally true, however they omit much of what the actual experience entails.
At the center I worked for, students went through a process of diagnostic testing and then were given tailored practice based upon their results. This formulaic approach combined with some homework help (as time allowed) did tend to help students become more successful academically. That being said, I found it hard to believe that the success was any more dramatic than the child would have achieved if they had used an online practice tool or spent time on extra practice provided by their teacher.
Alternatively, for higher level students in subjects like AP Chemistry, AP Calculus, and AP Physics my role was more like that of a private tutor. It was hard to boil down the complexities of the aforementioned subjects with prescriptive diagnostic testing, so my role was to both assess and create the supports as the students demonstrated needs.
Do You Get What You Pay for?
A key factor to consider when evaluating one of these centers for your child is the ratio of students to each tutor. The reality is, these centers operate for profit. The more seats they can fill, the more money they can make. After all, there is the overhead of renting retail space, the licensing fees for the franchise, and the cost of maintaining a qualified staff. This financial focus means your child will typically be one of several seated in front of a tutor. The tutor is often required to offer small-group instruction for certain key concepts and then to shift focus from student to student offering personalized help during practice time. Again, this can produce positive results that are better than an absence of academic support and practice, but know what you are actually paying for.
As the tutor, I eventually opted to leave the center I worked for. My expertise, particularly in higher level math and science, was being used to bring in a lot of clients for the center. One night, as I was leaving, one of the parents stopped me in the parking lot and actually asked if I would consider working with her child privately rather than at the center. She informed me what she was paying the center and offered to pay me the same price directly instead. I was surprised to find that the parent was paying what was, at the time, on the higher end of local going rates for private tutors. I, however, I was being compensated at a rate less than a third of that (and was expected to tutor two additional students at the same time who were also, presumably paying that same high-end rate). I chose the ethical route and declined the offer, however it did open my eyes. Herein lies the major issue with retail tutoring centers: for the cost, clients are not receiving the personal attention and support they could receive with a private tutor.
The Private Tutoring Difference
Having transitioned into private tutoring, I can attest that, for the cost, children tend to receive much more personalized and effective support from private tutors than is realistically possible in most retail tutoring centers. Understandably, tutors are much more effective in their instruction and support when they can focus on the needs of a single student at a time.
Personally, I found that my students were more likely to open up and express their struggles when there were no other peers around. For some students, the presence of their peers was one of the reasons they struggled in the classroom environment in the first place. Why, therefore, would it make sense to mirror that same environment (albeit on a smaller scale) in a tutoring setting?
Making the choice to bring a private tutor into your home or setting up meetings at local libraries can seem like an inconvenience that the retail tutoring center alleviates. Screening private tutoring candidates and making an ultimate decision can seem like a headache you might want to avoid. Rest assured, the process does not have to be daunting at all. By following some simple steps, you can find a tutor that fits your family’s needs. Furthermore, by utilizing a searchable tutoring database like The Knowledge Roundtable, finding tutors with the experience and qualifications your child needs is easier than ever.
As you seek to find academic support for your child, whether you choose a retail learning center or a private tutor, be diligent and thorough in your evaluation to ensure you are finding the right fit at the right price.
For even more advice on finding a private tutor for your child, be sure to check out: “How to Find a Tutor for Any Grade”