Already Booming, Tutoring Receives Large NCLB Boost

Published October 1, 2002

In search of the best possible education, Americans already spend more than $5 billion a year on private tutoring. Now, with tutoring options included in the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education reform, the area is sure to become more of a growth enterprise than ever.

The U.S. Department of Education (DoEd) estimates NCLB will pump an additional $1 billion per year into public funding for tutoring. Many education consumers consider tutoring essential to filling in intellectual gaps left by modern schooling. A Newsweek poll in 1999 showed 42 percent of adults are convinced a “great need” exists for children to receive private tutoring outside school.

Encouragement for tutoring is part of NCLB’s emphasis on giving a greater range of options to families of children stuck in chronically failing federally subsidized schools. After a public school has failed for two straight years to make adequate progress toward meeting the state’s standards, low-income families are supposed to be offered the choice of a better-performing public school and a free ride to it. However, public schools so far are providing little real choice. (See related article, “Schools Serve NCLB Choice in Tiny Portions,” page 1).

With a third year of failure, NCLB requires that school districts let parents use up to $1,000 of their Title I subsidy to purchase “supplemental services,”such as private tutoring. School officials must furnish parents a list of providers who have a “demonstrated record of effectiveness,” according to DoEd guidelines. This opening to private help could become the first genuine school choice directly aided by federal funds.

New Book May Help

Families in search of a reliable tutor may want to obtain a new book by Dr. Edward E. Gordon, Tutor Quest: Finding Effective Education for Children and Adults ($10.95; Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation; Bloomington, Indiana; 2002). Gordon is president of the Chicago-based Imperial Consulting Corporation, whose tutoring division—launched by Gordon in 1968—was the first such service to be accredited in the United States by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Tutor Quest provides detailed information for education consumers seeking to find the best tutor for their needs. Gordon analyzes 10 different types of tutoring programs found in most communities. Volunteer nonprofit tutors do about 30 percent of the tutoring in the U.S. each year. Teachers or groups of teachers do another 30 percent, while 34 percent of tutoring comes in the form of university clinics, workforce programs, and peer tutoring, where children teach other children. Franchised tutoring centers handle from 3 to 6 percent of students tutored each year.

Prices for professional tutoring range from $20 to $75 per hour for private home tutoring to $40 to $60 per hour for services at a tutoring center. Gordon provides a checklist of questions to ask a prospective tutor, and a rating scale to use after the questions have been answered. This valuable guide also contains a National Tutoring Resource Directory with program descriptions for both fee-based and volunteer programs. There also is information about the fast-emerging field of cyber-tutoring on the Internet.

Gordon offers case studies compiled from his 30 years’ experience with tutoring. Among the most interesting are his observations on helping children with learning disabilities, specifically those diagnosed with “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” (ADHD). Gordon’s experience leads him to believe a majority of ADHD children have a “combination of various learning disabilities that have been either incorrectly diagnosed or improperly treated.” He has found that a carefully sequenced tutoring program—i.e., visual or auditory training followed by remedial reading followed by individual/family counseling—often results in symptoms of hyperactivity fading away and the child becoming a successful classroom learner.

As tutoring becomes a key element in empowering parents to choose the best educational opportunities for their children, the practical advice of practitioners like Ed Gordon is sure to be widely sought.

Robert Holland is a senior fellow at the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank in Arlington, Virginia. His email address is [email protected].

For more information

A state-by-state listing of tutoring services that are members of the Association for Education Providers and Practitioners is posted at the Association’s Web site at

Further information on Edward E. Gordon’s book, Tutor Quest: Finding Effective Education for Children and Adults, is available at The book is also available through at