Some reasons for the explosive growth in tutoring

by Grace

The “tutoring-industrial” complex has proven to be recession resistant, experiencing an increase in business of at least 1,000 percent since 2001.

Whether they’re seeking remedial help for their child or a leg up to the Ivy League, millions of parents are encountering a frustrating new homework project of their own: learning the intricacies of the tutoring-industrial complex. The “supplemental education” sector is now an estimated $5 billion business, 10 times as large as it was in 2001, according to Michael Sandler, founder of education-research and consulting firm Eduventures. Tutoring firms no longer offer just subject-specific help in, say, Latin or chemistry; increasingly, they’re marketing a dizzying menu of test prep, study skills, enrichment tutorials, scholastic summer camps and prekindergarten readiness programs….

Recession resistant

And while other industries struggled through the downturn, the tutoring sector has grown more than 50 percent since 2008, according to Eduventures. “We’re somewhat recession-resistant,” says Joe Nativo, chief financial officer of Kumon Math and Reading Centers, a chain that says it has taught more than 4 million children worldwide.

The article gives some reasons behind the increase in tutoring.

  • Growing competition for entrance to elite colleges
  • Increase in average class size.  (This is a dubious claim, considering the increase is minimal and that research tying class size to student achievement is weak.)
  • Higher numbers of children diagnosed with learning disabilities
  • “Hand-wringing parents” fearful that their children will fall behind
  • More effective marketing that plays into parents’ fears
  • The No Child Left Behind mandate that schools “in need of improvement” provide tutoring for students has lead to $900 million in federal money spent annually on tutoring

Is constructivism also fueling the tutor boom?

There is no mention that the tutoring boom may also be the result of changes in teaching methods and curriculum that have come to focus on fads instead of on research-based pedagogy.  But given that the explosive growth in Kumon Math and Reading Centers with their focus on traditional skills practice  has made it the largest franchise tutoring firm in the U.S., I believe this is a factor.   I’m also reminded of a local Chyten tutoring center that advertises a return to the basics.

Math Facts Boot Camp
Pre-Algebra; Algebra I; Algebra II; Geometry
With the new emphasis on “real world” or “integrated” math, many educators agree that the skills that go into solving math problems, pure and simple, are being lost.
Chyten’s Math Facts Boot Camps are comprehensive and intensive courses in which the ability to solve equations is brought back to its rightful position, front and center in a student’s math mind.

In the enduring words of Catherine at Kitchen Table Math:

 No parent hires a constructivist tutor

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4 Comments to “Some reasons for the explosive growth in tutoring”

  1. “Most parents really didn’t care what we learned”

    I don’t know if they didn’t care, but perhaps they felt confident we were learning enough to get us through whatever the next step was. I agree that parents are more desperate today.


  2. I’ve been thinking about Catherine’s statement that, “No parent hires a constructivist tutor”. Could it be that they are called something else? My husband is interviewing a potential math tutor for my son tomorrow, but what we are looking for is really a math buddy to explore topics not covered in school. A constructivist approach is a bit closer to what we want, though not exactly right either.

    Also, we’ve looked at the Imacs math enrichment program, and it also is not exactly traditional in approach.


  3. My father does some tutoring these days. He is a retired physicist. He is completely constructivist in his approach, though I doubt he knows that particular term. The families of bright kids basically hire him to be a science buddy, as the poster above describes it, and explore advanced concepts along with the kid. My father, who was a professor, has an educational philosophy that could best be described as “progressive with high standards”. He always asks us why we don’t have our kids in Montessori schools.


  4. kcab & DKM – The quoted article also had an example of what sounded more like what you describe, so those types of tutors DO exist. Often, like a local outfit I know, they are for gifted students and call themselves “enrichment” providers. But those types are far outnumbered by direct instruction tutors. Catherine was exaggerating a little. 🙂


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