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Indians Pose as Texans to Teach Lessons to NY Children

For the past year more than 2,000 New York children have been interacting with online tutors who claimed to be from Texas but were actually based in India. The 250 tutors were hired by a private company under the federal No Child Left Behind program.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Education revealed the tutors were never screened with required fingerprint and Instant Background Checks before they began working with the children, according to a report by the Special Commissioner of Investigation, Richard Condon.

Mythili Sridhar, a co-owner of Socratic Learning Inc, the company that supplied the offshore tutors, admitted in a letter  that the tutors did not live in Texas. Ms. Sridhar, who trains the tutors, wrote that they "tutor from there homes," failing to correctly spell the word "their," according to the New York Sun.

"Socratic blatantly violated its contract and we are suspending their contract pending further action by the state," a Department of Education spokesman, Andrew Jacob, said. "We will notify parents of any students who enrolled with Socratic Learning this fall they should select" a new provider.

The company's Web site advertises its primary service as "online one-on-one tutoring with highly qualified college degreed instructors." Last year, the department reminded the company to send a list of its online tutors but it never did so, the report said. Outside providers of tutoring services are required to submit a list of their employees to an electronic database maintained by the Department of Education, which then conducts the Instant Background Checks.

In November, Carmela Cuddy, an official from the education department's Office of Personnel Investigation, advised Socratic Learning that it would not grant security clearance to any staff members who didn't have Social Security numbers.

Department officials said they weren't aware the company had tutors based in India until an investigation into a Socratic’s allegedly illegal practice of offering computers to parents of students who completed in its tutoring program. That investigation was launched in June.

The company earns an estimated $2,175 a student, according to the commissioner's office, but only if the students complete the program. During the course of the investigation into the computer scam, it came out that the online tutors working with city children were based in India and had never been checked out by the department. Under the No Child Left Behind law, parents may choose from the tutoring programs selected by the state.

All students that attend schools on the list of schools in need of improvement for two years can apply for supplementary tutoring services. The services are supplied by outside providers that are vetted by the state and paid for by the city using federal funds. Last year, The Department of Education paid Socratic Learning $2.4 million out of a $75 million total paid to such programs.


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