Very Early Admission

Here's a novel twist on the in-creasingly competitive race for university admissions: a newly opened tutoring company in Newton that starts student test preparation in the first grade.

“We'll always have standardized testing, and people will always need to prepare,” says Lisa Jacobson, founder and president of Inspirica. “Even kids with perfect grades and amazing scores are getting rejected from schools.”

Not everyone agrees with her solution, however. “These outfits are cheerfully profiting from a national tragedy — namely, the current testing mania,” says Alfie Kohn, author of The Schools Our Children Deserve and a prominent Boston critic of standardized testing. If coaching really works, Kohn says, companies like Inspirica are simply proving that higher test scores can be bought.

And the price is high. Inspirica charges $200 an hour and up for tutoring services. In return, it promises one-stop shopping for all of a child's educational and career needs, whether it's a high school junior struggling with calculus, an applicant for university admission who wants to up his SAT score, a grad student stuck on a dissertation, even a professional who's job-hunting. Inspirica also pitches a program called S.O.S., for Study Organizational Skills, which helps students organize their lives, from the layout of their bedrooms to the way they pick their study buddies.

“We're a lifelong support,” Jacobson says. “People know us for test prep, but we do everything except for preschool.”

Give it time.