Feb 26, 2019
By Megan O’Connor, CEO at Clark
Particularly in major urban areas, there’s no shortage of options for parents looking for a tutor for their child. But while a quick scan on Google might lead you to the big box tutoring shops and national franchises at first, it’s worth doing the extra legwork—talking to school administrators and classroom teachers, pursuing word-of-mouth recommendations, or even just skipping to the second or third page of search results—to find a smaller tutoring company that actually has roots in your area. Why? Because a local tutoring center will produce better outcomes for your student.
In the same way that there’s value in shopping local, keeping education local benefits the community. But beyond that, studies show it results in better student outcomes, as well.
The proprietary research that we’ve done at Clark just underscores the effectiveness and importance of mom and pop tutoring shops. At bigger companies, tutor turnover can be high as individual educators pursue their own careers and projects. Staff at big-box franchises are often not full-time educators, but rather individuals using tutoring as a temporary job, not a career.
At smaller companies, the tutor workforce tends to be smaller and more committed. The educators working at said companies are more often full-time teachers, retired teachers, and learning specialists working part-time for side income. These individuals are committed to the education as a profession, meaning that students are more likely to be able to work with the same tutor for an extended period of time. Studies show that a long relationship with the same tutor—focused on building academic skills and confidence over time—is much more productive. Student outcomes simply aren’t as good with an on-demand tutor.
Smaller tutoring companies that have grown out of and operated in your area over time also bring a level of familiarity and expertise to the table that just doesn’t exist when a national enterprise is overseeing lesson plans and operations. In New York for example, an NYC-based tutoring company is going to bring unique knowledge and insights about specific admission tests for specialty middle schools, high schools, and programs. They know the history of the tests and how they’ve changed over time.
These tutors also know the history of specific schools. A tutor who’s had past students go through the same school as a current client, sometimes even working with the same exact classroom teachers, understands the environment. They’re able to support students on a social and emotional level, in addition to an academic one. They know the community, and they know what pressures a student might be experiencing outside of the classroom itself.
That expertise also lets educators bring a personal touch to tutoring. They’re uniquely able to tailor their curriculum to meet the needs of students in a way that companies not intimately familiar with the schools in your community simply aren’t equipped to do. And close ties to local schools means that tutors can work and communicate directly with administrators and classroom teachers as needed to ensure student success.
There are practical considerations, too. For families with more than one kid, a smaller tutoring company, with tutors who stick with the company over time, can allow them to have multiple children work with one tutor. There’s a lot of benefit to that familiarity and consistency, not to mention the time and effort saved navigating various vendors or communicating with different educators for each child.
And lest parents think that a local company or smaller shop won’t be able to offer the flexibility and convenience that a bigger operation might tout, new software (like what we’re building at Clark) is putting high-tech tools directly into tutors’ hands, letting them offer online sessions and services like automatic payments that might have been more cumbersome for independent tutoring companies to manage in the past.
Beyond the educational benefits for students, it’s increasingly important to lend your economic support to educators in your area. Tutoring isn’t the most lucrative career option, so in the same way that we shop locally, it’s nice to put money toward local educators who are committed to your community and students in your area. We see lots of teachers who transition to tutoring after years in the classroom. Those teachers tend to choose the local tutoring companies that they’ve seen students succeed with over the course of their careers, so sending your student to them not only ensures they’re benefiting from that firsthand knowledge of what’s happening in schools, it lets you continue to support teachers who have dedicated years to your local community.
Today, we see fewer and fewer people going to the big tutoring centers and franchises. Parents and students are seeing the value in bespoke tutoring centers and choosing to support them instead. I’ve seen this benefit close to home, as well. My mom—a classroom teacher and tutor who really inspired the work that we do at Clark—has been tutoring students in her hometown for years. It’s been incredibly impactful for her over the years to be able to work with students as they progress through the schools that she knows firsthand.