Friday, January 14, 2011

American Cram School Industry

Private tutoring in South Korea is a $23 billion industry. A huge part of the market is test preparation for the national college entrance exam.  Students spend years, and many spend thousands of dollars, preparing for it.

In the United States, the private test prep market for the SAT and ACT college-entrance exams is much smaller, but growing. The National Association for College Admission Counseling estimated it to be worth as much as $ 4 billion.  Some of the tutoring centers are mom and pops modeled after Indian or Korean cram schools; Others are major companies, such as the Princeton Review or Kaplan, which is owned by the Washington Post Co.

The college counselors' association is concerned that outside-of-school coaching is giving some students unfair advantage in admissions. And it has issued a couple of reports on how the industry is changing and what effect coaching can have on college admissions.

Through extensive research - more than 30 studies over a half century - the report found that coaching provides a 10-20 point boost on the math section of the SAT and a 5-10 point boost in English.  The research is much thinner and less conclusive on the ACT.

While not a huge jump, it's enough to give some students the edge they need, particularly if the college sets a cut-off score or weighs the score heavily in comparison to other activities and achievements, the report found.

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