I-Team: High-Priced NYC Test Prep Center Settles With Attorney General, Will Refund Customers - NBC New York
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I-Team: High-Priced NYC Test Prep Center Settles With Attorney General, Will Refund Customers

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A high-priced test prep center has a controversial learning method that has outraged parents demanding refunds. Pei-Sze Cheng reports. (Published Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015)

    What to Know

    • Xpeed has 7 locations in NY and NJ, and claimed to help children learn 50 times faster

    • An I-Team investigation found that children were often left to play electronic games

    • Following the I-Team investigation, the NY attorney general's office announced a settlement with the center, which will refund customers

    A high-priced test prep center will refund its customers $60,000 and stop making false promises in its advertising following an I-Team investigation last year.

    New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office announced Wednesday that it has reached a settlement with Global Elites Network Xpeed Learning Academy, known as Xpeed, which has seven locations in New York and New Jersey.

    "People pay a lot of money to send the kids to the school, and they were left with a program that did very little of what was promised," said Jane Azia, who heads the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau for the attorney general.

    An I-Team investigation last year found that Xpeed Fun Camp claimed to train children to learn "50 times faster.” But former students and tutors hired by the school told the I-Team that too often children are left to play electronic games, rather than learning, while parents pay up to $7,000 per summer for their children to attend.

    The school’s teaching relies on learning apps that are not proprietary to the school and can be downloaded by anyone.

    Azia said under the settlement her office reached with Xpeed owner Maverick Bian, he will pay $60,000 in restitution to parents. He will also stop making false promises in his advertisements, and begin refunding money to families who are not satisfied with their experience. There is no admission of wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

    Azia said so far her office has received complaints from 30 families. The money will be divided between those families and any others who file substantiated complaints with her office against Xpeed. The money will be distributed based on how much families gave Xpeed, Azia said.

    Azia said families are also free to sue Xpeed civilly if they choose.

    Xpeed Owner Maverick Bian could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but at the time of the I-Team’s initial report, he said tutors are trained and receive specific instructions on how to teach the children. He also said students are only allowed to play electronic games like Minecraft because they're educational. He said kids play video games for less than half an hour a day.

    One student, Sarina Yu, told the I-Team at the time she "learned how to play poker" at the school. William Wang, another student, said he was promised "we could learn an entire [Advanced Placement] course in a week and if we weren't satisfied in two weeks, we could get our money back."

    Bian insisted his schools boast a 90 percent success rate and that every child can be a prodigy. He said his three-fold method emphasizes developing long-term memory and that students prepare by reading material and tutors quiz them using iPads. Then students explain what they learned, from phonics to chemical engineering.

    "Immediately after the tutoring, they have to consolidate on a daily basis at least seven rounds," said Bian. "As long as you work seven rounds you can put short-term memory into long-term memory,” he explained.

    Students who have filed complaints disagree. They say there was not a lot of learning at the school.

    Stephanie Tan said that Xpeed "didn't have tables set up, no pencils, no books. They were so disorganized."

    She described the experience as, "you come in, you take an iPad and you just play games, pretty much."

    Azia said families lost a lot to Xpeed.

    “The parents lost a lot of money, and the kids lost a summer of their lives,” she said.

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