Tutoring deluxe

Wealthy parents pay SAT tutors as much as $685 an hour, reports Bloomberg.

Inspirica’s only “master” tutor, Donald Viscardi, costs $525 an hour. Advantage Testing Inc. in New York charges $685 for its best tutors. And a top tutor with the Princeton Review can cost as much as $300 an hour.

That doesn’t include the cost of flying the tutor to one’s private yacht in Greece or the vacation home in the Virgin Islands, Monaco or Paris.

Students who can’t afford a tutor usually buy preparation guides such as the “The Official SAT Study Guide: For the New SAT” for $14.

My daughter, who had higher SAT scores than any of the hyper-tutored kids quoted in the story, worked as an SAT tutor for a summer. I think she made $18 an hour. Not the premium service, I guess. The “A” students worked the hardest and went from very good to excellent; the slackers didn’t improve very much.

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  1. KimJ721 says:

    I also made $18/hour doing SAT tutoring earlier this year. The company I worked for charged the parents more than $100/hour for it. That seemed a hefty commission to me, but as my husband was making $8/hour at the time I didn’t complain.

  2. While getting my Ph.D.(finance) at a state school, we charged $30/hour for tutoring the principles class. For the same class in the “almost ivy league” school at the other side of town we could chage almost twice that.

    We figured, if they were willing to pay the money, it was our job to take it. The money paid for new computers for many of my classmates.

  3. We offer ACT prep after school for under $100 (free for kids with financial constraints). The teacher gets a stipend, I think. I also offer special sessions, free, for black students (I get nothing for that except some research data).

  4. edgeworthy says:

    Actually this is further evidence that the elite schools charge TOO LITTLE for tuition.

    Think about it. There are lots of rich folks for whom an Ivy League degree confers bragging rights that go beyond the education received by their kids.

    Why not have Harvard/Yale/Princeton charge $100K per student then give more generous financial aid to the middle class and impoverished students? They already engage in price discrimination. I say they should be even more extreme.

  5. hardlyb says:

    This is a wonderful progressive stupidity tax. I’d be willing to tutor some rich, not very smart kid in the Virgin Islands for $600/hr. And I bet I got at least as good a score on my SAT’s as the $625/hr tutor.

    When our eldest took the SAT’s a couple of years ago (at 12), we splurged and bought her both the College Board book and the one from Princeton Review. She spend about 2 1/2 weeks working in the afternoons on this material (asking us an occasional question), and got a 1400. (If she had started earlier so that she had time to learn the math that she’d never seen — especially the junk they call statistics on the test — she’d have gotten over 1500.)

    I guess if we were really rich, we could have hired the very expensive tutor and she would have scored lower…

  6. ragnarok says:

    RCC said:

    “…free, for black students”

    Why this particular qualifier? Why not say, for poor students? On the face of it, this is pretty disturbing.

  7. Hunter McDaniel says:

    So if I pay all this money to help my kid get into a college where all the kids are a lot smarter than him/her, I’m doing my child a service – how?

  8. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Become AllisonCo, Inc. Bill at $1,000/hr with discounts for the needy.
    With any luck, she can get a grant to cover the full rate.
    She might even hire her mother as consultant.

  9. ragnarok: Because NCLB defines the achievement gap along racial lines. Also, my study involves code switching from AAVE to SE, which white students don’t do.

    I find it interesting that you automatically think black=poor. Most of my black students involved in the classes come from pretty affluent homes.

  10. In the minds of liberals and a growing number of conservatives, poor white people do not exist.

  11. edgeworthy says:

    The other point worth noting is that the desire to get a child into a school they may not be appropriate for reflects on grade inflation. If Harvard were much harder — so that, for example, >20% graduated with only a C average and really bad students flunked out — then there would be little incentive to get a student in, just for the sake of getting in.

    As it stands, a student who would really have a hard time keeping up with others at Harvard or Yale can still benefit by getting in, picking easier classes to make a B+ average, then getting out with a Harvard degree.

    I doubt that it pays to artificially bump up someone’s scores so they get into MIT and Caltech. Students who don’t belong there will be miserable and quite likely not even graduate.

  12. ragnarok says:

    RCC said:

    “Because NCLB defines the achievement gap along racial lines. …
    I find it interesting that you automatically think black=poor”

    Can you show me where I equated poor with black?

    I believe that poor kids who are willing to make an effort should be helped, be they black, white, blue or brown.

    What I did was to suggest a different qualifier, and, I think, a better one.

  13. I wouldn’t care if another student wanted to sit in, but note I said this was a research project and that I particularly am looking at AAVE. Poor white kids don’t use AAVE.

    I do work with other kids. The regular class is free for those with financial need. I just decided I wanted to do some research to see if I could be more effective with black kids. I’ve noticed that they don’t score as well as their white peers, even when their abilities are about the same. I think it is the time pressure of the test not allowing them to think about code switching. If I can drill them into code switching faster, I can help them score as well as they should. Or, if it doesn’t work, I can look at something else. Anyway, just a personal project.

    Why do you assume I wouldn’t help any kid who asked? That idea sort of surprises me.

  14. ragnarok says:

    RCC said:

    “Why do you assume I wouldn’t help any kid who asked? That idea sort of surprises me.”

    Well, because “…free, for black students” sounds rather exclusionary, don’t you think?

  15. ragnarok says:

    Also, RCC, I’m very sceptical about this so-called “code-switching”. I have many friends who’re tri- and quadri-lingual, never heard any of them complain about how that made life hard. I’m tri-lingual, maybe 3.01 if you count atrocious French, but I never felt the need to have anybody teach me to “code-switch”.

    BTW, here in sunny California, the bi-lingual establishment had a rather lucrative gig going for a long time, until Ron Unz passed a proposition that killed most of it. Result? Them kids is doing pretty well with English, more or less across the board. Ain’t nobody round here talkin’ ’bout goin’ back to them bi-lingual days!

  16. So, you’re unhappy that I’m a) doing something extra for free b) trying to help a group of students that the NCLB is targeting as being failed by the educational system and c) conducting personal research to refine my teaching skills.

    Code switching isn’t anything new. It’s a linguistics term, not an education term. In any case, philosophies and theories aside, I’m really responding to something I’m actually observing in my school — the students I’m responsible for — and trying to solve a problem. I’m not concerned whether or not you can “code-switch” — and you’re using the word wrong, by the way — I’m worried about my students.

  17. Independent George says:

    Damn, I’m in the wrong business. I guess I should have known that there’s a lot of money to be made catering to stupid rich people (or, perhaps more accurately, the stupid children of rich people).

    Is there any evidence to show that the ‘tutoring’ actually works? When I studied for my SATS, I found that about the only thing that really helped was taking practice tests, and studying vocabulary. Being a math geek, I tracked my progress with each practice test I took. I had a big initial jump between my first and second tests, then marginal gains after that. My final score turned out to be just slightly below my mean practice score – I was 40 points worse on math, and 20 points higher on verbal. The only prep I did was buying one of those 10 SATs books, and Princeton Review’s Word Smart (an excellent vocabulary builder in its own right – I still have and use it). Total outlay: about $60.

  18. carpeicthus says:

    Wow. I got a 1530 on the SATs and 800s on a slew of SAT IIs without tutoring. And I live in Manhattan. What the hell am I doing working a 9-to-5 job?

    I’m quitting … now.

    (kiddng. maybe.)

  19. According to the Princeton Review people, you can improve your scores to some degree with test prep. The improvement comes more from knowing the tricks and how to “play” the test more than from being smarter. Basically, if you want to do well on the tests, you need to have been working hard all along.

    When I took the SAT a million years ago, I didn’t do any test prep as far as I can recall. Speaking Greek probably helped a lot on the verbal, though.

  20. Greifer says:

    I don’t know how you’d test this hypothesis, but there’s a common sense explanation on why this type of tutoring works: because it makes kids more likely to study than if they didn’t take the tutoring. And if they have to spend $18 or $30 or $300 an hour to learn how to solve for x in an algebra problem, the simple fact of doing rote exercises makes them learn how to do it.

    The really interesting question to me is why a much loved and lauded system that expects children to learn rote multiplication tables or memorize vocabulary words isn’t a model for educators on how to teach in schools themselves.

  21. tsiroth says:

    I’ve often wondered whether test prep really helps any, particularly the kind of intensive prep that people are doing with tutors.

    I took the ACT and PSAT (never took the SAT) in 1992 or so, and never did one lick of test prep. I got a 30 on the ACT and while I don’t remember my PSAT score, it was high enough to qualify me as a National Merit Semifinalist. My high school GPA was about a 2.9.

    It seems to me that the knowledge and skills required to do well on these tests is such that if you need tutors, you probably don’t belong in college. In other words, if you need to prep in order to handle the SAT or ACT, then you need a lot of remedial coursework to be ready for college. A few hours of test prep are not going to make up for years of a poor education.

    Certainly we’ve all seen the widespread complaints about how poorly prepared entering college freshmen are, which jibes with my own anecdotal experience.

    It’s not just the freshmen. I’m supervising an intern right now who is about to start his senior year of an undergrad degree in biology. He has a high GPA and expects to get into med school, but can’t make change in his head, let alone do a quick and dirty dosage calculation on medication (which is a fairly simple application of algebra). I’m not any kind of math whiz myself–I was unable to get through Trigonometry in high school, but this is absurd.

    I do realize that some of the people doing test prep are trying to turn a 30 on the ACT into a 32 or somesuch. However a lot of test prep programs seem to target more marginal students in an effort to get them into a university when they might be better served at a community college.

  22. tsiroth says:

    Ah, here we go. I thought I remembered reading about a study. The Journal of College Admissions found that “preparation affords a negligible impact on verbal scores and a statistically significant, although relatively small, improvement for math.”

    Also “[differences] in student-reported levels of motivation to do special preparation, time spent in actual prep classes or tutoring sessions, and time spent doing prep homework, were all found to be dramatically insignificant.”


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