Carl Dorvil: A Great American Story

Carl Dorvil started Group Excellence in his SMU dorm room.  The son of Haitian immigrants, Carl never took his education for granted.  He was the first African American president of his high school and balanced four jobs while completing a triple major and starting a business as an undergraduate.
Some good advice from the founder of Macaroni Grill led Carl to pursue an MBA.  But when his professor saw the revenue projection for Group Excellence, he suggested a semester off to work on the business.
Carl finished his MBA in 2008, but the break allowed him to build a great business. Today Group Excellence (GE) employs 500 people in four cities and serves over 10,000 Texas students.  GE provides tutoring services to struggling low-income students.  Dorvil says, “The knowledge that I gained from business school propelled GE into becoming one of the most respected tutoring companies under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.”
In one Dallas middle school, math scores shot up from 12% to more than 60% passing the state test only 8 months after activating the GE program.
At a failing high school, students that had failed the state exam were chosen to participate in the Group Excellence program by the school faculty.  Each day about 100 students attended small group tutoring sessions. The result—75% of the students passed the state exam.
Carl recruits talented college students to do much of the tutoring, but he’s really looking for role models.  “We don’t believe we are a tutoring company that mentors, we believe we are a mentoring company that tutors and that has makes all the difference.”
Dorvil also partnered with his SMU roommate, Ben Goerz, to start an interactive online tutoring business called SureStudy, which specializes in e-learning systems for K-12 education.
Last month Dorvil was awarded the prestigious “Dallas Business Journal 2010 Minority Business Leaders Award” for his extraordinary work as CEO of Group Excellence.  Carl is a great American business story: hard work, ingenuity, and taking advantage of an occasional break.  But for Carl, this work is as much about community building as business development.
Group Excellence is a Supplemental Educational Service provider.  Federal law requires that after three years of failing to make adequate progress, low-income students become eligible for tutoring services.  Most districts don’t do much to advertise this fact because they keep the money if students don’t take advantage of the free tutoring.  Dallas and Houston have proven to be good partners and appreciate the value that Carl’s team delivers.
A Republican President thought it was a good idea to provide free tutoring to 500,000 struggling low-income students trapped in failing schools.  It would be a shame if a Democratic Congress caved to the blob and took it away.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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