The Dallas Morning News (Texas)
By: Laurie Fox
November 1, 2010
Ian Anderson knows there are high school students who can't grasp a difficult math or physics concept or who are stymied by conjugating Spanish verbs.
And he knows that these students might not even know they're falling behind - until it's too late, they hit a wall of frustration and their grades begin to slide.
Ian, 17, now a senior at Southlake's Carroll Senior High School, was one of those students. He stumbled in an eighth-grade math class and became concerned when he couldn't overcome the classroom hurdle.
"There is a stigma to asking for help," said Ian. "It's an overwhelming thing when you're in school."
Ian, however, saw his plight as opportunity. He wanted to pair struggling students with fellow high school students who understood the material or who had already taken the class.
He found an ideal role model in Vic Ramon. The former Highland Park student founded his own peer-tutoring business in 2006 when he was tripped up by a physics assignment.
So Ian and Ramon teamed up last year to launch Carroll Tutors. Now they want to take their concept to other school districts and have hired more than 200 tutors for their burgeoning business.
Ian said the group has successfully paired students with tutors who provide help with homework or projects or help prepare students for big exams.
"It's a common thread that we see, students asking themselves, 'Why am I not getting this?' " he said. "Kids slip through the cracks in any school district. Every student will hit a wall somewhere in their schooling. We're here to get them past that roadblock."
Ian said he's discovered that tutoring can supplement the classroom curriculum in an embarrassment-free way.
"Kids don't like to ask questions in class or talk to a teacher after class because it's awkward and uncomfortable," he said. "Everyone perceives things differently in a classroom. You don't always want to admit what you don't know."
He and Ramon have researched tutoring programs throughout the country and found mostly private businesses like Sylvan, Huntington or Kumon or groups run by teachers.
They said their approach is unique because students work with other students.
"There's nothing better than finding someone who's just taken the same class or had the same teacher as you," Ian said. "If I'm working with someone that I've known since kindergarten, it's much more personal."
He said the pair recently created the umbrella group Dallas Peer Tutors but plans to maintain the local tutoring groups in school districts that are coordinated by branch managers and staffed by students in those school districts. Ramon currently is in his senior year at the University of Texas at Austin.
Through the group's website, www.dallaspeertutors .com, parents register and choose a subject and time. A flat rate of $35 is charged for an hour of one-on-one tutoring.
When parents call, Ian said, they're often at the end of their rope.
"Nothing matures you more than having a parent tell you that nothing that they're trying is helping their child," he said.
Joyce Garrett said she hired a tutor for her freshman son who needed a hand in Spanish class.
"He was really resistant at first. He didn't think that he needed help," Garrett said. "But these kids today have a lot of pressure on them to be good at everything and be on top of it all."
She said her family will continue to hire from Ian's group throughout high school because having a "neutral third party from his own school" works and it makes her son more comfortable.
The tutors - mostly juniors and seniors - said they enjoy the flexibility and spending money that the program affords. But they also feel they're giving back.
"I know how hard some of these classes can be," said Emily Gardner, 16, a Carroll senior who tutors in math and some foreign languages. "Sometimes teachers don't always clarify some of the basics."
James Webb, 18, a Carroll senior, said he tutors in physics and that some concepts like projectile motion are hard for students to pick up initially.
"Some of this was hard for me, too," he said. "We just explain things differently."