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Tutors use remote learning to help students prepare for exams, classes

Nonprofit pushes for more funding to help ‘vulnerable learners’
Posted at 3:29 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 19:42:13-04

NEW YORK — Will we stay with remote learning or return to in-class sessions? While we may not know for sure yet what school will look like when it reopens, it’s never too early to help our students get ready.

In March, children were abruptly moved to at-home learning and many parents fear their kids did not get the most out of the school year. With the new semester looming, kids may need that extra boost, and tutoring may be an option for families.

For 25 years, Barbara Rauch has owned a company specializing in tutorial services. Rauch is based Staten Island, where she has tutored many children through the years. It turns out even the tech person she called for emergency service in mid-March is a former student.

“We looked at each other and realized he was in my SAT prep class,” Rauch said amusingly. “On Friday, March 13th, he gave me a quick three-hour session of Zoom, and I was up and running by Monday the 15th.”

With word of a shelter-in-place order about to start, Rauch acted fast and moved all her classes, both one-on-one and group sessions, to a virtual format. She started working remotely with her students who are from elementary school kids all the way up to high school students.

“It was difficult because most of these students that were coming to me were not familiar with Zoom, so it was a learning experience for both of us,” said Rauch.

But since then, tutors and tutees have adapted.

“I keep them on video, I’m constantly going through the gallery watching them and making sure they’re focusing and paying attention.”

Many parents readily admit they have had a difficult time overseeing at-home learning and fear their children are not ready for the next grade.

State exams were canceled, and two SAT tests as well. It’s all led to an increase in parents using tutoring services.

Brittany Cabassa is an actress and performer, but she has also been a tutor for 10 years with the Williamsburg Tutoring Center in Brooklyn.

“Your child is getting their own individual attention that they need,” said Cabassa. “Your tutor can find out some weak points on some strong points your child has and with that will be able to balance both and eventually get them to go above and beyond.”

Tutoring companies are tailoring this summer’s programs to gear up for fall classes. Many are running boot camps structured as refresher or reinforcement courses to brush up on the past semester and strengthen kids for September.

“We have our summer camp in full force right now at our center,” said Cabassa.

They haven’t skipped a beat moving to an online format, she added.

“Virtually or remotely, it’s been the same either one-on-one or we’ve had small groups,” said Cabassa. “I teach a STEM-based class, some science thrown in there with other activities, some crafts.”

Vicki Roussis is 13 years old and will be entering the eighth grade. This summer, she’s working with Rauch to prepare for the New York City Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) and the Test for Admission into Catholic High Schools (TACHS).

“She’s preparing me mentally and physically with all the knowledge I need,” said Roussis. “I think I will do better when I go into a classroom again.”

Roussis adds tutoring has boosted her confidence.

“I feel it’s extremely beneficial because I get to sit down and work at my own pace,” said Roussis. ”With virtual learning, I feel it’s the same but she’s just not in here in my house, in my room with me, but I do feel that I’m learning the same amount that I would if I were in class with her.”

With all tutoring services, the prices vary depending on how often the class meets and how many weeks the course runs. We found classes as low as $25 a session to several hundred dollars for summer long sessions.

“The most rewarding part of tutoring is really at the end of the day seeing your student accomplish something that a couple weeks ago they struggled with,” said Cabassa.

For families struggling financially, there are also free tutoring services online such as Smarttutor.com and Hippocampus.org

With COVID-19 an ongoing threat, it’s expected at-home learning will likely continue in some form when school starts.

“The closer it’s going to be to school, we’re going to meet twice a week and really get them prepared to start school in September,” said Rauch.