GOOD

SAT Prep Gone Wild

Only wealthy kids are lucky enough to get primed for their SATs with a formal prep course, right? Not anymore. The online social enterprise I Need...


Only wealthy kids are lucky enough to get primed for their SATs with a formal prep course, right? Not anymore. The online social enterprise I Need A Pencil (INAP) is leveling the playing field for students from all economic backgrounds. Founded by Harvard junior Jason Shah, INAP targets low-income students who wouldn't otherwise have access to college advice, online lessons, mentors, or 24/7 email support– and unlike Kaplan and Princeton Review, it's all free. "Families shouldn't have to spend the equivalent of a college classes' tuition just to get ready to take the SAT," says Shah…Since launching in 2007, over 30,000 high school students from families with an average income of $40-80,000 have prepared for the SAT using INAP's program. Like Princeton Review and Kaplan, INAP users begin by taking an SAT practice test. The site then creates an estimated SAT score as a baseline starting point and provides users with areas of content strength and weakness.INAP users get 60 custom lessons tailored to academic weaknesses, and an unlimited number of custom SAT questions and practice tests. In comparison, Shah says Kaplan's SAT Online program offers 30 lessons for $399 with only four practice tests. The Princeton Review's SAT Live Online costs $699 for 20-30 hours of tutoring with four practice tests. Shah is critical of the prices. "Charging so much puts SAT prep out of most families' reach. What are we saying?" he asks, "That only rich kids deserve to be prepared for the SAT?"The site's beginnings stem from Shah's 2005 visit to his sister's sixth-grade Teach For America classroom in West Philadelphia. "One student asked me three times in a half hour how to spell the word ball," he says. When the kids talked about going to college, Shah, who was only a high school sophomore at the time, couldn't imagine how they'd be able to score high enough on the SAT to be accepted anywhere.Back home in Daytona Beach Florida, while his peers worked on their tans, Shah decided to chip away at education-based social inequality. He launched in-person tutoring initiatives that met with mixed results. A few months later, Shah heard a classmate calling out for a pencil. "I couldn't believe this kid was so unprepared he didn't even have a pencil," he says. When a friend convinced him to move his tutoring efforts online, the memory of that unprepared student inspired the domain name.Shah's parents invested $10,000 after reviewing his 40-page business plan. Shah spent the money on a team of curriculum designers and web developers from his parent's hometown in India. "They had no idea I was just a high school student," he says.On Saturdays, Shah drove around low-income areas tucking flyers on car windshields, and hosted sessions about getting into college at area high schools. But INAP really took off the summer of 2008 after his first year at Harvard when he scoured the web, tracked down over 1,000 after-school programs, and sent out a stock email about INAP. "I didn't have a plan for what to do if anybody responded," Shah says. Soon he had fifty programs implementing INAP.These days, INAP works with 120 after-school programs and the network is swiftly expanding through community-based organizations. Leandrew Robinson, the founder of Berkeley Scholars to Cal, an organization focused on mentoring Bay Area African American youth, praises INAP's efforts. "Many of our students are low income," he says. "I Need a Pencil is literally the only way for them to get quality SAT preparation." INAP's also been a finalist in the Dell Social Innovation competition, has received a SparkFeed grant, and won the Harvard I3 Innovation Challenge.The SAT score gap between the lowest and highest income brackets is 232 points, but Shah says INAP's closing it- his users are showing a 202-point increase in scores. With over 1.2 million low-income students nationwide, he's set a goal of reaching half a million low-income students a year. "I'm only reaching a fraction of possible users right now," says Shah. "I want to read about the achievement gap in history books, not newspapers. College can't just be for kids with money."This post originally appeared on www.refresheverything.com, as part of GOOD's collaboration with the Pepsi Refresh Project, a catalyst for world-changing ideas. Find out more about the Refresh campaign, or to submit your own idea today.Photo courtesy of INAP
Articles
Screenshot via Sweden.se/Twitter (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
Science

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics