Cheating Twice as Hard To Get Half as Much: Lessons from the T. M. Landry

Related imageWhen the NY Times published its scathing exposé of T. M. Landry College Preparatory  (“Louisiana School Made Headlines for Sending Black Kids to Elite Colleges. Here’s The Reality”) it caused an uproar in the educational community as educators, admissions professionals, and parents were shocked to learn that behind the inspirational videos was a school in trouble. Many were stunned as revelations painted a picture of a school engaging in abusive discipline practices more reminiscent of the 1940s than the 2000s. These practices alone give adequate reason for outrage and when compounded by the evidence of significant educational abuses and fraud makes this an important story for everyone in the educational community.

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Choosing a Test Prep Program

01rfd-image-custom1Often I’m asked for help selecting a test prep program, course, or tutor (usually in an email that provides almost no details of the situation of the asker…but that’s another story) and of course, if you ask me a question this leads to a 500+ word screed as a response. Since ranting in private spaces only helps a few, I’ve decided to share my thoughts with a wider audience (all 6 of you who read my blog posts).

 

The criteria and considerations below are some of the things you should look for when you are deciding how to prepare for an admission test. You may find other things have to be included in your decision-making but I highly recommend that you at a minimum consider these factors. I’ll outline my rationale for each factor as I go. 

 

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Hate-Reads: College Admission, Testing, and the Media

hatereadThe media is chock full of trash when it comes to reporting on college admissions and especially college admission testing. There are few writers who provide the nuance and thoughtfulness that this process deserves. If I were a parent negotiating this process I’d be hard-pressed to sort the wheat from the chaff. So to help out, I’m here to give you a handy guide what to look for and who to read for your college admission information.
First, let’s talk about what I look for in “good reporting.”

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ACT-Kaplan Join Forces to Increase …

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On Tuesday April 19th, I woke to find the following press release in my inbox.

Las Vegas, NV (April 18th, 2016) – ACT, (the other test maker) has decided to partner with Kaplan Test Prep to offer free standardized test prep, in a new effort to emphasize the ineffectuality of standardized tests. This new state of the art online testing program will be at least partially live (Take that KHAN ACADEMY with your pre-recorded doodles). Though it’s not entirely free to all students, Kaplan promises to provide lots of free test prep to low-income students to help dial down the reality that it is a for-profit company making bank on this new partnership. With this new program, Kaplan promises to utilize the same top-notch online portal used for classes at Kaplan University. (Ranked 137th Best Online College and ranked equally with the notable Oral Roberts University.)

 

This new program entitled: Kaplan Online Program Outreach for Underserved Tutorials (or simply KOPOUT) features lessons from seasoned Master Ninjas who no longer need silly things like textbooks to cover the material that isn’t showing up in high school this year.

 

“We know that helping kids help understand the help they need should not go unhelped,” says ACT COO, Kyle Ren. “After all, we think it’s beneficial to work with test prep companies, as they’ve made it their business to recognize the flaws we’ve created. It’s like, you know when like the Terminator came back and he was like, I’m not here to kill you like I’m here to help save your kid from the shiny new guy who wants to kill you. And he can like mold himself into anything at all, and that’s like, useful and stuff. So we’ve got the Terminator on our side. Or are we the Terminator? I don’t know. I guess one of us is the Terminator.”

 

KOPOUT also includes the following features:

  • An online platform with prerecorded lessons over the backdrop of a 1980’s yearbook setting.
  • Sciencey science for the Science section discussing the charts and graphs and other things ACT takes for college level Science.
  • Real ACT questions which are totally different from the ones you’d find in the book they’re about to publish for more money.
  • A social network of like-minded kids using the service as an excuse for learning instead of snap chatting nasty comments to their ex-girlfriend.
  • Quinoa.

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College Board or Test prep Companies: Who Has it Right?

One of the more interesting debates of the past 30 years has been the efficacy test prep programs. In one corner you have College Board (CB) citing a seemingly vast number of studies that support the idea that test prep is at best minimally effective. Many of us have likely heard or read College Board reports that suggest that SAT scores are near immutable and that from one test to the next scores will only change by negligible amounts. In the other corner you have a billion dollar test prep industry making score claims that fly in the face of all information given by College Board. Additionally, many of us also have friends (or have friends who have friends) whose children attended prep classes and improved by 200 or 300 points.

 

Reading the papers and following the blogs, one is led to believe that the only choice families and schools have is whether to believe the “evil test creator” who seemingly exists to torture kids with 4-hour long tests or the “greedy test prep companies” who are bilking families out of billions of dollars by making them pay for prep that doesn’t work. Faced with this conflicting information one could easily be confused about who’s right, what the real story is, and what to do to help your child or student. How do parents, educators, administrators or students sort through the noise and determine how to put their child in a position to succeed on these tests (and more importantly get into college). Let’s explore the factors that lead to the disagreement and shed some light on the issue.

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