kitchen table math, the sequel: Lewis M. Andrews on suburban schools and tutors

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lewis M. Andrews on suburban schools and tutors

One telling indicator of the low quality of suburban schools is the rise of tutoring. In 2008, PBS's Nightly Business Report estimated professional tutoring to be a $4 billion industry that year, concentrated in the suburbs, with a 10 percent estimated annual growth rate.

Even this figure does not take into account either the common off-the-books arrangements with moonlighting teachers or burgeoning Internet options. With small online providers like Colorado-based e-Tutor seeing revenue jump from $180,000 in 2009 to a quarter million in 2010 despite the recession, the Kaplan online university division of the Washington Post has launched its own reading and math programs for elementary and middle school students.
Meet the Suburban Parents


Anonymous said...

Lewis M. Andrews, not Michael Lewis ... right?

-Mark Roulo

Catherine Johnson said...

good grief - where is my head?

thank you!

Jenn Cohen said...

Any other ideas why tutors are so popular? Is it really because the schools are bad? Are parents looking for enrichment rather than remediation? Wanting their kids to do something to get ahead? Fill their summers with education? And where does test prep come in? Just think there are lots of factors at play, and it's too simplistic to blame the rise of tutoring on insufficient schools.

SteveH said...

"One telling indicator of the low quality of suburban schools is the rise of tutoring."

Tutoring tells me different things depending on what kind of tutoring is being done. It also depends on whether tutoring includes test prep classes or not. Also, some of the test prep might be test prep, and some of it might be to teach things that kids never learned properly in the first place. The SAT tutors who frequent this blog might be able to comment on the percentage of time spent on each.

There is the issue of tutoring based on increased competition, but that will show up in the increased spending on test prep. Many kids might be fine students in many colleges, but they need to have better SAT/ACT scores to get in. If schools don't provide this support, parents have to pay for it elsewhere. Does this mean that if many students want more academically, high schools don't have to provide that support if they are somehow good enough? Can schools just ignore competition and then blame weird parents for wanting their kids to be come super-students? Is it OK for schools to be just not bad or good enough?

People don't tutor for enrichment and summer science camps don't (shouldn't) fall into the tutoring category. Maybe competition is causing parents to wake up and focus on why kids can get top grades in school, but still do poorly on the SAT/ACT tests.

However, the main point of that article is the idea that middle class parents are "uncritical supporters" of schools. I don't believe that. Many of them may start out that way, but then they learn to do the best they can without causing trouble for their kids. Some kids are sent to private schools, but parents run into many of the same problems there. It's not that parents are uncritical, it's just that they've been taught, over and over, that there is little they can do to change the system. Many at KTM have learned this the hard way.

Crimson Wife said...

There was a discussion the other day on my town mothers' club e-list about moving to a neighboring town that has better schools. There was one post in particular by a mom that I found very relevant to the discussion here at KTM. Here's an excerpt:

"A lot has been said on this board about what you would/would not do to send you child to a 'better' school. Some thoughts: Any child of a mother on this board will be JUST FINE. Why? Because you care. You are involved. Your child could go to THE WORST school in the world, but because you know what's going on, you will find the gems (teachers, programs, opportunities) in every school. And, you won't send your child to the worst school, so your kids will get a good education.

I know a lot of educators (personally and professionally) who say the most important aspect about a child's education is their parents. An active parent will make sure the child is doing well in class and avoids the pitfalls of being in a less optimum environment. They have told me repeatedly that I can make a difference in my child's education and that's more important than the school."

So many parents hold this type of attitude that those of us who feel the quality of schools *DO* matter get painted as overinvolved "helicopter" parents and are frequently told to "get a life".

lgm said...

People ARE tutoring for enrichment here. Let's be blunt - many students could test out of K-2 on the first day of school and skip the thinly disguised fall remdial units. The curriculuum objectives have been stripped to basic or '3' level. The units necessary to acheive '4' level -- or college prep -- are declared 'enrichment' by the school. Individual teachers will hire themselves out and teach those units privately. Parents that want their children in the honors or college prep program will hire because the school won't place by instructional need.

Beyond that,many parents hire because their child draws a teacher who can a) only present information or b)who has stopped presenting and is babysitting or c) is a long term sub not certified or able to teach the content of the course. Actual teaching is absent, and likely the course is a pre-requisite for next year's course.

With NY state's limit of only transferring in 5.5 credits, one can't take all the required courses that have bad teachers via distance learning.

palisadesk said...

People don't tutor for enrichment

Oh yes they do. It's a smaller market, I'm sure, but I know some tutoring centers that focus primarily on "enrichment" tutoring, as well as some that do all sorts -- remedial, test prep and enrichment.

Typically, the enrichment work is in math, science, or specific language areas (public speaking, novella writing, writing research papers).

ChemProf said...

"the most important aspect of a child's education is their parents."

And yet, so many parents and educators who believe this are totally opposed to homeschooling...