Beware the sociologist with a long-term study. The results can be devastating to the optimist and advocates of the American meritocracy, recently evidenced by Karl Alexander’s 25 year study of 800 low-income Baltimore school kids titled quite ominously “The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood.” Spoiler Alert! If you plan on reading it and want to be surprised, stop reading now. Just a few of the takeaways:
1. Better schools and stronger family structures led to greater economic success later in life.
2. Race and gender further impacted the outcomes, with low-income white men able to secure the greatest economic opportunity even as high school drop outs.
3. Meritocracy is an endangered species- 33 of the 800 kids moved from the low-income to high-income bracket.
It is not really fair to condense 300 pages and 25 years of research to 3 points, so if you would like to read further or just hear more:
How is this connected to ed/tech?
First, as stakeholders in the world of education bicker over Common Core standards, funding, teacher training, tenure, and every other issue that makes education politicized, entrepreneurs are building businesses to address needs at all academic levels. Prepify is one of those companies. It’s simple, college admissions is an inefficient market and we believe providing free SAT Prep, anytime and anywhere, will increase scores for HILAs [High-Achieving, Low-Income students]. If a student wants to improve her scores, but lacks the means for costly test prep she can now use her phone for intuitive SAT prep. Based on our diagnostics we can then act as a matchmaker for universities in need of more students from under-resourced communities. It is just one area in a field in need of more entrepreneurs willing to use technology to answer education’s problems. It would be easy to learn of Alexander’s study and forego optimism for a dire pessimism, but let’s create answers and make meritocracy a reality again. What issues in education do you think technology can address?
Who are HALIs? HALIs [pronounced hay-lees] are high-achievement, low-income students. The easiest way to define them as a group is students with a minimum A- GPA and score in the top 10% of SAT/ACT scores, with a family income in the bottom quartile-approximately $41,500 a household. This is when most articles would start bending towards a political message, but that’s not why we have skin in the game. We, Prepify, believe universities are missing out on tens of thousands of HALIs, because the system to find the most talented students is inefficient. The work of Hoxby and Avery made one aspect of the problem clear: the HALIs aren’t applying to selective universities, putting an end to the narrative that those schools must fight over the few diamonds in the rough.
The issue of making college admissions more efficient has been a concern for some time. Next year is the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Higher Education Act. A bill that President Johnson signed as part of The Great Society, and “To thousands of young men and women, this act means the path of knowledge is open to all that have the determination to walk it.” More poignantly that a student should not be prevented from college, “because his family is poor.” A very simple, but bold endeavor. The Act has still not been reauthorized by the House for 2014. So, for the sake of pragmatism, not a fond word in Congress, let’s leave politics out of it. Which is not to say only academics and politicians are talking about this problem. Even College Board put some skin in the game last year deciding to send out a packet of information on the top schools to all students who score in the top 15%, a significant cost to the College Board. The more people pay attention to the problem, the better chance we have to solve it.
In order to solve the problem of a market inefficiency in college admissions we believe providing better tools for all students, not just those that can afford them, is a good first step. Which is why we are excited that Prepify.me [beta] launched this week. It’s free SAT Prep that is intuitive and interactive. Once we’re fully functional, we will be able to address the inefficiencies on the front and back end of the admissions process. Universities can’t go to every high school, so we are going to make the process of making matches between the HALIs and the colleges that much easier. Eliminating the inefficiencies in the market will also decrease the opportunity gap that hurts the entire country, not just the HALIs.
The Obama Administration announced a plan last summer to start evaluating colleges on how their graduates enter the world: prepared? indebted? confused?
Confused has been the general response by University Presidents across the country. Janet Napolitano, former Obama Homeland Security Secretary and now President of University of California System, said she was “deeply sceptical.” No details have been finalized for the 2015 roll out, but a few of the discussed areas of evaluation: average tuition cost, low-income student enrollment, graduation rates, and job earnings after graduation. All suggestions have received less than enthusiastic feedback.
Yesterday, the President of Harvard, Drew Faust, spoke with Marketplace about her ideal measurements. Obviously, they tilted towards measurements that reflect well upon Harvard; there’s the rub.
No University President is going to want to be measured the same way as another, very different, university. When the President of Harvard says one of the measurements should be percentage of students on financial aid, look closely. Faust said 20% of Harvard’s class will make no family contributions. It’s a tricky statistic, because based on Hoxby and Avery’s article, “Harvard’s policy change had very little effect-at least, very little immediate effect-on the income composition of its entering class.” In the interview Harvard could be seen as changing the game for families that can’t afford college, but it misses the detail that is too little discussed. The students Hoxby and Avery define as High Achievement Low-Income have A- or higher GPAs and score in the top ten percent of SAT or ACT scores, but reside in the bottom two quartiles of family income. Their results are simple: the HALIs (High Achievement Low-Income) aren’t applying! For various reasons, the HALIs aren’t applying to selective schools equal to their numbers.
Prepify wants to be part of the change. The more students that take the SAT and perform better, the sooner we can decrease the opportunity gap.
What does it take to be disruptive and/or innovative in the world of education?
One way is access. If we(educators and entrepreneurs) want to create a more equitable and just education system, there must be greater representation of all Americans in college.
Prepify was created to change the SAT Prep game for those who cannot afford the expensive programs and need easy access to SAT prep. We are going to provide a free and intuitive program for students to improve their scores and change their lives. College is for everyone and we are going to provide the tools to access it, now. Is this disruptive? Is this innovative?
Prepify believes we’ll be both.
Forbes.com published their twelve most important disruptors of 2013, which included education of course, and argued Gene Wade was leading the charge with UniversityNow. He and the unow.com team are providing a 100% online college education at below market prices. Disruptive: yes. Innovative: yes.
The NOW is missing. Yes, unow.com will change the future of post-secondary education, but what about my student that is preparing for the October SAT test? Shouldn’t she be as prepared as possible to access any school she wants with higher SAT scores.
It’s time to be honest with ourselves about the SAT: it matters. I taught public high school from Oakland to The Bronx, so I feel confident in my understanding of the high school to college process in urban communities. Only 36% of students from families without college-going traditions enroll in college immediately after high school graduation, those are deplorable numbers. Any additional assistance to a student’s application, like a higher SAT score, can be a game changer. So, what do we do for students that can’t cough up hundreds and thousands of dollars for test prep?
We at Prepify decided to create an app that lets students empower themselves. You probably don’t remember the last time you saw a teenager without a smartphone in hand. Let’s use the relationship(obsession?) to provide tools that can change lives. An intuitive app that guides the student through lessons toward higher and higher scores. Better SAT scores equals better universities equals unlimited opportunities.
Tell us what you think.