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Education is routinely heralded as the “great equalizer,” yet the opportunities afforded within and from the American educational system vary greatly. The disparities within our country’s educational system speak for themselves – a 2015 U.S News report finds our nation’s schools are still “separate and unequal.” Just like how anyone can call for a ride on Uber via your smartphone, calling for a great education would be even better. Fortunately, Rahsaan King has started, Students of Strength (SoS), provides low- and middle-income families with undergraduate tutors from top schools to support their children’s studies.
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King started Students of Strength six years ago while he was a junior in high school. He was fortunate to have two key individuals in his life, his mentor, Marcus Johnson, and tutor, Tawney Pearson. These two kept King on top of his students and helped cultivate his personal development as well. “That was the difference in me heading to college,” King, now a senior at Harvard, recalls. He knows that if others had at least had additional academic support and life that he did early on, success would be attainable for them too.
Students sign up online on the company’s website or smartphone app. From there, students are able to schedule tutoring or test prep sessions at their convenience. Once the time for a meeting arrives, they are connected with a tutor to start their lessons immediately.
Tutors for Students of Strength come from the country’s best universities to assist elementary, middle, and high school students with their academic needs. Tutors go through a thorough background check as well as documents verifying their education credentials. These college students work at least two days a week for a minimum of two hours on each of those days once they agree to tutor for a semester. The average tutor provides lessons up to eight hours a week, equally split between academics and life skills.
“We’ve seen an 89% exam pass rate from students using SoS. Before, they were failing. 67% of them exceed the expectations of their teachers,” King claims.
Students of Strength has three different pricing plans: tutoring at $35 per session, test prep for $600, and an enterprise option for schools and other large organizations at $35/student/year. As SoS grows to serve more students, one major challenge is ensuring that as the edtech startup operates at scale, the quality of the tutoring does not decline.
“We’ve thought deeply about the difficulties we’ll face as we serve more students going forward. One way to think about the issues we face at scale is through the lens of ridesharing. Take for example Uber – you don’t have the same driver every time you hail a ride using the app, but the company ensures you have a safe, convenient trip from point A to point B every single time you ride. Not every student can have the same tutor that they bond with, but we can ensure that the high quality of their instruction remains the same,” King says.
To maintain excellent tutoring standards, SoS archives every session for review. At the end of every session, students rate tutors. Tutors beyond a four-star rating are promoted, while those below are given lessons to improve. Beyond the student review process, SoS tracks the statistics around a student’s GPA to quantitatively measure a tutor’s performance and impact. The tutor’s raw score (or rating from the students they teach) is correlated with the students’ grades. In addition, their staff can see documents created and used for tutoring from past semesters.
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“By taking these steps, we’ll be able to guarantee continuity in the quality of their tutoring sessions at scale,” King states.
SoS operates in a crowded space with the likes of Kuman, Kaplan, Sylvan, and more vying for dominance. However, the startup stands out by the type of tutors they source. Instead of focusing on potential tutors that have already have degrees and significant work experience in their fields, thus naturally commanding a higher wage, SoS sources their tutors from universities, specifically students on financial aid, as they are ones who would benefit the most from tutoring part-time. With this sourcing model, SoS’s costs are generally lower than its competitors. Thus, they can afford to charge parents less without negatively impacting their margins. Also, SoS’s competitors are focused on attracting students from affluent families who have more to spend on education, while the startup aims to serve low- and middle-income families.”
“The way I think about SoS is that we’ve developed a product to be built for the student, and a service to be built for the schools,” King insists.
Like how Uber made ridesharing accessible, Students of Strength is making quality education available for all students in America, one tutor at a time.
January 24, 2019 at 09:46PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs