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Reevaluating the Role of Private Tutors
Lily Faucett '20 Associate Editor
April 19, 2018

Many believe that there is room for improvement in Deerfield’s current system of private tutors. Academic Dean Ivory Hills and Assistant Academic Dean and Study Skills Coordinator Amanda Howe, as well as others in the Academic Dean’s Office, have began to focus on this problem.

Among other things, the Academic Dean’s Office hopes to accomplish two goals. They plan to change Deerfield’s relationship with outside tutors by further incorporating them into the community. They also aim to establish a list of steps for students to take who think a tutor would be beneficial to them. This list would make sure that tutors understand and fully utilize all of the resources which Deerfield offers.

Credit: Claire Zhang

Currently, freelance tutors provide help to students in the Boyden Library. Tutors do have to go through a background and fingerprint checks to work on campus, but there isn’t any specific training required for them, as there is for all official Deerfield employees. By mandating security checks for tutors, Deerfield tutors would have the same level of security as Deerfield employees.

“The goal is to get everyone on the same page,” explained Dr. Hills. Many believe that adding tutors as Deerfield employees would benefit students, as tutors would have better understanding of not only the student body, but also the curriculum and teachers at Deerfield.

Making tutors Deerfield employees would also clear up issues of academic honesty. Currently, as tutors are not associated with the Academy, they may not know what types of help are permissible to give students on assignments, and which are not academically honest. The Deerfield handbook states in Article 3.3 on Academic Integrity that “By affixing their name to a piece of work, students pledge that, unless properly cited, the work is entirely their own.”

Students who receive help from outside tutors on assignments often don’t cite their tutors. This, along with several other possible breaches of academic integrity, can lead to a hearing with the Academic Honor Committee. However, Dr. Hills reiterated, “Tutors are not usually trying to help students cheat on assignments; they are trying to help them learn.”

Mrs. Howe believes that if tutors became Deerfield employees, “they would be able to communicate with teachers and understand how they can be of the most help to students.” This way, teachers are involved in the process, and tutors can understand better the curriculum and teaching styles at Deerfield.

Before this step, however, the Academic Dean’s Office hopes that students ensure they have taken advantage of all the resources at Deerfield. The Academic Dean’s Office suggests that students start by going to extra help and meeting with their current teacher, as working both one-on-one and in group settings can be helpful to students.

Teachers are often a student’s best resource, as they know the coursework and can provide specific advice or study strategies. The Academic Dean’s Office suggests evaluating whether or not one is placed in the correct class, meeting with a Deerfield peer tutor, and meeting with Mrs. Howe, who says that she is “able to offer overall study strategies and strategies focused on a specific content area.”

Mrs. Howe, together with the student, plan to come up with a plan to move forward. If a student does decide that a tutor is the best option for them, it is crucial that there is communication between the student, parents, teacher, and tutor. “My goal, and the goal of any tutor, is for that student not to need us anymore,” Ms. Howe said.

The tutoring system at Deerfield is imperfect, but Dr. Hills and Ms. Howe both aim to change the roots of this program by helping to incorporate tutors and the tutoring program completely into the Deerfield community.