If you’ve ever tried to hire a private tutor for your child, you know it can be costly — from $50 to as much as $150 a session. And that’s if you can get a spot — for many popular tutors in town, there’s also a long waiting list. Owen Kaplan, a Montclair High School junior and math whiz, has been tutoring middle school students in algebra for a few years. Kaplan recognized a lack of equity in the town when it comes to access to tutors. Families who can afford private tutors are getting their students the extra help they need. Kaplan adds that while there are good programs such as IMANI and Succeed2Gether, he believes there is still a need for more affordable tutoring options as evidenced by the continued achievement gap in Montclair.
Kaplan decided to start Accessible Tutors, a non-profit that allows parents to pay what they can but guarantees that all of the tutors (who are also high school students) get paid the same hourly rate. Some parents might pay $5 for a tutoring session, others might pay $35, but the tutors all receive $20 for an hourly session. Accessible Tutors launched as a 501(c)(3) through HackNCraft NJ and Kaplan has already matched middle-school kids with high-school tutors.
Kaplan says one of the benefits of Accessible Tutors is the mentoring relationship that develops between the high school tutor and middle school student and how younger students enjoy being able to connect with someone who is an older peer and role model.
Kaplan hopes Accessible Tutors can help reduce the achievement gap in Montclair, something he experienced at the high school. “When you get to the higher level classes in the high school, you can see a real drop off in terms of racial and economic diversity,” says Kaplan, adding that it’s something he noticed just by looking at his fellow students in a classroom.
Kaplan’s tutors are students who are strong in particular subject areas and can confidently tutor a younger student. “When you have a student who is taking calculus they are able to tutor a younger student in algebra,” he says, adding that for middle school students, building a strong foundation is key since math is cumulative. “Falling behind early can adversely affect long term goals, so that’s why our focus is on middle school students.”
And for families who may have the ability to pay for a tutor, Accessible Tutors allows them the opportunity to give back to a student who might not be able to afford the service. So far Kaplan has four tutors who are getting paid and hopes to grow the program. He looks for students with strong grades who are highly competent in the subject area they want to tutor and who have both the availability and experience of getting involved in community projects or have taken on leadership roles and can be a strong role model.
Kaplan has already started to receive positive feedback for the service, including this testimonial from a parent:
“We are thrilled with this program, and feel so lucky to have found it. One email to the program leader and a week later my son was meeting with a qualified and ‘relatable peer like’ tutor that he felt comfortable with. After one session our son said ‘I really got a lot out of that, thanks Mom’. Josh, our tutor, impressed me from the start with his communication skills in setting up meeting and meeting location. Josh has been responsible and clearly knows his math! After two sessions our son felt comfortable going into his algebra test, and we just learned he received an A on this latest test. THANK YOU!”
For more information, visit Accessible Tutors.