DC Chillin

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 01 2011

SAT Prep for America

I’ve been teaching SAT part-time for Kaplan since September.  I have come to think that Kaplan sucks the big one.  More on that another time.

But it got me thinking about the following questions:

1)  Is there any national SAT prep company that caters specifically to low-income students?

2) Are the SAT prep needs of low-income students different from those of higher-income students?

3a) Is it possible to convince TFA-quality people with experience teaching urban students to teach SAT prep classes for less money than they could get teaching for Kaplan or Princeton Review?

3b) Would TFA alumni who are now out of the classroom be drawn in by the chance to work/volunteer part-time teaching SAT prep?

4) Would SAT prep interest donors?  It seems like a lot of money is being invested now at getting low-income kids into college, but not necessarily into the college of their choice.

4 Responses

  1. Yes!! In college, I taught for Kaplan and taught for a free SAT Prep program at a low-income high school. There are national companies who donate versions of their curriculum to free programs (I’m blanking right now on what ours was called, since we ended up breaking off from them and writing our own curriculum anyway).
    SAT prep needs are different in that education level is often different. My Kaplan kids needed review, while the kids in my free program needed more actual content teaching. (Everyone needs help with test-taking strategies though!)

    I think there are programs out there who are doing this, we just don’t hear much about them. But I agree with you that it’s super important!

  2. adirondackblue

    I think you would find the following information helpful: http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/choice/help/ses/index.html

    Perhaps you’re interested to become a provider? Or maybe become a provider to students who might not meet the eligibility requirements but still go to a Title 1 school.

    1. It will vary by state, but I have seen Kaplan and Sylvan Learning Center on the lists.
    2. Maybe? but I don’t think there’s a “low income prep curriculum” that will work for every student. As with other phenomena, you often find more diversity within a group than between groups.
    3a) What do you mean by “TFA quality people?” I think you should spend a lot of time thinking about exactly the kind of person you want and think would be right for the job. Is it a seasoned, highly effective teacher who has nothing whatsoever to do with TFA? Is it a TFA corps member (who definitely isn’t seasoned and arguably might not be effective but likely brings other desirable skills)? Is it the type of person that TFA tries to recruit? is it the type of person that TFA tries to recruit who actually applies? Is it a TFA alum remaining in the classroom? A TFA alum outside of the classroom? All or none of these people?
    3b) I am not incredibly familiar with Kaplan, and I assumed that you were thinking to structure your classes in a similar fashion. There are so many factors at play that i can’t effectively answer this question other than, yes, there are probably some who might be interested, and no, there are probably others who don’t care to return to a teaching role.
    4) I think it may interest some affluent TFA Alumni and Friends or others who deeply care about higher education being accessible to all.
    However, I have a question: What kind of money is being invested to get low income students into college? Are you talking about private dollars?

  3. danielleinthed

    I love this post! I volunteered to teach an ACT prep class to students in Chicago last year. I actually worked with a TFA corps member and he asked me to teach his students during the summer. There are definitely not enough programs for low-income students to get preparation for college admissions tests.

    Good for you for bringing this issue to light!

  4. sj


    Three programs come to mind:

    1. Let’s Get Ready: An SAT prep program specifically designed to help low-income students. The program recruits college students to run the program and teach for it. They also focus on “college readiness” skills. They have ties with TfA.

    2. MIT SAT Prep: MIT has been running low-cost SAT prep for a while. The program is large (~1000 students per year), a bit of a cattle call, and the teaching quality is variable. However, it does provide SAT Prep for $80, with generous financial aid for anyone who needs it. The program is in some kind of transition stage now: .

    3. A lot of high-performing charter schools offer their own, internal SAT Prep programs.

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