Stop the Madness

October, 2007

I stood there in stunned disbelief. It was summer and I was having a conversation with the mother of one of my preschool daughter’s friends. This mom had just mentioned how many of our daughters’ classmates were going to a local tutoring service for the summer.

“What in the world for?” I asked. Why would the parents of these bright kids, whom I did not think needed any tutoring, give up a summer of field trips, water play and other fun activities? That’s when she told me that there were actually tutoring services out there that specialize in preparing kids for the kindergarten “entrance exams” at prestigious private schools here. This mom was starting to second-guess herself, for not sending her 4-year-old to kindergarten admissions tutoring. I knew there were kids who went to tutoring when they were planning to apply for admission to middle school or high school, but what were they teaching 4-year-olds about applying to private schools?

The answer, apparently, is plenty. As Features Editor David K. Choo reveals in our cover story, there may be a burgeoning industry of tutoring services, and at least one has not been shy about sharing its kindergarten success stories. Among the various things one pre-K tutoring service teaches its young charges is vocabulary words such as “dilapidated” and making sure the children include details beyond stick figures, when asked to draw a person.

David discovered the schools to which these applicants are seeking admission are none to happy with this state of affairs and say being too rehearsed can actually count against an applicant. Some schools have even sent out their lawyers because of ads for tutoring services that seemed to imply their endorsements. Everyone from the private schools, to the tutoring services, to the parents are bemoaning the fact that the pressure seems to be mounting, both to get into these schools and to get in EARLY.

What will it take to stop the madness? Will parents continue to pay rather than “gamble” with their child’s future and will tutoring services continue to market to these insecurities? Just how much of a sure thing is admission, after this kind of tutoring? Why do the stakes seem to be higher?

Oh, and regarding that mom I spoke with when our kids were in preschool? Her daughter got into Punahou, without any tutoring.


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Kelli Abe Trifonovitch