Monday, October 24, 2011

Get Your Money's Worth

Before spending hard earned money and a child's time on SAT prep course, find out:

1.  If the students are grouped according to ability.  I taught several SAT courses for prestigious places and this was not true.  When a student taking algebra is lumped into the same class as one taking trigonometry, learning cannot take place.  The group is just too diversified and the child aiming for 800 has very different needs than the one aiming for 500.

2.  If class size is small.  You are spending quite a bit of money so be sure your child is getting plenty of attention.  Make sure the people running the group will not just fill the room to capacity.

3.  What materials will be used.  Make sure the teacher is not just going to do the same stuff your child can do on his own.  I taught for a school once that just photocopied Barron's problems and passed them off as their own work.

4.  Consider hiring a private tutor instead.  You will pay more per hour but will probably be able to accomplish more in less time, making the cost the same and the gain significantly higher.

5.  And lastly, make sure your child wants to take the course.  I have seen too many kids sitting in these classes, bored to tears and fiddling with phones, waiting for the time to pass.  You can't force someone to learn.


NYC Educator said...

Great advice. I will take it to heart. Thank you!

Jen said...

Being a (word of mouth, only a student or two at a time) private tutor, I have to agree with #4.

8-10 sessions with me will cost you (in my smallish, but definitely urban city) the same or less than a big prep course.

Your kid won't get timed tests in a classroom with me (usually offered by all the big prep people) -- but those tests aren't "real" tests anyway and are designed to show, well, improvement!

When you hire a private tutor, they are able to pinpoint what you need to work on and what you've already got and not waste anyone's time.

Again, motivation is a factor, but much less when you have to spend an hour face to face with an adult every week!

BUT I'll also say that for really motivated kids who are already scoring pretty well, I recommend paying the kids.

That is, if you think your kid just needs more practice, buy the big blue SAT book, do Test 1 first to get a baseline score. Do several tests from 4-10, looking back at your mistakes and writing down and learning vocabulary words. Then finish up with tests 2 and 3 in as close to test conditions as possible.

Tell your kid you'll pay them X dollars for each completed and corrected/learned from test. And do it. Usually cheapest method, IF already high scoring (>600) and IF motivated and desiring of cash.