The Morality of Test Prep

uvabro
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Re: The Morality of Test Prep

Postby uvabro » Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:25 am

Oh, i once got scolded by a parent for advising their son tonwait a year to retake after going from a 135 to a 150. Kid was paying his own way through seton hall. They claimed i was extorting them for more $ even though i was offering to continue for 30/hr down from 60, and was pretty busy. It's the TTT's that are extorting. Most tutors are moral.

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star fox
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Re: The Morality of Test Prep

Postby star fox » Wed Feb 13, 2013 4:43 am

uvabro wrote:Oh, i once got scolded by a parent for advising their son tonwait a year to retake after going from a 135 to a 150. Kid was paying his own way through seton hall. They claimed i was extorting them for more $ even though i was offering to continue for 30/hr down from 60, and was pretty busy. It's the TTT's that are extorting. Most tutors are moral.


I don't think you're doing anything immoral in the slightest. Improving your LSAT is the most important thing towards applying to Law School. If your tutoring improves a kid's numbers by just a couple points that could be the difference between being above their school's median LSAT and getting a $20,000+ year "scholarship" or paying sticker tuition. If kids are going to apply to Law School regardless then buying LSAT study materials is a somewhat necessary investment. A lot of people do a lot better with tutors.. if they're willing to pay and willing to take accountability (it's not the Tutors fault you didn't score a 170) then I think it can be highly beneficial.

uvabro
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Re: The Morality of Test Prep

Postby uvabro » Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:29 pm

john7234797 wrote:
uvabro wrote:Oh, i once got scolded by a parent for advising their son tonwait a year to retake after going from a 135 to a 150. Kid was paying his own way through seton hall. They claimed i was extorting them for more $ even though i was offering to continue for 30/hr down from 60, and was pretty busy. It's the TTT's that are extorting. Most tutors are moral.


I don't think you're doing anything immoral in the slightest. Improving your LSAT is the most important thing towards applying to Law School. If your tutoring improves a kid's numbers by just a couple points that could be the difference between being above their school's median LSAT and getting a $20,000+ year "scholarship" or paying sticker tuition. If kids are going to apply to Law School regardless then buying LSAT study materials is a somewhat necessary investment. A lot of people do a lot better with tutors.. if they're willing to pay and willing to take accountability (it's not the Tutors fault you didn't score a 170) then I think it can be highly beneficial.

i didn't think i was. i'm just saying reality and the legal system prevent you from doing the most moral thing. the most moral thing would be to tell the parents your kid is 99% likely to be 200k in debt and poor if he doesn't retake. if the parents are the aggressive baby boomer type they are going to get angry, spiteful, give you a bad review despite a previously happy client and then sue you for "trying to milk them out of more $". It's going to be dismissed but it's still an expensive process and a big headache. i don't think the tutors are immoral in the slightest. i have heard stories about independent tutors abandoning students a week or 2 before a test date because a job gets up, and this is immoral in my opinion but for the most part there's nothing immoral about it.

it is special snowflake syndrome to expect somebody to work for free to help a stranger with a test just because they are in a similar age group. i honestly think reverse age discrimination is why this is even a question. you are providing a service that is beneficial to people and should get paid for it.

The one thing that is arguably immoral is a lot of times students really just get a tutor because they're too lazy to study. I'd say roughly 50% of students have this philosophy. Their plan is to spend 2 hours with a tutor once a week for a month or so leading up to the test - this is when literally half the business comes in (ppl first starting to study < a month before). They're also very easy to spot up front once you do it for a while. It's a fool plan as these are normally the lowest scoring students to start with. They learn techniques, but a lot of times because they're not practicing it takes them twice as long to plug in the approach as it would to just use the normal "joe shmo" thinking that led to getting about 60% of the questions right on the SAT and should get them about a 140-145, because it never becomes second nature for them. You can point them to law school statistic sites and tell them the reality of the situation and that they won't improve unless they study, but they still won't study - they just won't blame you for their failure. But it's kind of a shity situation because while making $ is good, most good tutors aren't so desperate for money they just want to feed off weak people and this is what this situation is. These students also don't really respect the tutor at all - they believe if they pay the tutor, the tutor owes them a good score and this is kind of their approach to life. I normally ignore their initial voicemail (you can spot these people off the initial voicemail) and only call them back if they're persistent or start the threats - "It is unprofessional for you to ignore me - I'm going to report you to the BBB" or some other crap.

The classic voicemail that tips you off is somebody calls and says they're scoring a 135 or so, and is looking at some first tier school and just needs to get better at logic games to break a 165 in 2 weeks. I can normally teach logic games in a few days with somebody as they're easy to teach if the student practices even 20 minutes a day which about half of test takers are capable of doing (many people are just physically incapable of doing work), but the issue is that on most tests logic games would not be the same reason why somebody scores a 135 so even when they get a perfect games score they get a 142. But all they want to work on is games because they know how to read and are great at arguing, and you can tell a student what your belief is but really have to respect their wishes as a client.

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Rahviveh
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Re: The Morality of Test Prep

Postby Rahviveh » Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:49 pm

If you tutor privately you can be honest and tell them up front what's going on.

If you teach a class its going to be very awkward. Most people are starting in the 140's and will be happy with any improvement period. If you start saying in class that this is a recipe for debt pwnage and unemployment you risk having them complain to the company who will shut you down. I have personal experience with this and I just try not to say anything anymore.

nugnoy
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Re: The Morality of Test Prep

Postby nugnoy » Wed Feb 13, 2013 11:52 pm

Here are my thoughts

1. My general thought is that tutors are like teachers in that they teach. Tutors AREN'T like teachers the way teachers are mentors and guides. Tutors are people just like cashiers, business executives, accountants, administrators at a university, athletes etc - these are people I'd say are on equal footing with me and everybody else on moral status. I expect morality from teachers/professors much as I expect morality from doctors, policemen, judges, etc - these are occupations that (are perceived in our society to) come with responsibility and moral obligations. And because of that I give them a bit more respect and authority but I also expect morality from them.

To illustrate, I'd expect more morality from my no-name professor than I'd expect from Bill Gates.

2. Specifically answering the question, I'd say the teacher, business, morality really just don't seem relevant to me.
When I sign up for a tutoring I expect them to be able to know their stuff WELL. I don't care about their "unethical" conducts like Testmasters suing Velocity and whatnot. But tutoring companies make a living out of tutoring these specific tests, and therefore I expect them to really know their stuff inside and out. If a tutoring company can't explain something that I could figure out, I would be severely disappointed.

As for morality, I don't expect a tutor to give me guidance or whatnot. I just expect them to be helpful and friendly, just like a friend. If some people in the class have quick questions, I'd like them to stay around 5~10 minutes. If they don't give any extra effort, or they just don't really care, I MIGHT be disappointed A LITTLE BIT, but I'm not disappointed that they're immoral or that they're not living up to a teacher's ideals. I'd just be disappointed that he's not the friendliest guy.

Also, as long as the tutor was effective in the time I've bought from him, I wouldn't care about anything outside of that. Or anything else for that matter. I'd rather have an average Joe who knows his stuff than someone who's a saint but isn't very effective.

NYCLSATTutor
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Re: The Morality of Test Prep

Postby NYCLSATTutor » Fri Feb 15, 2013 6:23 pm

I think that there is one very clear instance in which a students interests diverges from the teachers. Those are the students who shouldn't be going to law school in the first place.

As I teach, I generally get a good sense of my students personalities. Who they are, what they are looking for in law school, why they are going, etc, etc. There are a lot of people who want to go to law school for...ambiguous reasons. Now its not my responsibility to tell people what to do, but people who don't quite know why they are going to law school usually are going because of parental pressure. This also means that they are quite profitable (since the parents are pressuring them, they are also paying for the tutoring and oftentimes have deep pockets).

Despite them being profitable, its an incredibly bad idea to go to law school because you want to impress your parents. Law school is a difficult, stressful venture and takes 3 years to complete. It is incredibly expensive and the current job market is fairly uncertain. Add all of those things together and they outweigh whatever pressure ones parents may be putting one through, regardless of how strict/intense/crazy they are.

At this point I've convinced at least 5 or so of my students not to attend law school. Sort of sucks for my bottom line, but 3 years of hell to impress your parents just isn't worth it.

Theopliske8711
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Re: The Morality of Test Prep

Postby Theopliske8711 » Fri Feb 15, 2013 6:29 pm

I don't think that's necessarily a conflict of interest. It's poor decision making on one part of the equation, but it's not the tutor's responsibility to inform a student of his potential ruinous choices. A tutor is hired to provide a service, that service is tutoring for the LSAT. A tutor can inform the student and perhaps mentor him, but I think that is outside of the main objective: helping the student to achieve the maximum score that the student is capable of achieving, or perhaps willing to achieve.

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star fox
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Re: The Morality of Test Prep

Postby star fox » Fri Feb 15, 2013 6:46 pm

nugnoy wrote:Here are my thoughts

1. My general thought is that tutors are like teachers in that they teach. Tutors AREN'T like teachers the way teachers are mentors and guides. Tutors are people just like cashiers, business executives, accountants, administrators at a university, athletes etc - these are people I'd say are on equal footing with me and everybody else on moral status. I expect morality from teachers/professors much as I expect morality from doctors, policemen, judges, etc - these are occupations that (are perceived in our society to) come with responsibility and moral obligations. And because of that I give them a bit more respect and authority but I also expect morality from them.

To illustrate, I'd expect more morality from my no-name professor than I'd expect from Bill Gates.

2. Specifically answering the question, I'd say the teacher, business, morality really just don't seem relevant to me.
When I sign up for a tutoring I expect them to be able to know their stuff WELL. I don't care about their "unethical" conducts like Testmasters suing Velocity and whatnot. But tutoring companies make a living out of tutoring these specific tests, and therefore I expect them to really know their stuff inside and out. If a tutoring company can't explain something that I could figure out, I would be severely disappointed.

As for morality, I don't expect a tutor to give me guidance or whatnot. I just expect them to be helpful and friendly, just like a friend. If some people in the class have quick questions, I'd like them to stay around 5~10 minutes. If they don't give any extra effort, or they just don't really care, I MIGHT be disappointed A LITTLE BIT, but I'm not disappointed that they're immoral or that they're not living up to a teacher's ideals. I'd just be disappointed that he's not the friendliest guy.

Also, as long as the tutor was effective in the time I've bought from him, I wouldn't care about anything outside of that. Or anything else for that matter. I'd rather have an average Joe who knows his stuff than someone who's a saint but isn't very effective.


There's nothing more moral about working a government job. It's the same basic concept. Your university professors are supposed to provide you with the information and ability to become smart and educated, and in exchange they get a salary. The difference is it's easier to fire someone in the private sector who isn't getting the job done than a tenured professor.

als2011
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Re: The Morality of Test Prep

Postby als2011 » Fri Feb 15, 2013 6:46 pm

As an LSAT instructor, I'll chime in.


1.) I believe someone noted earlier that a disconnect exists between the marketing departments of prep companies and the instructors. I can agree with that. Their is a great deal of push from the marketing divisions to sell product, upgrade student packages, and steer students towards other areas of "law school preparation services." That said, as an instructor myself, I try to steer students away from the stuff they don't need. If they already paid for a class, I try and ensure that they get the most out of the class they paid for, including all of the materials, and as much access to me as possible.

2.) I've been teaching for several years now, but I also went through the law school admissions cycle, did quite well, got T14 acceptances, and elected not to go, largely because I felt it was too risky. I think one of the biggest 'moral' (if you wish to call it that) responsibilities of any LSAT prep person today, is to stay on top of the most recent conversations about law schools, the transparency movement, rising debt loads, IBR, the outcomes of law students today, the changing legal economy, issues with the legal job market, and so on. If you don't know, then you are doing a disservice to your students. Although I don't see it as my job to explicitly warn people, I do let all of my students know about resources (websites, blogs, newspaper articles, employment data) available as soon as possible. Many have little knowledge or understanding of law school when the first start the class (other than what they know from TV or their own perceptions), and I hope that the sharing of information will help them develop a more critical perspective about their career goals and future prospects. I think all teachers should provide this same service. It is easy to get caught up in the tunnel vision of boosting a score and getting into law school, without really thinking about what the end goal is for most young people (getting a job and not being burdened by tons of debt fall in there somewhere I'm sure).

3.) I also encourage students to take as much time as they need to prepare their applications (including retaking the LSAT as needed). A lot of times people will boost their score from their diagnostic to their first exam and, rightly, be proud of their achievement. But its harder to see that that initial boost in score of 5, or 10, or 15 points, could be the beginning of a potentially long term upward trend. I try to encourage people not to settle too early, as many can really make more dramatic score improvements if given more time to prepare. And being that scores are so crucial to an applicants admissions profile, I think the opportunity cost of continuing to work on a score versus immediately applying with the score you have, is almost always worthwhile.
That said, after one prep course, I think most students have the core knowledge to to go out and continue practicing on their own (though they might want some feedback once in a while) without having to invest more money into an expensive course. And so again, I think the instructor can perhaps be "moral" here in helping the student make a smarter decision about what score to settle for/not settle for, and how they can continue their practice after the course without having to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars extra to do so.

cubswin
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Re: The Morality of Test Prep

Postby cubswin » Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:05 pm

shieldofachilles wrote:consider the following hypo for a sec right....say a prep company guarantees a ten point bump from first to last lsat right...and then creates certain conditions in order for a comfortable level of certainty their students do get that increase. for example, they take (hypothetical) hardest lsat ever given then rearrange the questions so the hardest questions are first and the easiest last. Then on the last test they give you at the end of the course its the easiest lsat ever given..and voila you got your 10 point bump. the company has not violated any of its promise, in fact, they owned up to everything they said. now a kid goes and takes the real thing and bombs. how can we not evaluate the ethical decisions of the company. if the company is providing you with a service then their interests should firmly coincide with the client. if the sole interest is maximizing profits for a prolonged period of time and not for the sake of making a killing this quarter, then what the company represents (i.e. a morally praiseworthy or blameworthy entity) has to affect the potential earnings of that company. my .02. (btw im not advocating the position above but considering the implication and what u guys think too...since just like OP i think..i have a paper to write on this shit)


Prep companies are not stupid enough to guarantee a ten point bump. The company I worked for guaranteed an increase, but that was if you attended every class and did every single assignment. And then "increase" really just means one point. I find it to be nearly impossible you could do nearly every LSAT question in existence, sit through nearly 100 hours of class and not increase one point. I would assume any case where that did happen would be extreme test anxiety. So the "guarantee" is definitely just marketing. But no company would guarantee a ten point increase, for a number of reasons.

And even if companies are making their products sound more amazing than they actually are with marketing strategies like that, which you could reasonably find to be a morally objectionable business strategy (though I don't), they aren't gaming the system by rearranging questions to make you score incredibly low on your diagnostic. That's just crazy. I know you posed it as a hypothetical, but your hypothetical was kind of stupid. I hope you didn't waste your time writing a paper about it.




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