A Tale of Two Tutoring Companies

Published March 1, 2006
Robb Gott’s Bad Ass is a tutoring service for adults and college students and is not designed for children. All tutoring for Bad Ass is done by college students for college students, in a public place. Gott’s other tutoring service, SuperTutors USA, provides tutoring for youngsters and performs background checks on all such tutors.

Rob Gott founded Bad Ass Tutors in Las Vegas in 2002. Though the tutor referral service caters mostly to college students, Gott said he serves a small K-12 clientele as well. Because Bad Ass Tutors doesn’t operate with government funding, Gott said he felt free to run the service in a more avant-garde fashion–for example, recommending students smoke marijuana before taking a test if they smoke marijuana while studying.

Bad Ass contracts with 168 tutors in the Las Vegas area and more than 1,000 near large college campuses nationwide. When asked whether he runs criminal background checks on potential tutors before hiring them, Gott said he didn’t “bother with them much,” and this was the first time anyone had told him it might be important.

“Our terms stipulate that we just don’t care,” Gott said. “I don’t think political correctness should have anything to do with education. The best tutors, in my experience, are college students. But in terms of K-12 [tutoring], we are going to accept proof of background checks, but we’re not going to make them go through it. Theoretically, they could fake it, but we just don’t worry about that. I don’t look for references, transcripts, or resumes–they’re just a complete waste of our time.

“I don’t know which of our tutors are even licensed, because I don’t ask,” Gott continued.

Brilliant Business

At the other end of the spectrum is the Brilliance Academy of Math and English, a two-and-a-half-year-old tutoring service in the Chicago area. Founder Kabir Kassam, who employs 57 tutors, spent time researching the kinds of certifications that would set his employees apart before applying to become a provider of Supplemental Educational Services (SES). He became certified through the National Tutoring Association himself.

“What I want to do next year is mandate this training for all our tutors,” Kassam said. “We’re not doing that now–it’s optional and highly recommended. So far, we only have three certified, but this year we’ll be putting 10 of them through the program. If they do that, we guarantee them a spot on our roster as a tutor. That gives them a leg up on everyone else.”

One thing Bad Ass Tutors has in common with the Brilliance Academy is that both organizations seek to determine the cause of each student’s learning blockage. They often find it’s environmental or health-related. But when Brilliance Academy tutors find those root causes, Kassam said, they refer the child and/or his family to an appropriate provider, like a nutritional counselor or the local YMCA. Gott, on the other hand, sells nutritional supplements on the Bad Ass Web site.

Checking Out

As far as background checks are concerned, Kassam said they’re a no-brainer. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) mandates at least a statewide criminal background check on every potential tutor; Kassam runs a nationwide check, at a cost of $95 per employee.

“When you’re working with kids, that’s your credibility,” Kassam explained. “If anything were to go wrong–if, God forbid, we were to hire someone with a child-pornography or other felony conviction–that would be absolutely horrifying. A background check is never a 100 percent thing, but I’ll do my best to screen them. They’re the ones talking to the students and meeting the parents, talking to the CPS schools and SES coordinators. If they’re not properly vetted, I’m just doing a disservice to my own company.”

— Karla Dial

For more information …

For more information about Bad Ass Tutors, visit its Web site at http://www.badasstutors.com.

For more information about the Brilliance Academy of Math and English, visit its Web site at http://www.brillianceacademy.net/index.aspx.