I-Team: High-Priced NYC Test Prep Center Lets Kids Play Video Games

A high-priced test prep center has a controversial learning method that has outraged parents demanding refunds. 

Xpeed Fun Camp claims, which has seven locations in New York and New Jersey, it teaches children to learn "50 times faster" and promises that a 6-year-old can finish school at age 10 and earn a college degree by age 12.

But according to some former students and tutors hired by the school, 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.

One current tutor, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the I-Team that “each tutor has to figure out on their own how to teach something because we were never trained to follow a certain guideline.”

Xpeed owner Maverick Bian told the I-Team 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, said 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."

Dozens of students like Yu and Wang have filed complaints with the New York State Attorney General’s Office accusing Xpeed of not delivering on its promises.

Bian insists his schools boast a 90 percent success rate and that every child can be a prodigy. He says his three-fold method emphasizes developing long-term memory. 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."

New York State Assemblyman Ron Kim, a Democrat who represents the 40th district, is helping the dissatisfied families. He hopes also to warn other parents before they spend thousands of dollars.

“If someone is telling you they have a shortcut to success, you can’t believe them," Kim said. "There is no substitute for hard work.”

Multiple unsatisfied parents have sued Bian in small claims court, he told the I-Team. Bian denies that satisfaction was guaranteed and says he will not refund tuition. In the meantime, he is working to expand his schools next year.

Currently, XPeed has seven locations, in Flushing, Lower Manhattan, Sunset Park, Livingston, New Jersey, Princeton, New Jersey, and on Long Island. The company advertises primarily in Chinese newspapers and radio segments. Public seminars are also offered to attract new students.

Not all parents are unhappy with Bian's program.

Sue Xue, a mother of a student, said “in public school, they teach kids what they want, but here kids choose what they like.”

Another parent, Joyce Hu, said her child asked to return the following year.

Hu told her daughter, “if you like it, I’ll support you.”

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