Education is no longer confined to the walls of a classroom. A stretched-thin public school system — coupled with an increasingly competitive economy — have families turning to tutoring services for an academic boost. Indeed, tutoring is becoming big business. The global private tutoring industry is expected to reach more than $100 billion by this year, according to a Global Industry Analysts report.
There’s good reason for the investment. Studies show that tutoring can have numerous short- and long-term effects on students. It improves academic achievement, boosts entrance exam scores, and helps students better understand core subjects.
Here are some exceptional stories of Orange County kids who’ve excelled academically after enrolling in tutoring programs.
Sylvan Learning Center
It’s early October and freshmen across the country are adjusting to their new campus lives. They’re settling into dorms, making friends, and familiarizing themselves with schedules. On top of it all, they’re bracing for new academic challenges as they strive to take their education higher. Among the first-year crowd is Ashlynn McGuff, a Huntington Beach native whose knock-your-socks-off SAT scores earned her a spot as a pre-med student at UCLA, her top choice.
Getting there took a combination of hard work and an assist from Sylvan Learning Center of Huntington Beach, where tutors helped boost her American College Testing (ACT) scores to necessary levels.
“My time at Sylvan was very effective,” says McGuff, who studied there from 2016 to 2017. “I was able to increase my ACT overall score from a 29 to a 32. I also increased my scores in every individual component of the test, including science and writing. These scores were a huge part of why I was accepted into multiple top academic schools.”
McGuff’s tutoring sessions focused on specific subjects – math, science and writing — and centered on practice ACT books. During lessons, McGuff completed practice problems, asked for help when needed, and reviewed precious practice tests to discuss wrong answers. Tutors also provided tips and tricks for mastering the ACT. With help from tutors, McGuff graduated high school with a nearly 4.3 GPA and 4.0 unweighted GPA. She was accepted into numerous universities throughout California but chose UCLA, where she’s majoring in biology as a pre-med student. She’s minoring in Spanish.
While tutors brought McGuff to the next step academically, they also were also supportive on a more personal level. “The tutors at Sylvan were encouraging, kind, and always interested on my well-being apart from academics,” she says. “We frequently talked about my life at home and hobbies, and each tutor jumped at opportunities to give me advice for different parts of life.”
Tutors can be great resources for students of all levels, says McGuff. She’s found them to be a great source of information and encouragement. Nevertheless, she says, having a tutor can have drawbacks for some.
“For some students, tutoring may become a crutch or a way to escape struggling through problems they face in academics,” she says. “I believe tutors are a very important part of education, however they are not always necessary for all work.”
Ashlynn’s mom, DeeAndra McGuff, says she noticed numerous positive changes in the teen after enrolling her at Sylvan. “I could tell that she was more confident and comfortable in her test taking ability,” says DeeAndra. “The tutors gave her insight in understanding how to actually take these two college prep tests. Ashlynn knew that she needed to get her science score up in ACT test, so she really focused on understanding this material and learned how-to tools and tips on how to excel in this area.”
DeeAndra’s son Tristan, who’s now a junior in high school, is now working with Sylvan tutors to improve his own college test scores. After all, Svlan worked for her older child. DeeAndra says the whole family is incredibly proud of all Ashlynn has accomplished.
“Her siblings and cousins are all inspired by her faith and her desire to give 110% into all she does,” says DeeAndra. “We celebrate everyday knowing that she has been accepted to this amazing school and that her opportunities are endless there.”
Pamela Roumeliotis, Sylvan Learning of Huntington Beach’s director, says the center has helped numerous students succeed in school. There are currently about 150 students enrolled in Sylvan’s programs. Roumeliotis says she encourages all families to look into the center’s benefits.
“The scholastic competition only increases year after year and students need the academic boost to feel confident in school compared to their peers,” she says. “Whether our student is entering our program at a pre-kindergarten or at a high school level, we are teaching these students lifelong skills that they will carry with them throughout their entire future.”
Jeremy Yamaguchi’s resume reads like a golden child manifesto. At age 19, he became the youngest elected official in Orange County history after being voted into Placentia’s city council. A few years later, he was named council leader, becoming the youngest mayor in the city’s history. He’s committed thousands of hours to volunteer work, is extensively involved in the community, and graduated from high school with a trophy case worth of awards and accolades.
Of course, all of those accomplishments didn’t come easily for the ambitious young politician. He credits much of his success to a childhood spent immersed in Kumon, a math and reading enrichment program, and other tutor-based learning centers. He was enrolled in Kumon as a first grader.
“I like to think of education as a snowball rolling down a hill; the sooner you start and the more you put into it, the larger impact you will have down the road,” says Yamaguchi. “In other words, it’s never too soon to start with extra tutoring, nor can you ever have enough.”
Outside of Kumon, Yamaguchi was enrolled at a number of other academies. He had tutors for math, physics, literature, reading comprehension, Spanish, SAT prep and more.
“This time was beneficial in helping not only comprehension and retention of the school topics, but expanding and applying the subjects to real world problems,” recalls Yamaguchi. “We would often go more in depth than school learning.”
In a time when classrooms can be overcrowded and teachers’ time is stretched thin, Yamaguchi believes everyone can benefit from a tutor. Learning subjects from multiple sources helps speed comprehension and improve retention, he says, adding that tutors are an effective way of guiding students through their educations.
Of course, such an intense educational regimen brings challenges. For Yamaguchi, the only drawback he recalls is having less time to spend with friends. Looking back, he says the benefits have been far more plentiful than any drawbacks.
“I appreciate the time I spent with tutors and the financial investment my parents made,” he says.
“It was certainly beneficial for my future and has paid for itself many times over… The challenges of having one-on-one tutoring and the Kumon time-trial style of learning have given me the skills and work ethic to be successful in business, politics, and my non-profit involvements.”
The relationships Yamaguchi forged with his tutors have been long lasting. He’s still in touch with some, even those who’ve moved out of state. He visits one former tutor, who now lives in Hawaii, during every trip he makes to the islands. The tutors he worked best with shared his learning style and train of thought.
“For every good tutor I have, there were probably three that didn’t work for me,” he says. “If at first the relationship doesn’t work, keep looking. The good ones are out there and once you find them, the rewards will be fruitful.”
He was an isolated teenager whose neighbors were joining gangs and dropping out of school. She was the first person in her family to graduate college. Their common ground? Both found direction and support at a community-based organization that strives to help underprivileged children succeed.
KidWorks Community Development Center, a Santa Ana-based organization serving more than 1,000 students and families, was founded in 1993 in a one-bedroom Townsend Street. It began as a summer club to keep kids off the streets, but has since grown into a thriving community development organization.
In September, KidWorks celebrated the re-opening of its expanded KidWorks Dan Donahue Center in Santa Ana. Its capacity has doubled and the center now boasts an extra 10,000 square feet of space, meaning 200 new students can join KidWorks throughout the coming year. The expansion came through the Building Dreams Campaign, which raised more than $3.5 million to buy a building adjacent to the center. Extra space will be used for an outdoor sports and recreation court, urban garden, health and fitness room, learning labs and more.
KidWorks says it strives to help the most under-resourced families in Orange County. In Santa Ana, more than 31 percent of residents live below the poverty line. To make matters worse, less than 55 percent earn their high school diploma. When it comes to the success of the program, officials say the numbers speak for themselves. For the past three years, 100 percent of KidsWork students graduated high school. They were all accepted into colleges or universities.
Project Scientist offers science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) academies for girls aged four to 12 to enhance their school-based education. Its six-week summer academies, which were held at Irvine’s Concordia University for the first time this year, gave students more than 15 weekly hours of science experience. Full-day expeditions will be offered year-round, starting this fall.
The programs help instill confidence in girls, who meet female STEM professionals and tour industry behemoths (including Google and Allergan) to watch successful women at work.
“Project Scientist programs create an environment and atmosphere that fosters self-discovery, self-confidence, and encourages girls to envision themselves in non-traditional roles and fields,” says founder, Sandy Marshall. “The need for Project Scientist was based off a vast amount of research that shows girls with a high skill, aptitude, and talent for the STEM fields are not currently served or identified at a young age. They are not provided STEM opportunities at a pace, depth, and breadth commensurate with their talents and interests.”
Project Scientist has accomplished a lot. It’s gone from serving 95 girls to more than 2,000 throughout four campuses. The organization adds that many past participants have earned science awards and scholarships. Research from Harvard University showed girls had more interest in science after participating in Project Science academy, and were “significantly more likely to see themselves as a scientist” and that students were more likely to pursue science-related careers.
What’s New at School
SVUSD Virtual Academy
Saddleback Valley Unified School District has just opened its popular Virtual Academy to Kindergarten – 8th grade students, with plans to expand to the high school level for 2018-19. The unique school option will utilize tech to provide a flexible, personalized, and engaging learning experience, while providing students with the social-emotional support and mentorship students need to thrive.
Technology is reshaping modern life; Academy leaders believe the world of work and citizenship require students to learn more in school than literacy and numeracy to become productive and engaged citizens. They aim to achieve this by challenging cognitively and mentoring social-emotionally while teaching them to work critically, creatively, and collaboratively as part of a learning community.
Rancho Santa Margarita | www.svusd.org
CHALK teachers work to support children emotionally, socially, physically and cognitively through creative lesson plans. Students learn in specially-designed classroom environments where “play becomes learning and teachable moments happen all of the time.”
The new preschool is also a strong supporter of family involvement, and encourages relatives to visit or volunteer, share skills, and participate in events. The school’s philosophy is that well-connected families help shape children into strong and confident adults. There are now five CHALK Preschools throughout Southern California.
Newport Beach | www.chalkpreschools.com
Stratford School just opened its 23rd campus with a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house at their newest location in Mission Viejo. After an extensive renovation project the opening highlights a yearlong partnership between the former Carden Academy of Mission Viejo and Stratford School. Established in 1999, this independent private school was founded on the belief that education is a significant influence in the life of a child. The new school offers an accelerated, balanced curriculum from preschool through eighth grade emphasizing the areas of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) and incorporating music, physical education, foreign language, and social skills development.
Mission Viejo | www.stratfordschools.com
Irvine CubeSat STEM Program
This fall, 150 students from six Irvine high schools joined forces for the first successful high school-based CubeSat launch on the West Coast. Students packed the completed CubeSat and transported it to launch integrator, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, Inc.. The Irvine01 CubeSat will be positioned into an orbital deployer, which will eject the satellite into low Earth orbit. Beckman High School, Irvine High School, Northwood High School, University High School, Woodbridge High School and Portola High School each formed teams with 20-30 students. Over the past year, each team has assembled and tested one component of the miniature satellite, called a CubeSat, coming together to launch their finished project.
By Michelle Thompson