History + Philosophy
Blue Tomato 1998-2018
Ellen Ross created Blue Tomato NYC in 1998 when she realized that her small, solo practice had flourished into a team of five tutors. Soon Blue Tomato grew to a team of 12 tutors working with a citywide network of Neuropsychologists, Educational Psychologists, Learning Specialists, and School administrators. Ellen then went on to complete her MA in Educational Psychology, writing her thesis on the requisite need for trust and self-determination in all facets of the educational process. Over the past 20 years Ellen and her Blue Tomato team have collaborated with hundreds of families and schools, providing services that span from College consulting to Homeschooling 2e students. Blue Tomato is now considered an invaluable resource to to parents throughout NYC.
In 2016, with Blue Tomato NYC fully grown, Ellen began working with students in Los Angeles. For the past year and a half Ellen has been working with a select group of families on College consulting and applications, ACT and SAT Subject Test prep, Executive Functioning Coaching, SLD support, and Neuropsychological Testing referrals. She also continues to homeschool students whose needs cannot be met by traditional schools due to professional commitments or for other reasons. Students whose needs extend beyond Ellen’s areas of expertise have access to Blue Tomato’s NYC tutors via skype/facetime. Ellen is excited to grow her Los Angeles practice, to continue her work with bicoastal families, and to return to NYC regularly as part of her supervisory work.
Blue Tomato’s Philosophy
I founded blue tomato after working privately with students and their families for almost five years. During my years as a solo practitioner I learned that what my students and their families valued most was my ability to work with each of them in a unique and personal manner. No two students or families were the same, and I paid careful attention to each individual’s specific needs. What I lacked as a solo practitioner, however, was the ability to help students in all academic subjects, so I began my hunt for tutors who could cover the subjects that I was unable to teach. I soon learned that finding expert tutors who were also aware of the psychological and emotional needs of adolescents, had a sense of humor, and were fully committed to their work was not easy. But I persevered and slowly, over time, I put together my first team. Over the years the team grew and changed, but fortunately they all stayed for a long time before moving on to new horizons. By 2008 my dream came true: I was able to hire my old students who were now college graduates. Since 2008 much of my team has been made of my now 20-something year old students, which has been joyful, awe-inspiring, and also sentimental for me, as this process marks the passage of time and reminds me just how long I have been doing this.
In the course of this 20 year journey I became able to identify the principles that guide and are integral to Blue Tomato’s approach:
Successful tutoring is predicated on positive, supportive communication
between students, parents, teachers, school administrators and tutors, each of whom must communicate their goals and expectations from the beginning of the process.
Each student learns in a unique way.
Working with each student individually means working with each student uniquely. During our first sessions we focus as much on how a student learns as we do on what they need to learn. Students work with their tutors to custom design their own learning plan and strategies, and thus feel respected and responsible.
Our students learn "with" their tutors
Our tutors are both academically astute in the subjects they teach and compassionate human beings who have extensive experience with the struggles of adolescence. We customize how we teach to fit students' personalities and styles and meet them on their terms. Our students thus feel respected and responsible.
Feeling respected and responsible
is integral to a student's improved sense of self, both academically and personally. Helping our students become conscious of, and take responsibility for, their choices is the foundation of our educational philosophy.
Our students experience joy in their academic and personal successes
as a result of their increased sense of independence and self-respect. We help our students gain a sense of personal and academic self-determination.
Our educational philosophy is rooted in the belief that when students who understand the power of GRIT, proactivity, and considered choices move forward in life with the most important tools for life.
Director, blue tomato
Ellen Ross, an IECA Professional member, has served as an educational consultant for over 15 years. Families interested in hiring Ellen as a consultant should schedule a consultation (in person or online) to discuss the needs, goals, and concerns of the family and the type of consulting they are looking for.
Ellen consults in the following areas:
- Parent Coaching
- School Choice and Admissions (Boarding Schools, Los Angeles and New York Day Schools)
- College Guidance, Applications, and Essays
- Prioritization and Decision Making
- Homeschool Design
Biology (FaceTime/Skype with NYC tutors)
Chemistry (FaceTime/Skype with NYC tutors)
Expository & Creative Writing
Global Studies & World History
- Algebra I & II
- Seq. I , II, III [Math A & Math B]
- Pre-Calc (FaceTime/Skype with NYC tutors)
- Calculus (FaceTime/Skype with NYC tutors)
- Statistics (FaceTime/Skype with NYC tutors)
Physics (FaceTime/Skype with NYC tutors)
SAT II Subject Test
- Independent School Entrance Exam, 4th - 10th grade
- Boarding School Entrance Exam, 6th - 10th grade
- Catholic School Entrance Exam
- All subjects
Academic Coaching is one of our most inclusive services, created to reconstruct how a student approaches his or her education. This process is customized to each student and begins with a detailed understanding of the student's current academic performance, areas of strengths and weaknesses, and a thorough review of assessments and evaluations done. Upon completion of the consultation we design a coaching plan to help the student re-learn his or her way of approaching school as a whole so that, through training with one of one of our tutors, he or she can confidently and independently manage his or her workload. This type of work requires commitment from students and parents: students must put in the work and parents must encourage and support what's being taught. Our goal is to mold new attitudes and habits that the student can use for the rest of his or her academic career.
Topics frequently addressed include:
- Scheduling and Time Management
- Creating a productive Working Environment
- Paper Writing and Organization
- Test Taking
- Note Taking
- Satisfying Teachers
Recently an increasing number of families have asked about homeschooling.
The reasons for their questions are varied:
- Extensive travel for the entire family (which inspired our distance learning program)
- Professional commitments in the Arts and Athletics
- Medical/Psychological/Emotional Issues
- Unique Learning Needs
Over the years we have worked with many parents who have, for one of the above reasons, needed our help in implementing or carrying out their child's curriculum for a period of time. As of late, with the increasing presence of homeschooling, families have been asking us to tutor their children as an alternative to having them attend an independent school. We are now offering this option for Middle and High School students (6th through 12th grade). For more than 10 years we have created, tailored and implemented customized tutoring curricula in all subjects and test preparation; in view of this the move to offer overall homeschooling was natural: we simply integrate all necessary curricula with test preparation to make sure that students meet (and exceed) all standards for their grade.
The magic of having us homeschool your children lies in our ability to do what we always do: teach them the way that they want to learn, and play to their strengths and interests while supporting their weaknesses and areas of apprehension. We will custom design your children's curriculum while still meeting all necessary state requirements and as a result they can discover their strengths and passions as students!
Blue Tomato has a long history of working with students with learning disabilities. We understand that every student's learning process and developmental level is unique and it is our goal to help them excel no matter where they fall on this spectrum. At blue tomato we use a variety of approaches to meet the individual needs of every family and child. For families who have concerns regarding possible learning differences previously unaddressed, we offer an extensive Neuropsychologist, Educational Psychologist, and Clinical Psychologist referral list.
LOCATIONS + HOURS
Los Angelesin home only
Admissions and Standardized Test info
Find all information about SAT test dates and registration deadlines, canceling scores, fees and much more on the College Board website: https://www.collegeboard.org/
You can also call the following phone numbers for assistance:
General Information: 866.756.7346
For Students with Disabilities: 609.771.7137
Find all information about ACT test dates and registration deadlines, canceling scores, fees and much more on the ACT website: http://www.act.org/
You can also call the following phone numbers for assistance:
Timing of Testing
ACT and SAT:
The traditional timing of standardized testing, which many schools still prefer, is to take either (or both) the ACT or SAT in the spring of your junior year. We encourage students to take either or both tests at least twice, and three times if they deem it necessary. We also encourage students to make sure that they are done with ACT/SAT testing during their JUNIOR year! To be on the safe side this means taking the SAT in March and May, leaving June as a backup date if necessary. If you choose to take the ACT, this means testing in February (not offered in NY state, so those of you in NY have to go to NJ- ugh, sorry) and April, with June as your backup date. If, as many of you do, you find out that your April or May scores are sufficient, you can either cancel your registration for the June test or, in the case of the college board, shift your registration to your SAT Subject Tests.
Over the past years I have found that many of you benefit from taking these tests in the FALL of your junior year. This only makes sense if you are currently taking pre-calculus or calculus. If you’re currently in Algebra 2-Trig, you might want to wait until the spring, as there is content on the math section that you may not yet be familiar with. For those who are able, and like the idea of testing in the fall, here is the big benefit: you get it out of the way AND you are in a clearer position to discuss potential schools with your college counselor when you meet in the winter or spring. Furthermore, by finishing your ACT/SAT testing in the fall you alleviate pressure from your spring schedule, you are able to focus solely on schoolwork, visiting colleges, and taking your SAT Subject Tests if necessary. All in all it’s something to consider if you like the idea and your college advisor is amenable.
Unless you're taking SAT Subject Tests in subjects specific to your junior year (i.e. American History, Chemistry, Physics, etc.) we recommend that you plan to focus on SAT's in your junior year and take Subject Tests in either your junior or senior year. Subject Tests do not take nearly as much work as the SAT’s do, so they will consequently cause you a lot less stress.
SAT Subject Tests
We know that it's difficult for you to do college visits in the spring; it's difficult for you to even think about college in the spring with ACT’s/SAT’s, school pressure, etc., but TRY to get a sense whether or not many, if any, of the college's you anticipate applying to require Subject Tests. Many colleges do not, and if none of the schools you're applying to require them, that's one less thing you have to worry about. By the same token, don't avoid planning for them and then realize that a school you’ve fallen in love with is out of the question because it’s too late for you to take them!
ACT vs. SAT: which should I take?
Today there is far less difference between the two tests than there was in years past. When the SAT revamped its test in 2016, it restructured it to closely resemble the ACT. You are allowed, without penalty, to guess on both tests. The SAT now has one long “Evidence-based Reading and Writing section” and one long math section, followed by an optional essay (that you SHOULD write). The ACT is structured very similarly, but divides it’s grammar section (English) and it’s Reading Comprehension section (Reading), and includes a science section that the SAT does not. IMPORTANT: the ACT Science section does NOT test your previous knowledge of science! It assesses your ability to comprehend scientific data and ideas. It is basically a Reading Comprehension section about scientific information. Nonetheless, some of you hate this, and thus opt to take the SAT. Like the SAT, the ACT offers an optional essay- that you SHOULD write!
Since the advent of the new SAT, more of you seem to opt to take the ACT. Whatever you decide, we recommend that you make an informed decision. This means taking practice tests of both designs and deciding which test, based on its structure and language, works better for you. The “voice” and formatting of the two tests is different, and most of you have a decided preference for one over the other. If, after taking both practice tests, you are unsure which you want to pursue, remember this: the material on the two tests is extremely similar, thus preparing for both of them is not the massive undertaking one might think. If you want to, you can prepare for both.
1 Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section (1 Hour 40 min)
- 65 Minutes Reading
- 35 Minutes Language and Writing
1 Math Section (1 Hour 20 min)
- 55 Minutes with calculator
- 25 Minutes without calculator
1 Essay Section (Optional)
- 50 Minutes
Total Time: 3 Hours/ 3 Hours 50 Minutes with Essay
- English: 75 Questions/45 Minutes
- Math: 60 Questions/60 Minutes
- Reading: 40 Questions/ 35 Minutes
- Science: 40 Questions/ 35 Minutes
- Essay (optional): 40 Minutes
Total Time: 2 Hours 55 Minutes/ 3 Hours 35 Minutes with Essay*
List of Colleges that allow ACT and/or SAT superscoring coming soon!
List of Colleges that accept ACT in lieu of SAT subject tests coming soon!
For Our Juniors + Seniors
First off, let’s talk about what ISEE stands for, what the ERB is, what the CTP is, and what the ECAA is – these acronyms go flying around and because so many of you call me in complete and understandable frustration, I’m putting this explanation here for your reference.
ECAA stands for Early Childhood Entrance Exam. The Early Childhood Entrance Exam is offered to children applying to Pre-K through 3rd grade. All testing is done on an individual basis. Please see ERB website for detailed information.
ERB stands for Educational Records Bureau, a company originated in 1928 that provides standardized progress testing for its member schools during the school year (the CTP is the most common, though there are others) as well as Private School Entrance exams for kids Pre-K – 3rd Grade (the ECAA) and for kids in 5th – 10th Grade (the ISEE).
CTP stands for Comprehensive Testing Program. The CTP is the test given by your school each year; it is comprised of a reading, math, and writing section and (in most schools) is given each year in 1st through 11th grade. This test is often referred to as the ERB, but in fact it is only one of the many tests offered by the ERB.
ISEE stands for Independent School Entrance Exam. This test is offered at various testing centers, all of which offer the test with standard time and some of which offer extended (1.5) time. The ISEE is not offered with full time extension. Please check the ERB website for available test sites and dates. While most students choose to take one of the Saturday exams, there are also smaller group tests offered throughout the week. If you think your child may benefit from taking the test in a smaller group, you may want to look into this option.
The ISEE is offered at three levels:
- The Lower Level ISEE is given to rising 4th and 5th graders applying into 5th and 6th grade.
- The Middle Level ISEE is given to rising 6th and 7th graders applying into 7th and 8th grade.
- The Upper Level ISEE is given to rising 8th, 9th and 10th graders applying into 9th, 10th, and 11th grade.
Students are now allowed to take the ISEE once in each of its three testing windows: Fall (August-November); Winter (December-March); and Spring/Summer (April-July)! Think carefully about which date makes the most sense for you as a family, factoring in school deadlines, the holidays, and the ERB’s “once per window” policy. Families who wish to have their child take the text twice in the fall might opt to schedule testing dates in November (fall window) and December (Winter window).
Here is the link for the Educational Records Bureau: [https://www.erblearn.org/] From there go to the "For Parents & Students" heading and then choose either the Admissions (ECAA or ISEE) or Achievement (CTP or another test) drop down menu. You can also go to the "Select a Test" heading on the far left which will give you a drop down menu of all tests offered.
Below is a list of the most common schools that Blue Tomato LA ISEE students attend and apply to, and links to those schools’ websites:
The Archer School for Girls
The Buckley School
Flintridge Preparatory School
New Roads School
Sacred Heart High School
The Waverly School
For Our ISEE Students + Parents
Since more and more of you are applying to boarding schools, we thought we should provide you with some helpful links for those of you taking the SSAT.
Here is the link to the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) Home Page
From here you can find all your information about the SSAT test dates and registration deadlines, canceling scores, fees, etc. Here is the link to a great website that provides profiles and reviews of boarding schools as well as a state by state directory of boarding schools located in the US.
Below are links to the schools (East and West Coast) you most frequently apply to and ask about:
The Athenian School
Besant Hill School
The Cate School
Choate Rosernary Hall
The George School
The Hill School
The Masters School
Miss Porter’s School
Northfield Mount Herman
Ojai Valley School
Phillips Academy Andover
Phillips Exeter Academy
The Putney School
Santa Catalina School
The Stevenson School
Stoneleigh Burnham School
The Thacher School
Villanova Preparatory School
The Webb Schoo
For Our SSAT Students + Parents
blue tomato assures families that their appointment times are reserved for them. Because students' hours are reserved for them, we require that appointments be canceled by 3:00 p.m. the day preceding the appointment.
Cancellations made after 3:00 p.m. the day preceding the appointment, FOR ANY REASON INCLUDING ILLNESS, will be charged in full to your credit card on file.
As most of you know, our tutors' hours are in great demand. Parents and students often request appointments that we are unable to fulfill, as the requested tutors' time is already reserved for another student. If a student has a reserved hour, we will not offer that time to another student for any reason. This cancellation policy enables us to give an unexpectedly available hour to a student who needs it as well as for our tutors to be certain of their schedules. Students needing a last minute hour for the next day should call the office after 3:00 p.m. We will be sure of our availability for the next day at that time.
If a student knows in advance that she will have a time conflict or will need to cancel an appointment on a given week, please give us as much notice as possible and we will try to reschedule her appointment to suit her schedule.
Students preparing for standardized tests who anticipate wanting additional hours the week(s) prior to the test should also let us know as far in advance as possible, as this too will involve moving hours around.
Many parents like to check in by phone (5-10 minutes) once every week or two. The office is open Monday - Thursday 11 am - 7 pm and Sunday 12 - 3 pm. In order to ensure that Ellen is available when you call, parents wishing to speak with Ellen are encouraged to call the office beforehand and schedule a phone appointment between 2 and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Parents whose questions can be answered by Molly do not need to call in advance.
Parents who wish to have extensive assessment calls or meetings (any call or meeting that exceeds 15 minutes) should schedule an appointment in advance. Ellen is available for these calls and meetings Monday - Thursday 2 - 3:30 p.m. Please note that calls and meetings exceeding 15 minutes are billed at an hourly rate with a minimum of 30 minutes.