Jericho Students and the Abundance of Private Tutors
By JULIE MAY and CINDY HASSAN
Originally published June 2013
“I can’t come over; I have my tutor at 5.”
This phrase isn’t uncommon among students in the overanxious halls of Jericho High School. With many Jericho students worried about SATs, ACTs, and AP classes, private tutors are often used once a week for review and for grade improvement. Although extra help is also an option for struggling students, many hire private tutors instead.
SAT and ACT tutoring services are used by the majority of JHS Juniors. “Tutors are most useful for those standardized tests outside the school curriculum like the SAT and ACT,” said English teacher Dr. Michael Hartnett. Although many students reveal that these tutors help prepare them for the real test, parents seem to be pressuring their children to use tutors.
Sophomores Carly Sheinberg and Jordan Stemple both started SAT and ACT tutoring as tenth graders primarily because of the pressure their parents placed on them. They both said that they find that the things they are learning for the SAT aren’t helping them with their schoolwork. When asked if they feel if they really need their tutor, they both answered that they felt the outside assistance was being forced upon them by their parents because of how early they began preparation. These two sophomores are not the only ones who have been forced by their parents to begin SAT preparation. Some students begin SAT tutoring as young as age 13 or 14. It seems that the fundamental catalyst behind these parents’ enforcement of private tutors is that they all want their children to make sure they have the best opportunity to get into the college of their choice. It is not surprising that parents are also competing with one another in Jericho, especially with the strain on their kids to be the very best and succeed within the district and go to the top colleges in the nation.
It wasn’t hard to find JHS teachers in the district who were willing to share their views on private tutors, especially those who teach courses in which students typically get tutors to assist them outside of the classroom. AP US History teacher Mary Bensen shared that it is acceptable for students to use private tutors if parents feel that the students really need the extra help.
However, some teachers notice problems when capable students rely on tutors to boost their already good grades and to help them with test preparation and homework assignments. “One of my concerns is, and I’ve shared this with parents, is that teachers in the Jericho School District offer extra help in every course,” Bensen said. “So, if their children want to take advantage of extra help in school, I think that would be as helpful as a tutor.” Bensen went on to explain that although she understands that students may prefer private tutors due to individual attention, she thinks that extra help sessions can provide a similar small and intimate place to review or ask questions.
Bensen’s sentiments towards tutors were echoed by guidance counselor Candy Bodner. “I think private tutors can be beneficial if they’re used as the last resort, but sometimes students can use them as a crutch and feel that they don’t need to spend as much time doing their work independently or working with the teacher,” said Bodner. “But if all of the channels are being exhausted then I think it is a good idea.” Bodner continued to explain that she does understand the benefits of tutoring , sometimes extra help sessions in school overlap or they have previous responsibilities such as clubs that prevent them from attending extra help.
Teachers know that students use private tutors for their course subjects and that some seemingly do need the extra individual assistance outside of school if they are struggling. However, there is an increasing number of kids who are using tutors to ensure their A plusses. Jericho High School Junior Ben Kronengold said, “I have used tutors for ACT practice, but I think that the excessive use of tutors in Jericho is a bit extreme. It almost crosses the line from helpful to unethical.” Kronengold isn’t the only junior who believes that tutors are a bit extreme in Jericho. Junior Lauren Goldstein agreed with Kronengold’s sentiments towards tutors. She said, “I know people whose college counselors write their essays for them, and I don’t think that is fair because college essays are meant for you to show your personality, so it is as if their tutors got into college for them.”
Ron Platt, a tutor for SAT Math, ACT Math and Science, and SAT II in Math, spends 20-25 hours a week tutoring several Jericho students. Although never a math teacher, Platt always excelled in mathematics throughout his years in school. He now uses his skills to teach students easier ways to analyze and do problems, allowing them to receive higher scores. However, Platt believes that the level of improvement depends on how hard the student is willing to work. “Success depends on the student’s cooperation and dedication. I can provide them with everything they need to succeed, and if they are willing to work diligently, they will improve and achieve their goals,” Platt said.