Test-Prep Advice Post

Why Francis Parker Doesn't Want You to Know about Me

In 2003, I moved from my hometown of Rhode Island to San Diego, thus relocating my one-person SAT and ACT Tutoring business, McElroy Tutoring.  My first San Diego student was an 11th-grader at Francis Parker who improved his SAT scores by 300 points with my help.  His mother was well-connected within the school, and she recommended me to the head guidance counselor at the time.  Before long, I was tutoring SAT and ACT full-time, and 75% of my clientele were Parker families.

To date, I have worked with over 100 Parker students.

Yet Parker doesn't want you to know about me.  Why?  Well, that requires some (brief) backstory.

In 2007, an article was published in the San Diego Union-Tribune that featured pictures and an interview with me, regarding my college consulting and SAT/ACT private tutoring services.  The article featured two Parker students whose families had (kindly) consented to the publicity.   I know that private tutoring is called "private" for a reason, so I of course made sure to obtain their consent first. 

The day after the Sunday when the article (front page of the Family section!) came out, I received an enraged phone call from the new (and still) head of Parker guidance.  Long story short, she was not happy.  "Who do you think you are?" and "These are my students!" were basically the theme of the one-way conversation.   I politely disagreed and argued that there was room for both of us; that we each served vital yet different roles in helping Parker kids get into great schools.

Evidently, she disagreed.  Soon afterward, Parker stopped recommending me as a tutor, and hired a staff tutor to work full-time instead. 

She also kindled unnecessary fears about the college prospects of the two students featured in the article, both of whom ended up needlessly worrying, because each got into (and have now graduated from) one of their first-choice schools.  As I had argued all along, their honesty in admitting that they had help, if anything, helped them stand out from the majority of others who hide the fact that they receive private instruction from tutors and college consultants.   

Luckily, I had enough momentum by that point that Parker families have continued to work with me, through word of mouth and positive reviews.  And I've kept helping Parker kids get great SAT and ACT scores, and into great colleges.  But the guidance department there...well, they would rather you not know that I exist.  And why?  Well, I can think of some reasons, but none of them has to do with the best interest of their students. 

I consider this experience a lesson learned.  Unfortunately, as happens in most professions, people protect their own and keep outsiders out.  They mark their territory.  And they lash out when they feel threatened or jealous.  This is why we recommend to all our Parker clients that they not inform the Parker guidance department that they are working with us: we don't want the guidance counselors there to treat our students any differently as a result.

No, my services are not cheap, but none of my clients consider me overpriced.  I charge more than Parker does for tutoring because I am better at what I do...but of course they would rather you not know that.

Luckily, these days there is this little thing called the internet, where people can find their own information on SAT and ACT tutors, as well as college consulting.   I remind my clients all the time that I work for them, for example—but that their guidance counselors work for the school.  This means that these counselors might have the school's best interest in mind, instead of your student's.

So, if your child is a private school student, and you are looking for a tutor or for college help, it's important not to take all your advice from a provincial guidance department who may or may not have your student's best interest in mind.  As in all important matters, one should always seek a second opinion from a true expert.


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