Tutoring Spreads

Source: NYTimes, Apr 2013

It’s no surprise to the average New York parent that so-called cram schools, once the cultural domain of Chinese-, Korean- and Russian-American students, have gained traction with non-Asian parents hoping to grab slots in competitive gifted programs and coveted middle and high schools by improving their children’s test scores.

But whereas five years ago owners of cram schools were surprised to encounter non-Asian students in their waiting rooms, now they are muscling one another for their business, handing out book bags with the names of their schools scrawled across the front, attending summer camp fairs in synagogues and school cafeterias, hiring receptionists who speak English, and aggressively pitting themselves against the Japanese cram school behemoth, Kumon, which dominates the local market.

E.nopi, a 37-year-old tutoring franchise developed by a South Korean entrepreneur, recently switched its American name to Eye-Level, to call up an image popular among American parents: child-centric instruction. In its recently opened center in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where four one-hour sessions cost $200, about two-thirds of the 100 or so students are black, Hispanic or white, according to the school. “We’re a complete mixed crowd now,” said Franco Verdino, the owner of the Park Slope franchise.

The test-preparation industry is expected to generate $840.4 million in revenues in 2013, according to a recently released report by the market research firm IBISWorld. That figure is expected to climb to $876.9 million by 2018. Spurring the trend, experts say, are the very obsessions that drive New York parents to distraction: the increasing competitiveness of the college entrance process, the introduction of more rigorous national curriculum standards, and a lack of faith in local public schools

At Florentine, where an 18-week package of Saturday elementary or middle school classes goes for $1,255, the attempts to diversify were evident on a recent Saturday morning.


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