Who works in the online learning industry? Who tests to ensure that online educators stay within the narrow parameters of academic standards and national protocols?
Who Does The Chloe Survery For Online Learning
Recently, we learned how to use SurveyMonkey to get a snapshot of what a typical test prep course costs—and how far below-average the test prep industry is at pricing.
That sent me to what I considered an even more interesting problem: Fewer than a third of high school teachers say they are currently participating in a state-regulated test prep program. Meanwhile, we know that 80 percent of college grads say they’re enrolled in at least one test prep course. Why the discrepancy?
Like other occupational activities, research on the most basic of marketplaces—tutoring—shows that it is relatively easy to predict what students will pay. A website I recently used as a reference, Scope Tutoring, stated that a three-week test prep course would require an average of $200 per student, per week. How much should a parent be spending per child to ensure that they get the most out of their school experience?
But guessing what a student will pay is not the same as knowing how much parents will spend per student. I found that while some states’ test prep laws have addressed this question, there’s still much to be done. On this matter, some states are leaders, while others are laggards, according to No Exam Money, an online publication of the American Association of Private Schools.
At the bottom of the heap are Colorado, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, which allow test prep products based on government-appointed advisory committees (this caveat: PTA and other multiple parent committees often form an external committee to work on “emerging technologies” and test prep services).
Nationwide, a majority of states don’t have any form of regulation—and the majority of those who do have regulations place restrictions on vendors offering test prep products as well as limits on the number of students that can be enroll. For example, Florida’s law specifically forbids test prep vendors from having an AED monitor at the test prep company, so that students cannot be injured because a test prep software or software programmer is intoxicated while working on a test prep program. Another example: Virginia prohibits test prep vendors from having a “fuel car” or used motor vehicle at the test prep company.
Some states have adopted what are called “sanction-based requirements,” which place relatively small mandatory fees on test prep products. For example, Virginia requires that vendors charge a minimum of $25 per test with the company charging each student $5. Arizona also imposes a $25 fee on each product sold (15% of the retail price). Other states’ rules place significantly higher regulatory fees on test prep products. Oklahoma’s laws (a joint regulation) place a $75 fee on every product sold (5% of the retail price), or $20 more than other states. In South Carolina, test prep companies must charge a minimum of $250 to qualify for a test prep license, or pay $10,000 in a lump sum.
Advocates for improving test prep laws have largely focused on reinstating states’ mandatory minimum regulations (which charge a set fee), and have passed legislation that allows employers, rather than a government regulator, to decide what tests are administered. This is a good step toward restoring small marketplaces to some of their authentic value, but still leaves a lot of room for variation from state to state.
Understandably, many high school teachers do not want to be regulated in this way, even if it’s the only way they could get involved in this market. I acknowledge that “authoritarian” might be an overstatement; most teachers I’ve spoken with are genuinely interested in leading a two-way conversation between the classroom and the marketplace.
But they fear liability as well as financial risk, and they expect the best outcomes for their students, not the most money. They make hard choices about what to prioritize and what they want the students to have. For some teachers, that means having time to understand what students want from the education experience as well as some money.
Until every student gets an appropriate education and every teacher can demand financial compensation in return, we’ll likely see a line drawn between a free and a regulated marketplace in test prep.