December 30, 2014

The Test Prep Industry Is Booming

by Patrick Clark, BloombergBusinessWeek

Thousands of high school students will take the SAT this weekend. Many of them will try to boost their scores with tricks learned from high-priced tutoring services, which have turned Americans’ college anxiety into a booming business. The number of test prep centers in the U.S. more than doubled to 11,000 from 1998 to 2012, the last year for which Census data are available.

There’s a multibillion-dollar market for tutoring services in the U.S., with franchises such as Kumon and big chains including Kaplan and Princeton Review. The test prep industry promises to help students score better on everything from the SAT to Advanced Placement courses to med school entrance exams.

Tutoring businesses are more likely to pop up in populous states, where there are dense concentrations of striving students, with families willing to pay for lessons that can exceed $200 an hour. New Jersey had 16 tutoring businesses for every 100,000 residents aged 23 or younger, the highest rate of any state. Wyoming had two tutoring centers per 100,000, the lowest.

Do states with more testing centers do better on the SATs? How effective test prep courses are is an open debate, and looking at Census data on tutoring establishments is a very blunt tool for answering the question. Scoring data from the College Board, which administers the SAT, shows a scattershot relationship between test scores and test prep businesses. Idaho, which has among the fewest tutoring businesses, had the second-lowest SAT scores in the country in 2013. Then again, North Dakota, where tutors are also sparse, had the second-highest scores.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Test Prep

November 24, 2013

Private tutors: required or redundant?

by Nancy Ji, The Varsity, The University of Toronto, originally published on  9/30/13

As a first-year student, Chelsey Konya struggled in Economics 105. Finding that she was not able to learn effectively in lecture, she stopped going to economics classes after the first few weeks. Around exam time, Konya remembered a pamphlet she received in the first week of class for a tutoring service called ECOMAN. Konya paid for the service, aced her exam, and passed the course.

Konya is one of many students who opt to use services offered by private tutoring companies such as ECOMAN, Toronto Life Sciences (TLS), and SOS Tutoring Inc. Among other services, these companies offer group tutoring sessions designed around many introductory math, science, and economics courses at U of T. While Konya had very positive things to say about her experience, perspectives on the effectiveness and value of these services vary widely among faculty and students.

Though outside tutoring companies are not affiliated with the university, they often rent space from U of T and run their sessions on university property. Laurie Stephens, Director of Media Relations for the university did not answer questions about the tutors saying: “We cannot comment on the effectiveness of services provided by external service providers.”

Concerns about “crash course” learning model

Some professors interviewed by The Varsity expressed concern about “crash course” sessions offered by private tutoring companies. “Some of these services try to teach students to memorize a lot of things without understanding,” said mat137 course coordinator and lecturer Alfonso Gracia-Saz. He added that a crash course focusing on memorization and pattern matching will not prepare a student for a well-designed exam, which would focus on conceptual understanding.

“Learning occurs best when it is drawn out over time, e.g., through a series of multiple learning sessions, not when it is crammed into a single session,” said PSY100 professor Ashley Waggoner-Denton. Shawn Tian, president of the Arts & Science Students’ Union (ASSU), stressed that it is every student’s responsibility to stay on top of their work. He argued that viewing tutoring sessions as a “failsafe” for not paying attention in class is ineffective. A crammed review session is unlikely to help a student who hasn’t stayed on track throughout the semester, he said.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Small Private Practices,Test Prep

March 31, 2013

School board nixes same school teacher tutoring

Editor’s Note:

This controversy has been brewing for months. The Crossroads of Learning Journal curated an article on 2/16/13, concerning a hearing in December of 2012 which resulted in the teacher’s union taking a position on school teacher tutoring being appropriate. [ Click here to read previous article.]

The following story was written by Dan Glaun, The Island Now, originally published on 3/14/13

The Great Neck Public School Board banned private tutoring between teachers and students within their buildings at Monday night’s meeting, capping months of debate between advocates concerned about potential conflicts of interest and opponents who said the change would harm students. Trustee and policy committee chair Susan Healy acknowledged in a statement the concerns of parents who use private tutors but argued that the change was necessary to guard against the appearance of favoritism or unfairness.

“The prohibition on tutoring students in one’s own building is directly related to the appearance of a conflict of interest,” Healy said. “We do not do so because there are inappropriate situations. We do it so that those situations cannot occur.”

The policy, which was approved unanimously following the fourth public hearing on the topic since September, expands the district’s tutoring restrictions from teachers and students within the same class to those within the same building. The board and several administrators and teachers who testified in favor of the change said the move was necessary to avoid placing teachers in compromising situations, creating the perception of unfairness and corrupting the teacher-parent relationship with money.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Commercial Providers,Government,High School,Small Private Practices,Test Prep,Tutoring Practices

August 12, 2011

Fairfield Prep revokes use of school for Revolution Prep SAT practice test

Orignally published on on 7/5/11

Fairfield College Preparatory School has revoked permission for an SAT practice exam to be given there Friday after learning the free test would be offered by a for-profit company. A Prep spokeswoman said the school had agreed to let several alumni, now college students, use a classroom for what officials had been led to believe was an informal session. But permission was quickly revoked Thursday when school officials learned the alumni represented a California-based company that charges fees for SAT preparation courses and tutoring.

The company, which markets itself both as Ivy Insiders and Revolution Prep, issued a news release June 27 announcing the practice exam at Fairfield Prep was free and open to students of any school. Based in Van Nuys, Calif., Revolution Prep offers two levels of preparation courses — one for $599, the other for $899 — plus one-on-one tutoring, according to the company website. The privately owned company had annual revenues of $11.6 million in 2009, the most recent available.

Colleen Adams, Fairfield Prep’s director of communications, on Friday said no practice exam would be conducted at the North Benson Road school on Friday.

The alumni also improperly used a Fairfield Prep student directory to solicit students to the practice exam, Adams said. The solicitation stated the school was “hosting” the session. In a subsequent email to parents, Fairfield Prep Principal Robert A. Perrotta said the school did not endorse the program and apologized for the improper use of the school’s mailing lists. “Fairfield Prep is not hosting this program nor does it in any way endorse this or any other program which is not under the direct control of Fairfield Prep,” he said in the email.

To read the full article click here.

Filed under: Commercial Providers,Test Prep

August 20, 2010

Trio forms group to help teens overcome testing fears

by Matt Wilson,, originally published 6/24/10

No three letters in the alphabet strike greater fear, dread and anxiety in local high school students than S, A and T.

The SAT Reasoning Test is seen as a monster by many college hopefuls, but three recent Monta Vista High School graduates are devoting a chunk of their summer to helping local students slay the beast.

Sofia Liou, Annie Wu and Tarun Galagali, all 2009 graduates who have returned home for the summer after their first year of college, are co-managing their own SAT tutoring branch.

The young SAT masters will share their tips and tricks in the classroom as they take on the role of teachers.

“Our obligation is to help high school students our age beat this exam,” says Galagali, who just finished his first year at Dartmouth College.

The highest score is 2,400, which is the combined score of three 800-point sections covering math, critical reading and writing. The test can take nearly four hours to slog through, and the students-turned-teachers plan to teach the SAT a different way.

“We’re looking at this from a game theory perspective. The exam has a structure, and it’s not like a typical test,” says Galagali, who earned a 2,290 score on the SAT and a perfect 800 in the critical reading section. “It tests the same thing, the same way every time. It’s beatable. You do not have to be the smartest person to beat this, but those that know the test the most will do the best.”

The trio is part of an organization called IvyInsiders, which supplies their teaching material. The group claims that on average students can expect a 263-point improvement in their SAT scores. The three are putting themselves in direct competition with big-name SAT prep companies.

They create low pressure approach to tacking the test. “If they look at it as a test of intelligence, they will get stressed out. The SAT is not a comprehensive knowledge test and looking at it as a game alleviates a lot of student pressure,” Galagali says.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Small Private Practices,Test Prep

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