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Longtime Tutor Sees Student Stress Rising

Lorraine Hurley has been teaching at Sylvan Learning Center for 21 years, longer than anyone else on the staff. And during that time, she's seen many changes. "The biggest one is the workload kids have nowadays," she says. "Parents wonder where this came from, but they were the ones who put pressure on the schools that kids have homework in every subject every night. The result is these backpacks that just explode when the kids open them."

She says it's not unusual for students to be up past midnight finishing schoolwork. "In general, everything is more intense," says Hurley. "Add in sports or extracurricular activities plus family functions, and the demands can really mount up." She said she has had students practically in tears when they recount everything they're involved in. "It's amazing how overbooked some kids are."

Hurley questions the rationale of extensive standardized test preparation many students go through in school. "Junior year it's important for them to focus on getting good grades – pulling them away for hours of test prep may not be the best thing."

Junior year is also a time for SAT tests, and Hurley has noticed changes there as well. "They've added the calculator and non-multiple choice sections," she says. Also, there's been more interest in the ACT, which was once more limited to colleges in the South and West. "People ask if one is easier," she says. "It's more that some kids will do better on one or the other."

Hurley, who has taught in public high schools, says that even in the current climate of belt-tightening, tutoring is an excellent return on investment. "At Sylvan there's a definite curriculum that's followed – it's not just general tutoring. Kids see the results, they make gains."

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