I "Undercover Bossed" a Tutoring Company in Atlanta. Here's What Happened
I can't overstate how valuable it is to put yourself in the shoes of your clients. See things from their perspective. With that in mind when I was in Atlanta visiting a friend a couple weeks back I decided to schedule a couple tutoring appointments with a Premium SAT Tutor to be on the other side of the tutoring desk for once. (I'm still borderline young enough to pull this off) Here's what happened.
The tutor I met with charges $200 an hour and I booked two sessions with her. (My wallet is still recovering) Upon entering her office it was noticeably upscale and far nicer than any tutoring office I've ever heard of. Clearly a high quality interior designer was involved. My question now was if the tutoring service would match the appearance. She sat on on the opposite side of the desk with a large monitor facing her but away from me. She was cordial and quite pleasant upon my entering of her office. That's a check in the charisma box. I being nervous about being undercover was quite impressed with how comfortable I soon became with the situation given the tutors welcoming personality.
Apart from that I wasn't too impressed. My first big "no no" of tutoring was broken repeatedly by her throughout the sessions. (That being you don't learn by watching) During the first session she rolled through what was clearly a fined tuned curriculum at a rapid pace. She left little room for my participation. If you've ever been stuck in a conversation with someone who talks about themselves incessantly than you understand what I mean. This was the tutoring edition of that. She was clearly extremely knowledgeable but this was a textbook example of someone who had mastered the content themselves, but struggles to teach it to others. Not once did she ask me a question to see if I actually understood what she was saying and each time I put pencil to paper to work out a math problem she had already finished it and was ready to move on to next one. (Again, never asking me if I had questions or even seeing if I understood it.)
My final review of the sessions is as follows. She has an excellent test prep curriculum that is executed extremely poorly.
As far as homework was concerned it was a practice test every week and a strong insistence towards me paying to take the practice test at their test center. (Her rational being that since I was going to be doing it for homework anyways I might as well pay a little extra to do it in an official test-like environment.
So what did I learn? Well test prep can be hit or miss regardless of price point. After speaking with dozens of tutors nationwide it's still a rarity to find any tutors who actually track all of their students test scores to monitor their average score increases after tutoring. If tutors actually did this and openly disclosed the information it would be a lot easier for parents to pick the right option for them. (and I would enjoy "tutor competitions" with other great tutors to see who could get the highest average score increase) Until then I'll continue plugging away on my normal side of the tutoring desk. (At least until I go undercover again at some point!)