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Anne Yount initially started Boston Tutoring Center in 2004 out of her home. The Center flourished and moved to its first location on Spring Street in 2006, and to its present location on Baker Street in 2010, and has grown to serve over 500 students in the past 8 years. Anne saw a need for a tutoring center that employed highly qualified tutors who could work with students in grades K-12 on a wide range of academic subjects, with an emphasis on study skills and test preparation. As a parent of children that have needed tutoring services over the years, she was frustrated that she could not find a professional tutoring company to meet her children’s needs. Most tutors in the Boston area work on a part time basis and typically only tutor as a way to make money when they are in between jobs or school programs. Just when she thought she had found a great tutor they would invariably give notice to return to school or full time work in their profession. Boston Tutoring Center is a center-based program that hires teaching professionals who have a minimum of a master’s degree. Tutors are rigorously screened to insure that they have teaching experience, have subject matter knowledge, and they have a clean criminal record. Boston Tutoring Center provides test prep for students in grades K-12, with a specialization in preparing students for private school entrance exams.
Boston ISEE Prep works with students to prepare them for entrance exams to private middle and high schools, and to the three prestigious Boston Exam Schools. Over the last 10 years the demand for private schools has only increased, and more and more parents are looking to take their children out of the public school systems and place them in a private school setting. The recession has left many public schools with few resources. Public schools often have large classes and few extras such as sports, art, music and after school activities. Parents increasingly want the benefits of a private school education for their children. Boston ISEE Prep helps prepare students to do well on the entrance exams, thereby increasing their chances of admission and obtaining merit scholarship money.
Boston Private School Search is a new endeavor that will be offer more personalized services for private school admissions. The web site will have a searchable database of private school facts and information to help parents select a school that is a good fit for their children. There will also be message boards so that parents can connect with one another as they navigate the private school admission’s process. Boston Private School Search will also offer educational consulting around private school choices and assist parents and students in preparing for private school interviews, completing applications, and writing essays. The services will be very similar to those offered by college coaches.
MO: Why did you initially found the Boston Tutoring Center? Did the success of BTC give you the confidence and experience to open Boston ISEE Prep and Boston Private School Search?
Anne: I was frustrated that I could not find a program for my son that provided high quality, affordable tutoring in a center-based environment. The tutoring companies that I contacted when looking for tutoring services for my son were all franchises that charged a lot of money for their services, but did not offer customized, one-on-one instruction. Most franchises offered small group tutoring with a 3:1 student/teacher ratio, and they used a prescribed program for teaching material. There were no options for one-on-one tutoring that addressed the child’s specific needs. It was very much a one-size- fits-all approach. Boston ISEE Prep was actually the first business, and it grew out of my experience preparing my son to take the ISEE. Parents started asking for one-on-one tutoring services for math, Latin and SAT test prep, so Boston Tutoring Center was born. Boston Private School Search was created to address parent requests for more assistance in applying to private schools and it evolved from the work we do at Boston ISEE Prep.
MO: What’s the process for attracting the best tutors possible for your company?
Anne: Many of my tutors are in doctoral programs and find working as a tutor a great way to balance work and the pursuit of their degree. They have teaching experience, they are highly educated, they value education, and they are young and energetic. I also provide a lot of support services for my tutors so that they can focus on teaching students. I handle all payment, scheduling, contact with parents, progress reports for students, curriculum development, etc. Tutors spend their time teaching. The tutors also do not have to drive around fighting traffic to get from one student to another, the students come to them, and tutors are scheduled with students one after another in 5-8 hours blocks. I also pay about 50% more than most tutoring companies in the area, and I screen all incoming families to make sure that what the parent is looking for is realistic, and is something we can provide. Tutors love working in this environment and they stay for years. I have some tutors who are going on 5 years with me. My average tutor is with me for 2-3 years.
MO: How do you feel that the educational landscape has changed over the past 5 years and are there any trends in education that you’re currently noticing?
Anne: Education continues to be a hot button topic in America. Everyone is concerned about the quality of the education his or her children are receiving. Unfortunately, the public school system in America is not always up to the task of educating children, and many parents are looking for supplemental education services to fill the gaps in their children’s education. Parents complain of large class sizes, teachers with no time to work with struggling students, high turnover in teaching staff, and schools that are financially strapped and lacking in resources. Many parents are leaving the public school system and enrolling their children in private school. Despite the recession, the private schools in the Boston area have seen no decrease in the demand for their services. We also had very strong growth in our business over the last 4 years.
MO: Do you have any tips to parents with children who are struggling in school or with a particular subject?
Anne: I would say that the best thing a parent can do is to get help for their child as soon as they see that the child is having a problem. Often parents will contact me towards the end of the school year and ask me to schedule intensive tutoring to help a child who is failing a subject in school. It is very hard to try to teach a whole year’s worth of material in a few weeks. Cramming often does not work, it is too overwhelming for the child. These parents will tell me that the child failed the course on the first report card and the second report card, but they waited to seek help for the child because they thought that the child would be able to improve their grade. Chances are if a child is failing a subject it is only going to get worse. Many subjects (such as math and foreign languages) are cumulative, with one topic building on another. If a child has missed the basics, then they often become more and more lost as the material increases in complexity. Getting help for the child at the first signs of difficulty can often make a huge difference in whether the child succeeds or fails.
MO: You are very low key as a business – no Facebook page, no Twitter and no videos. Has this been a conscious decision or are you now trying to integrate more social media into your business and marketing plan?
Anne: We have grown very quickly through word-of-mouth referrals, so we really do not have a need to do a lot of promotion. We do send out e-mail newsletters a few times a year to highlight different programs we offer, but beyond that we do minimal advertising, and we don’t use any forms of social media. Word-of-mouth has been a wonderful way to grow the business. A referral from a satisfied client is the best form of advertising. We tend to get referrals of friends, neighbors and colleagues of our clients, and we know that when people refer others to us they are often sending us people similar to themselves, and this often results in a good match for our services. We are not for everyone. We like to work with families that value education and understand that achievement takes effort and dedication. There are no quick fixes and no easy As. Hard work pays off, and we like to work with people who understand this and are not trying to take short cuts.
MO: Is there a rise in children attending private school? How are you perfectly positioned to help parents with this challenging and often confusing search and process?
Anne: Yes, from our standpoint in the Boston area there is an ever-increasing demand for private school services. We have even seen new private schools opening over the last few years, and existing private schools are expanding and building new facilities to meet the increasing demand. We do see ourselves as being very uniquely positioned in this market. We offer test preparation, tutoring, college planning, educational consulting and diagnostic evaluations. We are the only business in our area that specializes in the private school entrance exams. We have developed our own curriculum to teach the test material, and we teach test prep 12 months of the year. We also have relationships with over 50 admissions directors at the private schools in our area. We tour the schools, meet with the admission’s staff and sit in on classes. We know what schools are looking for in students, and we know how to help parents find the right school for their child. Parents tell us that working with us takes the stress out of applying to private schools.
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