Tutors Filling Arizona’s Curriculum Chasm

By Erin Vogel-Fox | Dec. 8, 2015

Click on the map to view tutoring centers that participated in this report.

Arizona’s education woes have increased business for tutors and learning centers in the Phoenix area, with many centers supplementing the gaps in the current educational system.

Despite the nearly $150 million increase in K-12 educational funding, test scores show that students are not consistently meeting academic standards developed by the state.

Only 51 percent of students ranging from third grade to 12th grade passed the Math portion of the Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) exam in 2014. Among all grades that take the examination, it was the weakest subject with only 41 percent of students passing.

Denise Dotti, the Director of Education at Sylvan Learning Center in Ahwatukee says students struggle to keep up with the pace of classroom instruction.

“In a classroom everything might have been bunched together, so within a week they might have had everything sort of thrown at them,” Dotti said.

Krystal Kolstad, the lead teacher for Athena Learning Centers in Arizona, feels subject proficiency is linked to classroom size.

“It’s just the stress and teachers leave, so we don’t have enough teachers. So, what do you do when you don’t have enough teachers? You just put more kids in a classroom,” Kolstad said.

Susan Morris, the owner of Morris Tutoring Associates believes there needs to be stronger incentives for teachers.

“I think teacher retention is tough because why would you want to stay in something where you are being judged by what you can accomplish with too many kids and not enough money?” Morris said.

The national average for a teacher’s salary is $57,000, according to a March 2015 National Education Association report. The average salary for a teacher in Arizona is $45,000. The median household income for Arizonans $50,000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau 2009-2013, American Community Survey Five-year Estimate Report.

Tina Kanelos is co-director of Peak Academics. She feels that the increase of tutoring services in the Phoenix area is a coping mechanism for the current state of the educational system in Arizona.

“Charter schools and tutoring companies, all these things, we are coping with the fact that our people don’t spend enough money on education,” Kanelos said.


Girl studies at Mathnasium Ocotillo in Chandler. (Photo by Erin Vogel-Fox)