The Power of Words – Learning Power

Students who receive one-on-one tutoring often see better results, but struggling students who need academic help often don’t use it.

Angela Choi, Science and Health Editor

Junior Ada Kukar has always felt like she has struggled more than other students in school. She hoped for extra help through tutoring, but wasn’t able to receive the support due to her financial situation.

“Without any help at all, it just became way harder. My grades started slipping,” Kukar said. “I just didn’t want to do it anymore.”

Disparities in access to tutoring create gaps in academic achievement. Low income families have less access to tutoring, which can translate into lower rates of college completion and academic performances for less wealthy students. Inaccessible tutoring perpetuates wealth and educational gaps, but there may be a solution on our own school campus.

A San Bernardino Valley College study found that students who receive face-to-face tutoring classes see an average increase of 12% in their standardized tests, outperform untutored peers across 45 out of 52 academic subjects, and surpassed their non-tutored peers by nearly 90%. Eight-out-of-ten of tutored students get better grades. Tutored students are more likely to earn higher GPAs and graduate from college. Students can receive private tutoring, which is paid and not linked to the public school system, and free tutoring, which is generally received through public schools, often through clubs or peers.

Students who have access to tutoring have a preview of material before class, so classwork becomes easier to understand. 

For Junior Claire Luong, who attends Chinese tutoring regularly, said that her language class at school is much easier.

“I know how to speak the language more, so I’m able to answer questions easily,” Luong said. “Everything is easier because I already know the grammar structures and the vocabulary.”

The impacts of tutoring increase further for standardized testing because of the unique skills used to interpret standardized testing formats. During the summer Luong did PSAT prep, which helped with her “multiple choice skills.”

Tutoring could play a key role in leveling the playing field for low-income families. However, private tutoring remains inaccessible because of it’s high costs. For Kukar, even though she was struggling in school, she was only able to get tutoring for a short time due to how expensive it was.

“It probably would have helped if I stayed in it, but that was just how it was. It kind of sucked,” Kukar said.

From what Bruin 2 Bruin Tutoring Club president Stella Wong observes, tutoring benefits students by increasing their confidence in academic settings, which Wong says causes tutees to be “more willing to participate in discussion and search out other resources.”

The situation eventually further ingrains existing inequalities between low income and immigrant families and well off groups. Kukar notices that the people that have gone through tutoring in her life have “way better grades” than students that haven’t received the support, and when low income students can’t afford tutoring, they perform less well in school and graduate college at lower rates.

“It sucks. Everybody needs help and a lot of people work at different paces and so having extra support can be vital for certain people,” Kukar said. “For students from immigrant families trying to be the first one to go to college, having extra support in scholarships is important.”

However, student groups on campus are answering to the need. To take some financial strain off of low income and immigrant families, APs and Athletics clubs has raised thousands of dollars all to assist students who need money for AP tests and college through scholarships, grants, and financial aid. The club was inspired by a another student who told the previous president Jazzy Nguyen that they had to choose between AP classes because they couldn’t afford to pay for the test.

“‘I feel really good about giving them a chance. A lot of students are talented and smart enough to pass them,” Ashley Nguyen, the current president, said.

She hopes that by providing aid to take AP tests, the students her club helps can save money and get the chance to pass an AP test or get to the college they deserve to go to.

Bruin to Bruin also offers a cost free alternative to private tutoring by pairing students in the school. Wong believes that the B2B program is even more effective than those outside of school because student tutors are much less intimidating and have gone through Branham’s classes before and know exactly what to expect. 

Junior Dhatri Tummala also finds that peer tutors explain content much better. When she is with a teacher, Tummala has experienced that the teacher will explain the concept to in depth and make the topic seem more complicated. 

Tummala has also found that in her tutoring programs, the teachers “weren’t the best” and she had to “self teach some of the stuff.”

“With someone around the same age as you, it’s easier to understand because it’ll be simpler than it really seems,” Tummala said.

The school district also offers asynchronous help over free services for students.

Wong has observed that students often conflate the cost of a tutoring program with the quality of the tutoring, which she has found to not always be true. 

“People are paying for something to get value, which is sometimes true and sometimes not,” Wong said. “Even though B2B is free, I don’t think it should be less important.”

Ashley Nguyen recommends to students who don’t know about programs to go to club rush and ask upperclassmen and staff for advice.

“We know about all the programs Branham has access to, but asking staff like counselors and teachers if they know of programs specific to a subject,” Ashley Nguyen said. “Anyone will have recommendations for you and be happy to tell you about them.”

For students that would like to get involved and help other students, TutorXL (@thetutorxl on Instagram), a student-led organization, offers opportunities for high school students to tutor low income students or give presentations on study skills for free.

Kukar hopes that students can help each other by spreading information about these programs.

“Knowing about them is way more important than anything else,” Kukar said. “I don’t know much about different tutoring programs”

In the end, Wong finds that with the abundance of programs, having initiative and a commitment to learning is the most important attribute to become a good student. The barrier is mostly mental.

“Finding tutoring as an option is typically indicative of that person being willing to learn.” Wong said. “It’s truly just the mental aspect of it.”