Apr 02, 2019
By Megan O'Connor, Clark CEO
For those of us that work in the education space, the news over the last few weeks has been disheartening to say the least. Reading stories about wealthy parents paying exorbitant sums to people positioning themselves as educators or coaches, without zero integrity, to cheat their children into certain schools—it makes us sad, on a number of levels.
It’s sad because it highlights how much parental pressure there is on kids to succeed, and for that success to look a certain way and have a certain prestige attached to it. It’s sad because it shows how gamed the system can be, and how much harder it is for certain populations to gain access to particular universities or elevated education opportunities in general.
Mostly, for me, it’s sad because it’s given tutoring a bad look. These situations—bribing, cheating, scamming to get ahead—are so egregious, and so far removed from anything that I or the team at Clark or the tutors we work with would ever condone. And while it’s dark to recognize this reality, it’s also a good moment to take a step back and look at all of the good tutoring happening in the world. There are phenomenal people, dedicated educators, and honest coaches working, in a just and fair way, to help students achieve their own educational outcomes, and doing it through great teaching—not cheating.
Josh is one of those tutors. He’s worked with us at Clark for years to help power his tutoring business, through which he coaches more than 30 students at any given point in time. Josh has created a diagnostic approach that he uses to drive student success through high school and the college admissions process. What Josh does phenomenally well is help kids understand their baseline—where are they today, and exactly what kind of practice is going to be needed for them to reach their goals. He sets expectations and then teaches skills, so students are spending time studying, repeating, and practicing to get the scores they need through hard word and discipline, not cheating.
Another tutoring company that we work with at Clark that’s doing amazing work is the FRED (Foundational Reading and Educational Development) Center. Fred Tabeek—the center’s founder—saw a pressing need for additional support for students with reading and literacy difficulties. Since so much of school (and testing, and applications) is literacy-based, these students deal with additional challenges. Helping this vulnerable population, who can struggle in a traditional classroom environment, to give them the same access to opportunity as others is incredibly compelling—it’s about leveling the playing field.
The third tutor that came to mind when I was thinking about these scandals is Mary at Evolved Education. Mary is incredibly attuned to the social and emotional needs of students. A lot of what inspired her to actually start her own tutoring business was realizing just how much pressure kids were feeling to succeed, not just with classroom grades but on test scores and college admissions, as well. Her approach to tutoring revolves around providing a safe environment where kids can ask questions, overcome their anxiety and self-doubt, and get the support they need to be successful, both in terms of their short-term goals and on into life.
The admissions scandal has brought a lot of bad behavior to light, and it needs to be addressed. As we as a society see these stories come to light we need to stop and ask ourselves: how did we get to this point, where parents and students are gaming the system to get affluent students into college? And as we look at where to put our attention and resources to fix this, it’s also a moment to recognize and lend our support to those educators who are tutoring students the right way, to help them double down on their efforts, and to enable them to continue building this critical support system to help all students achieve their potential.
We need to fix what’s bad, but we also need to bolster what’s good. Ensuring that all kids have access to individualized, personalized learning by empowering tutors to do what they do best is mission critical to every student fulfilling their dreams—at the institution they deserve to be at.