July 3, 2021

Mercedes Schneider: Huntington Learning: Pushing SAT/ACT Prep in Test-Optional Circumstances

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Mercedes Schneider is a teacher, researcher, and writer in Louisiana. And she just got a great bit of advertising mail for some standardized tests wizards.

This week, I received a solicitation from Huntington Learning Center to “OPEN NOW: Find out why the SAT/ACT still matter.”

The glaring, bolded, largest-print info on the envelope was



Now, at first glance, a prospective Huntington client might believe that what Huntington is stating is that Huntington has some secret sauce for making a student’s ACT score increase by 5.4 points across ACT administrations, and that Huntington’s dazzling test prep can increase a student’s SAT score by 229 points across administrations.

But, but, one must pay attention to the asterisk:

Average score increases*



One must open the envelope to understand the asterisk, which one must seek for in the tiniest print– after one sees the same grandiose ad taking up roughly one-third of an entire page.

Here’s the disclamer message in the finest of print:

*Results are based on surveys of 3,289 Huntington students graduating in 2019, using their initial Huntington Academic Evaluation and final SAT/ACT test score.

So. That amazing point jump is not from SAT to SAT or ACT to ACT; it is from “initial Huntington Academic Evaluation” to “final SAT/ACT score.”

Technically, Huntington did not state that the “average score increase” was from one official SAT/ACT administration to the next. They just framed the message in CYA fashion and let prospective customers assume it. That noted, Huntington does offer practice SAT and ACT tests– for at least $100, and maybe you get one free if you *act now.* (“Call today and save $100 on your student’s SAT or ACT practice test.”)

But back to that “OPEN NOW: Find out why the SAT/ACT still matter.”

Without any reference other than Huntington’s customer-soliciting opinion, readers receive the following:

Dear Parent:

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the college admission process. SAT and ACT tests have been cancelled or postponed and now more schools are offering “test optional” or “test blind”. The SAT and ACT still matter and impact admissions decisions and scholarship opportunities.

Do the second and third sentences appear to contradict one another on admissions? Is it possible that having no ACT or SAT score might actually assist some students with scholarship opportunites? (And does the second sentence appear to be a run-on with improper positioning of end punctuation by an American-based educational business?)

The SAT and ACT still matter because we printed it in pink. Never mind that “test blind” means that colleges and universities intentionally ignore SAT and ACT scores if students send them anyway.

Next statement, without any reference but repeating the “scholarship” lure:

A strong test score improves your student’s admissions profile and impacts scholarship opportunities.

No test score would “improve your admissions profile” in a test-blind admissions situation. Either Huntington does not know so, or Huntington is counting on its target audience not knowing so. Uninformed or deceptive– those are the choices.

And what is a “strong” test score?

It’s a way of promoting high test scores without guaranteeing a high test score. CYA.

More bold:

At Huntington, the average score increase is 229 points on the SAT and 5.4 points on the ACT.

They forgot the asterisk this time, but since this very same message takes up much of the right side of the page (complete with asterisk), then CYA. Or CHA, in this case.

Huntington Learing Center is a franchise. One need not have any educational background; the tutoring/test-prep is pre-packaged, and after four weeks of training, you can be ready to go– for anywhere between $147K and $266K at startup.

And, of course, be sure to bring your passion:

Remember, no previous education experience required. We provide all the tools.

What you bring to the table:

–Passion for education

–Good business sense

–Ability to hire and manage a team

–Customer service and community-minded

–Motivated and entrepreneurial, but willing to follow our proven system

But no need to bring parallel structure.

I understand that tutoring is an industry, and I have no problem with the existence of a tutoring industry. However, what I do have a problem with is having the likes of Huntington deceptively luring parents and students into faulty expectations of incredible score gains on high-stakes tests that have been waived in this pandemic year for college admissions in many states. (See here and hereand here.)

Had Huntington mailed a flyer encouraging student and parents to check with specific colleges and universities of interest regarding SAT/ACT requirements and then honestly offered test-prep services, I would have respected that even though I disdain standardized testing. But Huntington did not do so.

It sure looks like Huntington’s chief concern is in bolstering its bottom line in a year when the SAT and ACT matter less because of COVID-19.

The SAT and ACT still matter– to Huntington’s revenue stream.

Parents and students: If any tutoring/test-prep company sends you glossy, bold-print letters with what seem to be promises of major score gains on high-stakes tests, be sure to look for the asterisk and associated, dose-of-reality fine print. Consider whether you would really want to do business with such a company.

Check with specific colleges and universities to know whether these institutions require the SAT or ACT– and whether they would ignore test results if you sent them anyway.

Don’t let a test-prep-franchise brochure frighten you into an unnecessary expense.


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