|Snow day pic taken in 2014 outside our Warren office.|
January 1, 2021
Good morning and Happy New Year! All Foley Prep locations are closed today. We reopen tomorrow and are geared up for a March SAT and February ACT classes starting in the next few days.
2020 has been a year like no other. Challenges came almost every day, some of them very trying. Dealing with uncertainty has been exhausting for all of us. It’s my sincere hope that Foley Prep has played a positive role for you and your children this year.
More than ever, we are grateful to our clients. Finding ways to better serve our families inspires everything we do. The Foley Prep Team has worked tirelessly to add even more value as we address the ever widening gap between benchmark standardized exam scores and rampant grade inflation. It’s no secret that our expert tutors are often teaching material to students rather than merely reviewing it, so we see our role as vital to the success of every individual, regardless of ability or grade level. With so many options for supplemental education, we continue to make Foley Prep the best value.
In 2020 we have:
Added six new full-time instructors to our world-class full-time faculty: Catherine, Kyle, Danielle, Daniel, Jamie, and John. Each has gone through a rigorous 100-hour training program and all are building up quite a roster of students both online and in-person. In addition to our faculty, we added John and Jeff, who have added invaluable IT and administrative support. Check out the whole team at the FoleyPrep.com/team page.
Created safe spaces for learning. Like other businesses, we closed our physical locations in March. Unlike school districts and other tutoring centers, we reopened on June 22. Since October, reports like this one at NPR.org underscore the greater risks to children of keeping schools closed than reopening them. Encouraged by the evidence of very infrequent covid transmission in school settings, we welcome kids as they and our tutors keep their masks up, use desk shields, and santize after each session. When our tutors have had possible exposure, they stay home and get tested. So far we have had no full-time tutors test positive while only one part-timer who lives with her EMT boyfriend had mildly symptomatic covid back in May.
Pivoted to online in a big way. While we believe kids are starving to meet in-person (and get more out of it), our online group and 1-on-1 sessions have never been more popular. We are continually adding features and tools to our online arsenal, including practice sets and full exams. We are proud to be the only provider of online, proprietary MCVSD tests.
Found our 8th location. We are very excited about the January 4th opening date for Bridgewater. We have plans for 2 more in New Jersey, which should be open by summer 2021.
Expanded our group and 1-on-1 in-person and online schedules. Now is the time to enroll in our March SAT and February ACT classes that are starting in the next two weeks in all 7 locations. Please use a laptop or desktop machine to view our schedules at MindBody.com. Our average class size is 3 students, and is capped at 5 students. Many run with just 2 students so you can get an incredble value.
Sent out 80 newsletters. This would have been the 81st, but it’s the first in 2021. While I collaborate closely with Steve, Mike, Brian, and others as I write them, I am the author of these newsletters and try to make them much more informative than salesy. I am endlessly thankful for folks not calling me out for some of my cringy-er typos and grammatical mistakes. I am inspired to keep sharing information I gather from the network of education professionals I have built up in my more than 30 years in public and for-profit education – I got my start as an independent college counselor back in 1992 when I was the Director of the Kaplan Test Prep San Francisco Center. Rather than parrot commonly available information, I try to offer insight and opinion. Here are some of the big things we got right in 2020:
- Test cancelations. Some test prep providers criticized me for correctly predicting SAT and ACT cancelations weeks and months in advance. This can be a rough business with many unqualified people looking to make a quick buck, so when I spread the word that it’s likely that tests will be canceled, I took heat. I’ve been doing this too long to sugar coat important information. Many parents expressed thanks for my advice to switch from New Jersey test centers to ones in New York, Pennsylvania, and some as far as Florida and Wyoming!
- AP testing craziness. The shortened at-home AP tests in May were a mess. Many students benefitted by our years of experience, and we look forward to properly tracking our AP students to be on target this coming May.
- Test cancelation safety net. Around Thanksgiving, we implemented a safety net for clients who get/got December 2020 (or after) SAT/ACT tests canceled. 10%-30% off future services as detailed on FoleyPrep.com/pricing. So families who are with us and will join us should have peace of mind.
- Gap year advice. I’m generally not a fan of gap years. However, early on in the pandemic, I strongly encouraged college underclassmen to take gap years. From what I’ve been hearing all semester and now during winter break, most kids would have been much better off taking this advice.
- Recycling old exam questions, avoiding scandal. Foley Prep frequently gets insider-y tips on upcoming tests, but we would never jeopardize our students’ academic progress with unethical behavior. We strongly believe in our methods and setting a good example for students. The latest test security issue bubbled up just a couple of weeks ago. According to news reports like this one, a test prep firm is currently under investigation for causing 700+ students’ entrance exams to be invalidated. This has been a crisis for the Freehold Regional magnet program, and many families are furious. As a tenured professor, certified K-12 math teacher, and lifelong educator, I would never put families at risk and do everything I can to support our institutions growing stronger (while voicing my opposition to things that make them weaker).
- Advising students to register for many exams. This is nothing new for me. I have taken criticism from fellow IECs (Independent Educational Consultants) who were opposed to my historical advice for juniors to prep for and take early bird SAT/ACT tests in the fall of their junior year. We have many very happy seniors who took that advice in summer 2019 who hit their target score on or before December 2019, thus avoiding so many headaches. Since we are still in the thick of the pandemic, juniors should register for several exams this spring, expecting some tests to be canceled at the last minute. If you are wavering on a February ACT, don’t.
The list of right calls goes on, and yes, I did get a couple of things wrong. Namely, the willingness for K-6 families to do pod learning and freshman to do the smart thing and do online community college.
- Pod learning. Many parents have taken us up on low daytime pod tutoring rates, but fewer than I expected. I spent a lot of time this summer preparing and hiring staff to accommodate the demand for pod groups, but families reverted to 1-on-1 tutoring. It’s been fun having lots of younger students around, and I worry about K-6 kids who are missing the chance to have in-person group learning experiences of the kind we are providing on a limited basis. Recent news reports like this one at NYT.com have shown that pod learning has been challenging not just for Foley Prep … many families have struggled to keep their pods alive.
- Online community college. Back in May I started promoting the idea for freshman who were going to tier 2 and tier 3 colleges to switch to online community college. Certainly this advice seems counterintuitive to folks who can afford Foley Prep in the first place, but I still stand by that as good advice that fell on deaf ears. I know it was a very tough sell to an excited freshmen going off to college for the first time. Now, with hindsight, would they have been so reluctant? Is $50-70K for this school year’s experience better than $6-10K for online community college? Hmm.
In 2021, Foley Prep will continue to be the remedy to so much upheaval in your childrens’ lives. As we’ve grown, I’ve always kept in mind the maxim that, when it comes to learning experiences, smaller is almost always better than bigger. We are close to realizing my dream of having 10 Foley Prep locations in New Jersey this year. With 40 or so full-time faculty, we will be able to enjoy the great benefits of having an excellent small company culture of expertise that our students and teachers love. None of us thrive in social isolation, and, unfortunately, this covid crisis has made that truer now more than ever. We look forward to the day this year that everyone is, once again, totally comfortable coming together to enjoy learning in person. Until then, we are here to serve you in whichever capacity suits you.
Have a great 2021! Thanks, as always, for your time.
Ron Foley, M.S.
Doctoral Candidate, Rutgers University
Tenured Professor of Mathematics, Middlesex College
Member HECA, NJACAC, NACAC, NCTM, MAA, NAS, AMATCYNJ
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