Archives for category: Tutoring

A reader recently wrote what it is like to work for a for-profit tutoring company:

I am a teacher in a Catholic school and I work for one of these for profit tutoring companies in Chicago. I provide small group instruction to children in math and reading.

Although I feel that I am conscientious and try my best to provide the best services I can for my students, the company I work for pays teachers very low salaries and forces them to teach extremely unreasonable number of hours per day with almost no preparation time. I, for example, teach nine, 40 minute classes per day with a 20 minute lunch.

The company is squeezing teachers more and more so that the company makes lots of money for their shareholders (because they are paid by the head).

The company cares only about paperwork, and does not care one iota about whether the children learn anything at all. I love the school I work at and the children I teach, but the many, many layers of management add no value whatsover to the end product and provide zero professional development to their teachers.

If more people understood what these companies are doing, they would be outraged!

A reader, Jill Koyama, calls attention to an important topic:

I actually conducted a 3-year study of private tutoring companies in NYC. Here is the link to my book, Making Failure Pay: For-Profit Tutoring, High-Stakes Testing, and Public Schools, published in 2010 by the University of Chicago Press:

When I visited Austin recently, I taped an interview with Evan Smith for his PBS program “Overheard.” It will air tonight on PBS stations in Texas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Tampa, New Orleans, and other places.

If you miss it, this is the link that will go live after the show airs.

There was a live and very enthusiastic audience, which made it a lively setting. Just what you would expect in Texas.

An expose in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune uncovered fraud, waste, and incompetence in the federal program for tutoring called Supplementary Educational Services. This program is part of No Child Left Behind, and it created the equivalent of a voucher program for after-school tutoring. Instead of encouraging schools to provide trained and certified teachers for the extra tutoring that low-performing students need, NCLB inspired the creation of a tutoring “industry.”

Ten years ago, when Congress created the tutoring program as part of No Child Left Behind, proponents believed the private market would accomplish what the public sector had failed to do.

For the first time, many parents would have a say in how their kids were educated. If they didn’t like the troubled school their children were attending, they could switch and districts would pay for transportation. If they wanted to take advantage of free tutoring, they would have plenty of options, and districts would foot the bill.

¬†Entrepreneurs saw their opportunity and they took it. Thousands of brand-new businesses sprung up to take advantage of the federal dollars. For-profit online corporations leapt to get into this new and lucrative market. The money for SES comes out of the district’s Title I allocation. The cost of SES soared from $375 million in 2005-06 to $970 million last year. That is quite a tempting market.
In Minnesota, more than 80 tutoring services vie for $20 million in federal funds. The most aggressive of the tutoring companies are the online for-profit operators, who pitch their wares to unwary parents. According to the article, they charge as much as $90 an hour, as compared to the nonprofits, which charge as little as $5 an hour. A lucrative business for the corporation, not so profitable for the students. At those sky-high rates, the money runs out long before the student has gained much from the “tutoring.”
The SES program has never had adequate federal or state oversight. Numerous studies concluded that the SES tutoring was ineffective.¬†“It wasted a lot of money and a lot of people’s time,” said Steven Ross, an education professor at Johns Hopkins University who led at least 15 state studies analyzing the program. “It was inadequately funded and developed. The policies don’t work. The whole concept was a bad turn. … It turned out to be very dysfunctional.”
The article documents numerous cases of fraud, occasionally leading to termination of a company’s contract. In several instances, tutoring companies billed for sessions that never ¬†happened; typically, they recruit aggressively, but deliver subpar services to students.
As an aside, the Romney education plan envisions turning over even more money and programs to the private sector, with minimal regulation.
Why do we keep wasting money on private vendors instead of providing our public schools with the resources they need to give students intensive tutoring? At least, we would have the assurance that the services were supplied by certified teachers rather than profit-seeking amateurs.