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Under Pressure: Marlborough’s tutoring culture gets out of hand

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Under Pressure: Marlborough’s tutoring culture gets out of hand

  1. 1. Under Pressure: Marlborough’s tutoring culture gets out of hand By Lorraine K. Lee Marlborough girls receive too much tutoring, and the administration needs to assess what it has (or hasn’t) done to minimize this “need” for tutors. A poll conducted by The UltraViolet showed that 35.83 percent of upper-school girls polled employ tutors for extra confidence, with the number growing significantly with each grade. And we believe that this percent is understated, as few of us know a Marlborough student who has not used a tutor some point during her high school career. The tutor frenzy – from 2000 to 2005, the number of students learning from private tutors or programs like Sylvan Learning Center and Kumon has doubled – has caught Marlborough girls, whose drive to succeed is even higher than students at most high schools. School should be about learning for the sake of learning. Sure, there are times when a tutor is necessary to help a student get past the initial barrier to where she can fight on her own to learn a subject. But too often tutors are helping students boost their grade from an A- to an A, and are the perfecting touch on an already high-quality assignment. If Marlborough girls and parents – the ones who pay tuition – realize that perfection should not be the ultimate goal, and it’s neither the job of the student to get an “A” all the time nor the job of the school to cater to that expectation, then the overall atmosphere of pressure on campus will decrease, leading students to be happy doing their best on their own. Something can be said for the student who struggles to understand the material and who doesn’t have someone holding her hand every step of the way. Something also can be said for the student who asks her teacher for help, an action many students throw aside if they have a tutor (“I’ll just ask my tutor tonight”). If a student ends up with a “B” in the course, it was a “B” she earned by struggling and overcoming challenges the material posed on her own. She not only learned the material, but she learned how to tackle problems by using her mind, not her tutor’s. However, at Marlborough, getting a B+ or lower on an assignment just doesn’t cut it for most students because they need great grades to get into a great college. Here more than anywhere is where pressure from parents – particularly those who can afford significant tutoring bills – comes into play for both students and the school. A student who has learned to struggle through tough material on her own stands a better chance of taking the greatest advantage of future learning opportunities, no matter what college she goes to, than a student who gets into one of the top universities in the country based on a tutor doing the struggling for her. But is that former mindset really what Marlborough instills in its students? Maybe it should be. When we first came to Marlborough, hearing that someone had a tutor was surprising – were they struggling that much? As we got older, it became the norm and the smart thing to do. Students and administration need to reevaluate how and why we learn and why we’re here. After all, it is about the learning process, right?

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