In 2013, Buck Marshall ’09 and Alex Mallory ’07 launched a nonprofit called Electric Education, which aims to “reduce education’s geographic and socioeconomic barriers” by providing free online SAT and ACT tutoring sessions to underprivileged students, according to Marshall. Several months after its development, the program has successfully reached out to the target population and is expected to continue expanding to new parts of the country in the near future.
The online program matches tutors with students. Typically, students will have about 10 weekly sessions with the tutor prior to the testing date. During these sessions, students simultaneously video chat with tutors and work on test prep that is also visible on their computer screens. This technology allows students and tutors to interact similarly to how they would in person, regardless of their respective locations. Both participants can highlight, write and turn pages on the screen.
Marshall and Mallory first met in a history class during Marshall’s first year at the College. The two thought of the idea for Electric Education over dinner one night when they started discussing the enormous potential of the Internet to connect people around the world. In addition to working on Electric Education, Mallory works at Competitive Edge Tutoring, a for-profit tutoring business that caters to students in New York City. Marshall has spent the past few years working in venture capital. Marshall referred to their collaboration as “a combination of our skills and interests.”
Although the nonprofit is open to volunteers, Marshall emphasized that finding professional tutors is key to the fulfillment of the nonprofit’s mission. “Our volunteer tutors, including myself, have been much less successful at improving the kids’ test scores,” Marshall said. Because Mallory has a well-established network of tutors from his involvement with his own tutoring business, many of the tutors are professionals from Competitive Edge who are willing to provide their services for an extremely discounted rate. Marshall and Mallory have worked on many fundraising efforts to ensure that they can offer some payment to tutors.
Students have significantly improved their standardized test scores after taking Electric Education’s tutoring classes. Overall, students improved by an estimated 250 to 300 points on average, according to Mallory. One student in Texas recently earned the highest recorded score ever at her high school. “The improvement in her score from where she started, and the overall program of building out her verbal, quantitative and test-taking skills, is a huge confidence boost and gives her so many more options in the college process,” Marshall said.
So far, the alumni have reached out to students in San Diego, Ca., upstate New York, and Texas. For now, Electric Education is working with children in classrooms and after-school programs. In the future, they hope to expand to other American cities by working with nonprofits that don’t already offer tutoring.
“We like serving this role as a bridge between students and people who want to tutor,” Marshall said. Marshall also hopes that Electric Education will introduce additional programs in the future.