General Tutoring Information including questions for parents to ask prospective tutors
Hiring a tutor is an important step in helping your child make meaningful progress. Tutors expect parents to ask some questions either in a telephone interview or via email. Many tutors will have agreements/contracts that outline their remediation practices for your student. These agreements typically will answer most of the information below. If not, we have provided a list of questions to consider asking before hiring a tutor.
You do not need a diagnosis of dyslexia to begin tutoring.
Questions about instruction and support:
- Please describe your background and training (e.g., qualifications, certifications, or credentials). Answers may include CALT (Certified Academic Language Therapist), WRS (Wilson Reading System), or Certified Barton Tutor to name a few. There are no regulations about who can or can’t use a title like Educational Therapist or Reading Specialist. It does take someone who has specialized skills to teach students with dyslexia to read.
- How long have you been tutoring?
- Do you specialize in children with dyslexia? (If not, this is a red flag.)
- Do you use a structured literacy system? (If they don’t know what Orton Gillingham (OG) or structured literacy means, do NOT hire them.) Which one? Are you certified in that system? How long have you used it?
- How do you determine the ‘starting point?’ Does everyone start in the same place? (A screening should be given to determine the initial starting point based on phonological awareness and phonic skills.)
- Do you spend any of the session helping the student with homework or do you concentrate only on teaching reading and spelling?
- Will I be expected to work with my child at home between sessions?
- How long does instruction need to continue? How often? What progress can I expect? (Many variables are involved in this answer including specific challenges like: the age of the student, severity of dyslexia on the continuum, co-existing conditions, support from home, previous tutoring experience, support from the school, participation or buy-in from the student, illness, vacations, and missed sessions.)
- How often will you provide feedback to me on my child’s progress and planning, and in what format?
- Will you interact with my child’s school? Are you willing to attend school conferences to consult with teachers and any other professionals? If so, is there a fee?
Red Flag Answers:
- A tutor who uses many different programs including OG, but is not teaching any of them to fidelity.
- Any type of general tutoring, including homework help.
- Somebody who tells you that they can cure your student(s) of dyslexia.
- Somebody who guarantees a certain level of improvement over a certain time.
- A tutor or specialist who asks for a large sum of money upfront or you will be waitlisted for ‘a very long time’.
- It’s a red flag if someone tells you that they know how the brain works with steadfast certitude.
- If you read or they tell you “Sign up now or you will lose out.” They may be in it for the wrong reasons.
- A tutor who is re-teaching/supporting classroom work. The scope and sequence of a structured literacy program does not match up with the pace of typical classroom instruction.
- Most national tutoring centers do not offer the kind of specialized tutoring that dyslexic students need. An exception is Lindamood Bell Learning Centers.
- How do you schedule your sessions? Are there standing appointments or scheduled week-to-week?
- Are the times available for working with your student compatible with the needs of your student and family’s schedule?
- Where will instruction occur? Do you offer remote sessions?
- What is the policy for missed sessions?
- How many sessions per week do you recommend? (Twice a week, 50-minute to one-hour sessions, are a MINIMUM for a dyslexic child. Most programs require at least 2- 3 sessions a week to be considered done with fidelity.)
- Do you have references? Would you give me the name and telephone number of several parents of students you are currently tutoring?
- If I like what I hear from those parents, could we schedule a free consultation so that my child and I can meet you and see your office?
- Are instructional materials included in the session fee?
- What is the fee for phone calls and conferences at school or with you?
- When is payment required and how often?
What is your session/hourly fee? What happens if my child has to miss a session?
- In Minnesota, tutoring session fees typically average between $30-$80 per session. There might be fees on either end depending on experience, business model, and credentials. Additionally, this fee may be higher in the Twin Cities.
How will I know if my child is making progress?
- First, we need to have realistic expectations. Teaching students with dyslexia to read and write does not typically happen quickly. After a long day of school, some students are resistant to what they view as extra work. However, once students realize that a program is effective, they are more likely to be willing participants. For instruction to work it needs to be provided with fidelity (by a trained instructor at an appropriate amount of time per week). Fidelity is typically defined by a program.
- Ask for the scope and sequence of the program so you know what skills your child will be working on.
- Programs typically have checks along the way to make sure a child has mastered a skill or set of skills before progressing. This information will probably be given to you in progress reports. Ask how and how often this information will be communicated with you.
- Some standardized tools will be helpful as well. Progress monitoring that the school may offer such as AIMSWEB, and DIBELS DEEP will provide information regarding decoding, accuracy, and fluency. 3 times per year is ideal for progress monitoring.
- Your student’s standardized test scores should improve as well.
The following groups have a list of names of certified tutors:
- Orton Gillingham of MN
- Academy of Orton Gillingham Practitioners and Educators
- ALTA (Academic Language Therapy Association) - more about ALTA
- Wilson Reading
- Barton Reading and Spelling Program
- The Reading Center
- International Dyslexia Association - Upper Midwest Branch
- International Dyslexia Association (IDA)
- Learning Ally
Links to Information about MN's Education Tax Credit
Parents may want to check with their insurance companies and health savings accounts to discuss if anything is covered under their plan as far as diagnosis and remediation options or if it can be claimed as part of a medical Flex Spending Account (FSA).
Minnesota Tutoring Grants
Minnesota nonprofit Dyslexia United provides grants for tutoring as they are able. See their website for more information and to apply.
MN Reading Corps - Free Tutoring Reading (K-3); Math Corps (4-8)
New with distance learning - Parents can connect directly with the Reading Corps!
Free Dyslexia Tutoring in Superior, WI
The Dyslexia Centers for Children of Upper Wisconsin recently opened a campus location in Superior, Wisconsin. These campuses provide one-to-one structured language instruction to children who struggle to read, write, and spell. Services are provided at no cost to families, and are open to anyone committed to consistent and regular attendance, regardless of their state of residency. Accredited tutor training for adults is also provided at the Dyslexia Center campuses, at no cost to trainees. Dyslexia Centers for Children of Upper Wisconsin is currently accepting applications for new tutors and students.
Apply today at www.wicdc.org
The sooner a child with dyslexia is identified and receives appropriate instruction, the better the outcome. Consider:
- A child who can't read at grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who reads proficiently by that time. (Robert Balfanz, John Hopkins University study, 2011)
- Students not proficient in reading by the beginning of 3rd grade have only a 17% chance of catching up throughout their entire school experience. (NICHD study)
For those reasons, and because many schools in Minnesota do not yet provide the kind of instruction students with dyslexia need, we recommend having your child tutored in reading. The type of instruction most children with dyslexia benefit from is called Structured Literacy. Structured Literacy approaches reading systematically and sequentially teach the sounds and symbols of our language. Many are based on the works of Samuel Orton and Dr. Anna Gillingham and are known as the Orton-Gillingham method. They are:
- Explicit: No knowledge of skills are assumed. All students start at the beginning.
- Systematic and Cumulative: Lessons are taught in order with none skipped. Each lesson builds on previous learning.
- Multisensory: All of the senses are engaged during lessons (auditory - hear it, visual - see it, kinesthetic - touch it).
- Student-Paced and Taught to Mastery: Students do not move on until the content is learned to automaticity.
For more information on How to Get Help, see the Bright Solutions website.