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Tutoring Services Offer Faltering Valley Students an Academic Lifeline

October 01, 1987|ELLEN MELINKOFF | Melinkoff is a Los Angeles free-lance writer

Falling behind in reading, getting tongue-tied in French I, not learning the multiplication tables when the rest of the class does--these are problems that often don't just go away.

Once children fall behind in school, they need help catching up. Sometimes, all it takes is a little extra parental supervision at homework time. But when the problem doesn't clear up easily, often the only solution is tutoring.

"Most kids want to feel successful," said Phyllis Thibodeau of Academics Plus, a service that sends tutors to the home. "But they can get lost in a classroom and then they start to go downhill.

"Sometimes a child doesn't acquire some basic third-grade skill and they're now in the fourth grade. Tutoring can spot that and help him catch up," she said.

Occasionally, tutors must clear the air between the student and his parents before they can work on the subject matter at hand.

'Serve as Mediator'

"Parents need to help children feel they are not in trouble," said Herbert Reed of Noble Educational Center. "Sometimes the tutor must serve as a mediator to show them that they are not adversaries. Are parents yelling, criticizing, hitting? We need to deal with that first."

What follows is a sampling of tutoring services available to San Fernando Valley students. Parents might also contact their child's school for teachers who are willing to take on after-school tutoring assignments.

Academics Plus, 10920 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1110, Westwood (213) 208-6462. Director: Phyllis Thibodeau. This service will send experienced, credentialed teacher/tutors anywhere in the Valley. Students and parents first meet at Thibodeau's office for an evaluation. If it seems desirable, she will give the California Test of Basic Skills, which take 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours per subject. "This is a very accurate test and tells us exactly where to start in tutoring," she said.

Reading help is broken down into three areas: vocabulary, comprehension and word attack (a new phrase for phonetics). Tutors meet in the student's home for an hour at a time, usually twice a week. The cost is $35 an hour. Academics Plus offers tutors in all high school subjects.

California State University, Northridge Placement Center, 18111 Nordhoff St., Administration Building Room 202, Northridge (818) 885-2385. The center keeps a list of private tutors divided according to the subject matter in which they specialize. Some are enrolled students, others are alumni or teachers. Parents can call and request a list of tutors in their geographical area be mailed to them. Parents then make direct contact with tutors, who charge between $10 and $20 an hour.

Noble Educational Service, 22008 Del Valle, Woodland Hills (818) 346-6333. Directors: Herbert Reed and Barbara Silton. Reed prefers to call what they do "educational therapy rather than tutoring." He begins with a case history and a battery of tests--"We look for reasons a student might fall behind." The tests are divided into two two-hour sessions. Once an individualized program has been set up, the student meets once a week. Reed and Silton are on call seven days a week. The fee for this kind of attention is $350 a month.

Pierce College Study Skills/Tutoring Center, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills (818) 719-6414. Director: Sandra Schulman. Schulman has a list of student tutors who have been trained by the center. The subjects most requested are junior high school math and English. Tutors are available for elementary school through college subjects. Names of interested parents are given to suitable tutors, who then contact the family. Most tutors charge $10 to $25 an hour.

The Reading Game, 19240 Nordhoff St., Suite 207, Northridge (818) 993-3317; 18663 Ventura Blvd., Suite 234, Tarzana (818) 609-8213; 2900 Townsgate Road, Suite 110, Westlake Village (805) 497-3216. The Reading Game is a chain owned by Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Despite the name, the organization also teaches basic math skills. Students begin with a 2- to 2 1/2-hour diagnostic test from which an individualized program is written. Students meet two times a week, an hour each. Although three students meet with one tutor, each works at his own speed on his own problems. Instead of focusing on homework assignments, The Reading Game issues its own work, with students completing four to six assignments in an hour. They are given positive reinforcement: Tokens earned for each completed task can be spent at the center's reward shelf. The cost is $25 to $28 per session, with the average student staying five to six months. All tutors are credentialed, experienced teachers.

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