Tutoring to the Test – We Need to Stop the Insanity!

Dear Commons Community,

For decades the influence of socio-economics on academic achievement has been well-documented in the education research literature.  A great debate going back to the Coleman Report of 1966 has evolved over the effects of the home, family, and neighborhood versus those of the school on academic achievement and success.  This issue generally manifests itself as part of the discussion about the inequities of public school financing.  However another aspect of the issue was presented in an article in the NY Times that covered the use of tutors for children to pass SAT and other tests to assure entry to the “best” schools.  The hours and costs for these tutoring services are quite significant.  For example:

“Last year, she [the mother of one high school senior] said, her tutoring bills hit six figures, including year-round SAT preparation from Advantage Testing at $425 per 50 minutes; Spanish and math help from current and former private school teachers at $150 an hour; and sessions  with Mr. Iyer [a top tutor at Ivy Consulting Group] for Riverdale’s equally notorious interdisciplinary course Constructing America, at $375 per 50 minutes.”

No one begrudges people who have resources to use them as best they can for their children but we have set up an academic reward system in this country  based extensively on testing that favors significantly children of means.   The article also makes the point that:

”What is most troubling to those trying to curtail academic tutoring is that instead of remedial help for struggling students, more and more of it seems to be for those trying to get ahead in the intensely competitive college-application race.”  Furthermore the parent at one private school said that: “The policy is that [students] are not supposed to have a tutor,” [but] “The reality is that they all have them.”

Borrowing a phrase from fitness self-help guru Susan Powter, whose infomercials were ubiquitous in the 1990s, we need to find a way “to stop the insanity”.



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