We spoke with Mary Bridges, A-List Education’s Director of Partnership Operations and Success. She gave us some amazing insight into A-List’s work with their partners; please note that A-List also offers tutoring in a one-on-one setting with tutors that get the same type of training with the same kind of flexibility in lessons.
1. Can you introduce A-List Education?
A-List is an education company focusing on test prep and college access. We work with students and families of all circumstances through online and in-person private tutoring as well as A-List instructor-led classrooms in schools, non-profits, and community-based organizations. I work with our Partners, Program Managers, and Educators making sure that our classes are efficient, entertaining, and successful.
2. What is your tutors’ selection and training process?
Our tutors are selected after a rigorous application process including phone interviews, a full-length SAT practice test, and a live demonstration where the Institutional staff members role-play by invoking the spirits of the students we serve. It’s a lot of fun, and it keeps the teachers on their toes from the start! Once an educator is hired, they undergo extensive training in content, strategies, and classroom management with some teaching philosophies peppered in along the way. They are asked to complete demos each week, and just like our students, they are assigned homework to complete after most lessons.
3. How are the classes structured? Do you use specific materials?
Our classes are structured for maximum student engagement and teacher freedom to tailor the lessons specifically for each class. We have lesson plans and a general guideline to follow for the entire course, but teachers are encouraged to linger or skip material depending on each class’s strengths and weaknesses. We have our own Book of Knowledge that each student receives, either in physical form or an ebook for our online classes. The Book of Knowledge comes complete with entertaining explanations, examples, and drills. Our teachers also have slides available to them so students have multiple visuals for each topic. We also provide three full length practice tests, with teacher review, to measure student improvement throughout the course.
4. How did you adapt to the pandemic-related challenges?
The pandemic caught our attention early on, and we rallied together as a team to create effective classes in the new normal. We provided our teachers with ongoing training on efficient management and engagement techniques for online sessions, implemented full courses through our Canvas LMS, and merged with Testive to provide our students with an online testing platform.
5. How did A-List evolve with the pandemic constraints? Are there any lessons learned?
I think we learned a lot - mostly how we can move mountains when we work as a team. A-List has a shared goal amongst its employees: serving our students with maximum effort to set them up for success. We listened to the NYC DOE about student safety, moved our materials online for easier access, and increased our communication with students, parents, and admins providing extra support and availability to answer questions by staying informed.
6. How do you engage your students and keep them motivated?
Part of what makes A-List classes special are the Program Managers - they are an
additional level of support for not only our teachers, but also the students and for our partners in schools, nonprofits, and community-based organizations. The Program Managers are part of a highly caring, hard working team who are protective over their students and strive to ensure all-around success. The Program Managers and the teachers work together to hold students accountable and provide a lively, encouraging environment.
7. How do you ensure that students are getting the same level of support and practice from the online classes compared to in-person classes?
We fused the efforts of our US and UK team to set up our Canvas courses and eBook online so that students have access to the same materials they would in an in-person classroom. We provided ongoing, collaborative training for our teachers to help them provide a light, easy to attend classroom. Our Program Managers also visit each class more frequently to provide support, levity, and accountability.
8. How do you help your students with pre-exam anxiety?
Communication! We let students know that standardized tests are a fact of college
admissions and they play an important role; however, they are not the only factor in the admissions process. We also remind students that they can always take the test multiple times to try and relieve some pressure from them. I like to remind students of the effort they’ve put in throughout the course and their high school careers.
9. Do you include parents in the learning process of the students? If so, in which way?
That is actually one of our new initiatives this year! Historically, parents were brought in only if our Partners requested it. But while we are in a season of change, we feel there are only benefits to providing information and support for the parents of our students as well through frequent communication and potential workshops and online seminars.
10. What are the 5 words that best describe A-List Education?
Student-centered, Dedicated, Compassionate, Thorough, High-achieving
11. What lies ahead for A-List Education?
We’re looking forward to warmer weather and reconnecting with our students in-person again soon!
Bonus question for an A-List educator: What are three words you would use to describe A-List, and why?
1. Human: I was trying to distill the ideas of Programs and the new philanthropic tutoring initiatives to one word. A-list’s biggest strength, to me, is that it never feels like a machine, like so many other tutoring companies. No one is a cog, and students get an experience that is unique based on who they have as a tutor.
2. Scrappy: ...which is again the human element. A-List works hard to drum up new work, build relationships, and keep relationships. There’s never an expectation that the work will just be there.
3. Goofy: So many A-list tutors I know aren’t afraid to look a little odd to either endear ourselves to our students or make a particular point more memorable. We bring the energy, whether the kids like it or not haha.
For more information about A-List Education and all of its services, spanning test prep, academic tutoring, professional development, and homeschooling, please visit alisteducation.com.
Alessandra Lanno considers herself both an avid reader and writer. Born and raised in