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Hiring a Tutor

Why Hire a Tutor?

Many children benefit from having a tutor at some point in their education.  Below are common circumstances in which a tutor is hired.

Some children are academically advanced and are not sufficiently challenged in school.  Sometimes, these students, who may attend schools that do not offer gifted programs, become bored with their coursework and ultimately lose interest.  Their grades begin to slip as a result.  Parents who observe that their child is academically advanced and insufficiently challenged in school can proactively address potential boredom by hiring a tutor to provide additional coursework, something more challenging and interesting for the child.

Some children absorb information better when taught one-on-one.  By hiring a tutor, who provides one-on-one instruction, the child can be provided the one-on-one assistance needed to thrive in the traditional classroom.

Some children do not feel comfortable in the highly structured environment that is the traditional classroom.  As a result, these children may struggle with coursework: not because they lack the capacity to grasp the material, but because the learning environment is not appropriate for them.  By creating a different learning environment, a more open and flexible environment, these children often thrive academically.  A tutor can provide that different learning environment.  While these children may never be comfortable in a highly structured environment, they will, with the help of a tutor, be given the opportunity to learn their coursework and graduate successfully.

Some children may be struggling to understand some of their coursework.  Teachers in a traditional classroom cannot slow the instruction if one student is lagging, so there may be times when a student feels left behind in the classroom.  Hiring a tutor to provide additional instruction and help the child grasp the material in the coursework can help the student catch up with his/her classmates and successfully pass his/her class. 

Most children seek help with their homework, often from their parents.  However, some parents have trouble teaching their own children.  Perhaps the parents did not take the courses the children are now taking, so the parents simply do not have the knowledge base  to provide the help that the children seek.  Or perhaps the children are more receptve to academic instruction from someone other than their parents (most children go through a phase where parents are deemed NOT in-the-know).  By  hiring a tutor, a child can receive the homework assistance he/she needs from someone who knows the material and is regarded by the child as knowledgeable in the subject matter.

For these and many other reasons, tutors can be a successful addition to a child's academic resources.

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How much do I pay a Tutor?

When you hire a tutor to come to your home, you and the tutor will negotiate on what you pay for the tutoring. When your child receives tutoring at a tutoring agency or center, the agency or center typically charges a set fee for its services, plus a registration fee.

Private Tutors
Private tutors generally expect to be paid commensurate with their level of education and experience. Average pay for tutors is as follows: $10 to $15 per hour for a high school student, and up to $75 per hour for a certified teacher with experience. A teacher trained and qualified to work with children with special needs will likely charge more.

In addition to tutor credentials, geography plays a role in private tutor compensation.  Generally, tutors charge more if the tutoring is provided in metropollitan communities, and tutors charge less in more rural areas. When you start making inquiries about tutors in your area, ask about the anticipated pay rates so you can develop expectations about what is the average pay range in your locale. 

As you interview various tutors, ask how long each session will be and whether your child will be expected to purchase any instructional supplies (i.e., workbooks) that will add to the cost of tutoring.

Tutoring Agencies
A tutoring agency will designate a tutor for your child, so you do not spend time selecting a specific tutor on your own. Most agencies charge a non-negotiable registration fee and a fee for all tutoring time. Tutoring rates within an agency typically start at approximately $25 per hour.

As you visit with tutoring agencies, ask about the educational backgrounds of the tutors at the agencies, how long each tutoring sesstion will be, whether your child will be expected to purchase any instructional supplies (i.e.., workbooks), and whether you will be expected to pay any other costs (i.e., testing expenses).  You will likely be required to sign a contract with the agency, so it is important to inquire about the terms of the contract up front. 

Tutoring Centers
A tutoring or learning center typically offers a list of classes and corresponding rates. A class that meets once a week might cost $50 per month; classes that meet more frequently could cost up to $150 per week. A variety of tutoring services are typically available as well. As you visit with tutoring centers, ask about the educational backgrounds of the tutors at the centers and any additional costs (workbooks, testing, etc.) that you will be expected to pay. You will likely be required to sign a contract with the tutoring center, so it is important to inquire about the terms of the contract up front.  

On-Line Learning
A subscription to a web-based tutoring service involving an individual on-line tutor could cost $20 to $50 per session. Ask about the educational backgrounds of the tutors; how long each tutoring session will be; how the tutors will exchange coursework and instructions with your child, keep track of progress, and address educational difficulties; how the tutors will keep you in the loop about the progress of your child; whether your child will be expected to purchase any instructional supplies (i.e.., workbooks); and whether you will be expected to pay any other costs (i.e., testing expenses). You will likely be required to sign a contract with the agency, so it is important to inquire about the terms of the contract up front.

Some sites offer free homework help, but there is usually limited quality control, and the response rate is typically slow.)

Free Services
Some schools offer in-school tutoring.  This service is typically available at no cost or low cost.  Tutors are credentialed by the school system.  In some schools, tutors are professionals (i.e., educators).  In other schools, tutors are advanced students who are deemed proficient in the specific coursework.  

Some after-school programs, churches, and community centers also provide free tutoring as a community service.  Ask about the educational backgrounds of the tutors in these locations.

Regardless of the location of the free tutoring service, ask how long each tutoring session will be, whether your child will be expected to purchase any instructional supplies (i.e.., workbooks), and whether you will be required to sign a contract for the provision of the free tutoring services.

These are the most common tutoring resources.  You and your family can discuss which resource is right for your family.

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How to Screen Prospective Tutors

You want to hire a private tutor for your child.  To ensure that you hire a person who is a suitable tutor for your child, what can you do to screen tutoring candidates?  Following are tips on credentialing tutors.

Reference checking – Call all references for the tutors.  This includes checking a tutor’s personal and work references.

Background checking – This includes taking a tutor’s fingerprints, checking for a criminal record, checking the driving record, checking for a record with Health and Human Services, and verifying his/her educational credentials.  Some families also wish to do credit checking on prospective tutors because tutors have potentially unsupervised access to the families' homes and assets.

Work eligibility checking – Checking work eligibility involves verifying that the prospective tutor is authorized to work in the United States.  This is typiclaly achieved in two ways:  an interview question ("Are you legally authorized to work in the US?") and the proper completion of the federal Form I-9 on the tutor's first day of employment. 

By performing all relevant checks on your tutoring candidates, you can ensure that you hire the best possible tutor for your child.

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What to Look for in a Tutor

You will anticipate hiring a tutor for your child, but where do you begin?  What do you need to be looking for in a tutor?  Below is a list of traits, skills, and credentials that you will want to seek.

1.  Education beyond the grade level of your child.  Some parents prefer a tutor with at least a Bachelor's degree as these parents prefer an advanced body of knowledge in a tutor.  Other parents prefer hiring a student who is perhaps only a year or two older than their chlild as these parents think their child may be more receptive to peer-level tutoring.

2.  Experience in educating or tutoring, especially in the subject matter(s) on which your child seeks tutoring. 

3.  Teaching style.  Some tutors use a structured method of instruction while other tutors use a more informal approach to tutoring.  What style works best with your child? 

4.  Reliability.  You need to know that your tutor will show up when expected, tutor for the full time expected (typically an hour), and will depart when expected.

5.  Patience.  Your tutor should be patient as your chld goes through the learning curve.

6.  Honesty.  Your tutor should not misrepresent information to you or your chld.  Further, your tutor should not misappropriate items from your home.

6.  The example that the tutor sets for your child.  Would you want a tutor who has a variety of tattoos and piercings?  Why or why not?

Your child will likely also have a set of expectations for his/her tutor.  Thus, you should include your child in the selection of the tutor as doing so increases the likelihood of success of the tutoring match.

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How Do I Run a Background Check?

How a person runs background checks varies with the type of background check.

Reference checking involves calling or sending reference questionnaires to the prospective tutor's prior employers and personal and professional references.

Educational credential checking involves contacting the prospective tutor's schools or colleges to verify that the degrees or diplomas that he/she says that he/she has obtained were actually obtained by him/her.

Motor vehicle record checking involves contacting the state Department of Motor Vehicles to request and obtain a copy of the prospective tutor's driving record.  Many states have forms that they require the prospective tutor to sign so that his/her driving record can be released to you.

Criminal background checking can involve contacting the courthouses in each county in which the prospective tutor has lived to check their records for any criminals bearing the name of your prospective tutor.  Some states have forms that they require the prospetive tutor to sign so that his/her criminal records can be released to you.

Health and Human Services (HHS) record checking involves contacting the HHS offices in each area in which the prospective tutor has lived to check their records for any investigations into alleged abuse or neglect of a child or vulnerable adult.  Many states have forms that they require the prospective tutor to sign so that his/her HHS records can be released to you.

Credit checking involves contacting a credit reporting agency to receive a copy of the prospective tutor's credit report.  Credit reporting agencies have forms that they require the prospective tutor to sign so that his/her credit report can be released to you.

Work eligibility checking is accomplished by completing the federal Form I-9 on the tutor's first day of employment.  This form can be obtained from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services' website.

If you choose to hire a tutor through, backgound checks can be provided through this website.  This can save you time, money, and hassle. is here to make life as easy for you as possible.

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Interview Questions to Ask a Tutor

You want to hire a tutor who is knowledgeable in the subject matter on which the tutoring will occur, who will relate well with your child, who will lead your child by example, who will not harm your child, who will be reliable, and so much more.

Following are some interview questions to ask prospective tutors to assess whether they are a good fit for your child and the tutoring task at hand.

  1. What kind of academic training do you have on this subject (i.e., math, English, biology, etc.)?
  2. What tutoring experience do you have?  How many years?  With what age groups?  On what subjects?
  3. What was your greatest tutoring challenge and how did you handle it?
  4. What was your favorite tutoring job and why?
  5. What was your least favorite tutoring job and why?
  6. Why do you want to be a tutor?
  7. What is your availability?
  8. Do you have your own transportation?
  9. How long of a commitment can you make?
  10. How do you assess a student's preferred learning style?
  11. Would you tell me about the different tutoring techniques you have used for the various students that you have tutored?
  12. My child is in _______ grade.  We are seeking tutoring for _________ coursework.  Would you demonstrate a brief educational activity with my child now? (Then bring your child into the room and have the prospective tutor attempt to establish rapport with your child and begin to tutor your child. Watch how they interact with each other. Don't leave the room for this first meeting: as a result of your presence, keep in mind that this will not represent a real tutoring session.)
  13. How do you think you can help? What specifically will you do?
  14. How do you measure progress or address obstacles?
  15. How frequently or on what occasions do you typically visit with parents about their student's accomplishments (or lack thereof) during tutoring?
  16. Are you willing to collaborate with my child's teacher?
  17. What is your desired pay rate for the tutoring services that you offer?
  18. How often do you expect to be paid?
  19. Are you legally authorized to work in the United States?
  20. Have you ever been convicted of or plead guilty or no contest to any felony or job-related misdemeanor?  (Note:  Make sure that you tell the prospective tutor that an affirmative answer to this question will not automatically bar him/her from getting the job, but merely that you wish to consider the severity, recency, and job relevancy of the alleged or actual criminal conduct before you make your decision.)
  21. Do you have any questions for me?
  22. Would you provide me with a list of your personal and professional references?
  23. Would you sign these forms allowing me to pull your background checks? 


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Commuincatioin Between the Tutor, Teacher & Child

You have hired a tutor.  You have tasked the tutor with helping your child achieve academically.  You have established and communicated specific goals for the tutor and your child . . . goals about specific academic achievements (i.e, getting at least a "B" in algebra this semester).  You, your child, and the tutor have jointly crafted a plan to reach those goals.  As the parent, it is now your responsibility to oversee the tutoring to ensure that it is accomplishing its objective.  

Parent-Tutor Communication

You should create a system of communication between you and the tutor so that you can keep tabs on the progess (accomplishments and challenges) of the tutoring.

On the tutor's first day of employment, you should discuss with your tutor how you envision your communication system working.  Your tutor may wish to negotiate this with you.  As long as the communication system facilitates thorough and timely communication, then it will function adequately.

The communication system should provide for the frequency and medium of routine status updates (i.e., a per-session log book in which tutoring session notes can be recorded by the tutor) and the medium and causation of need-driven status updates (i.e., telephone calls to you at work when your child is struggling and further alternatives need to be considered).  You may wish to establish regular appointments to visit with the tutor about your child's progress.

If the tutor offers negative feedback about your child's progress, listen with an open mind.  You cannot help your child succeed unless you openly, honestly evaluate the barriers to his/her success.  Parents who have emotional responses in defense of their child are exhibiting instinctive behavior to protect the child, but the behavior ultimately is more harmful than helpful to the child. 

Parent-Child Communication

Ask your child for feedback.  Does your child like his/her tutor?  Does your child feel safe or comfortable with his/her tutor?  Does your child feel like he/she is learning a lot from his/her tutor?  Does your child think that there are things that the tutor can do differently that would be helpful to his/her education?  If so, what?  

Direct Parental Observation

Spend some time attending tutoring sessions with your child.  You may attend the first few sessions and then perhaps one session per month thereafter.  When you are attending a session, sit quietly near (but not immediately next to) the tutor and your child.  You will want to be unobtrusive . . . almost as if you aren't really there.  Observe how the tutor and child are relating to one another.  Do they seem comfortable with each other?  How is the lesson plan working?  Is your child learning the material?  Is the tutor presenting the information in the way your child is most likely to grasp?

Parent-Teacher Communication

Inform your child's teacher that you have hired a tutor.  Include the teacher in the goals you have set for the tutoring.  Let the teacher know that the tutor will likely be contacting him/her and authorize the teacher to discuss your child with the tutor.  Visit with your child's teacher periodically throughout the tutoring arrangement.  Does the teacher think that tutoring is helping your child's academic performance?  Are your child's grades improving?  Does your child seem more confident and involved in the classroom?  Does the teacher have any feedback to offer that may enhance the effectiveness of the tutoring?

Parent-Teacher-Tutor Communication

Some parents prefer to have group meetings at which the parents, the teacher, and the tutor are all present.  These meetings can be difficult to arrange (multiple people, busy schedules), but they facilitate a consistent understanding among all parties.

As you gather information about the progress being made through tutoring, you may wish to maintain the plans you have made, or you may prefer to adjust one or more aspects of your plan in order to improve the effectiveness of the tutoring.  There is no one right way to tutor.  It is important that the tutoring be adapted to the needs of your child, and that may involve some trial and error.  Ultimately, whatever decisions you reach should be based on whether the tutoring is helping your child reach his/her academic goals (i.e, getting at least a "B" in algebra this semester).

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