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Kumon Named No. 1 Tutoring Franchise

The Kumon corporation was named the No. 1 tutoring franchise and ranked 14th out of 500 corporate franchises worldwide, in Entrepreneur magazine's 32nd annual "Franchise 500" issue, just released for 2011.

The honor marks the 10th year in a row the organization has been picked as the top tutoring franchise, an assessment based on two years of data measuring stability, finances, growth, and overall business quality. According to the rankings, Kumon was in the same league as Dunkin' Donuts and Days Inn.

Kumon, which specializes in math and reading tutoring for pre-K through high school students, was founded more than five decades ago in Japan and now runs 1,400 centers in the United States and 26,000 centers in 46 countries worldwide. There are roughly 212,000 Kumon students in the U.S. alone, the company reports.

"Schools do a good job, but they often can't meet the needs of every student in a busy classroom environment," Matthew Lupsha, Kumon's vice president of education, said in a phone interview. "[Kumon is] turning children into more confident, more focused, and generally better learners, who feel good about math and reading."

In coming years, Kumon plans on doubling the growth rate of its centers, which has increased by 60 percent in the past decade, and continuing to meet a rising demand for pre-K prep services. Kumon will target retired teachers to operate some of these new centers, Lupsha said.

While its programs can be pricey—$95 to $125 per subject, per month—the company has provided free tutoring and supplemental education services (SES) to disadvantaged children since 2002, Lupsha said. Kumon has also built partnerships with some schools and nonprofits that want to send children to Kumon, but cannot afford to do so.

Admittedly, Kumon is not the after-school model that we generally write about in this blog, but it is a factor in many children's lives after they leave school. Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant talked more broadly about SES when I contacted her about the Kumon news.

"The Afterschool Alliance was thrilled when the Department of Education created a pilot program to encourage supplemental educational services (SES) providers to work more closely with 21st Century Community Learning Centers-funded after-school programs," Grant said in an e-mail focused on the relationship between SES and private tutoring. The Afterschool Alliance hopes "to work with SES providers, the [Obama] administration, and the new Congress to further connect quality SES programs to quality comprehensive after-school programs."

Education Week has examined some of the research assessing the impact of SES providers on student achievement in the past, particularly as measured by state standardized tests. We have also looked at federal suggestions for how to evaluate SES providers, even with a lack of conclusive findings on overall effectiveness of the services.

The Department of Education found that most students receiving SES services get them from a private provider, with private and for-profit organizations making up 86 percent of states' approved provider lists as of 2007, according to the 2009 Title I Implementation-Update report. School districts, school sites, and community-based organizations (among others) made up less than 10 percent combined of these support providers, the Education Department reported.

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