The Academic Council unanimously voted in late June to prohibit all tutors not affiliated with the school from coming to campus to work with Andover students beginning this school year.
“We were concerned that if we allowed parents to hire extra tutors to come to campus and work with their children in the library, that some other students and parents might feel that this is somehow expected or even necessary for academic success or college admissions, which we believe is absolutely untrue,” said Trish Russell, Dean of Studies.
She said that the school has recognized that most Andover families cannot afford the additional cost of hiring outside tutors.
“There was also a growing level of discomfort among the faculty with the idea that outside tutors were becoming an equity issue and only people who could afford to hire tutors were able to access them,” said Patricia Davison, Director of the Academic Skills Center.
The number of outside tutors hired by parents has been steadily rising in recent years, according to Russell.
Davison said that the campus-wide effort to reinforce security inspired discussions on safety issues pertaining to outside tutors as well.
Although the tutors had been required to go through extensive security checks before arriving on campus, many started teaching before inspections were complete, according to Davison. Tutors also often did not wear the mandatory identification badges that were given to them at the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library circulation desk when they checked in.
Davison said that some students may have been benefitting from outside tutors, but there was no designated Andover personnel to oversee the tutor program.
Russell said the school encourages students to use the resources available on campus, such as conference periods, peer tutors, the writing centers, librarians and study centers, to meet their academic support needs. Andover’s Academic Skills Center provides organizational and time management skills to students as well.
“I’m aware that people will continue to want this service, but many tutors use skype already anyways. We can’t prohibit someone from [being tutored] in their own time in their own space. But I’d like to think the result is that students will use the internal support systems offered by the school,” said Davison.
If students wanted to meet outside tutors in town or over skype, it is not the schools’ responsibility and does not fall under the campus ban. “It is not the schools’ responsibility if the tutoring takes place in a public venue. That is between parents and students only,” said Russell.
Davison said the the former extensive background checks were time consuming and costly. Under Massachusetts law, schools are required to screen employees and volunteers who will have direct unsupervised contact with students. CORI (Massachusetts Criminal Offender Record Information) and SORI (Nationwide Sex Offender Registry Information) were two of the background checks that required completion before the outside tutor stepped on campus.
The tests were provided through the Human Resources Department, who would pay for the CORI and SORI checks to be administered. “It felt like we were implicitly supporting the presence of tutors on our campus, almost sanctioning it even though we didn’t agree.” said Davison.
The Academic Council consists of department and division chairs led by Russell.