SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – It’s not often I get excited about emails from the SHS guidance department, but the one that came today managed to do just that. Today, director of guidance Nga Hyungh announced that members of the sophomore and junior class will now be able to access the PrepMe suite of SAT preparation tools, though an online program that I’m sure will make a huge impact on any of the students who choose to take advantage of it.
PrepMe is a pretty interesting system which used to be available only on a subscription basis. One of my kids used it last year with great success, but it was a pricey investment, where you would pay several hundred dollars for a 3 month period of use, and then additional fees to continue beyond that, or to take advantage of the other tools contained within the system. The good news is that according to their website, they claimed an “average increase in score” of over 300 points, based on over 30,000 students that used the system.
It works using a much different methodology than that which is done in the standard SAT prep model. In the case of the traditional brick and mortal model I had used many years ago, a student will attend a series of once a week prep classes where an instructor walks them through different aspects of the test each week, in a room full of other students, and helps them as much as possible in that type of environment, while at the same time realizing that the class needs to keep moving. Often, you would find that your student already knew the material being covered that week, and therefore didn’t really get as much out of that particular class as they could have.
PrepMe operates on a completely different system, where they use technology to analyze where a students particular and individual needs are, and then customize a series of online lessons and pre-tests designed specifically to focus on those weaknesses, without wasting time teaching them what they already know. Students will often start with a pre-test, which drills down into subjects on a microscopic basis. For example, the student may have done very well in math, except on problems involving binomial equations. If that’s the case, the system will deliver to them lessons specifically on those types of questions, then do a micro-pretest on them, and repeat that until they have mastered that particular concept before moving on. Throughout the process, the student can retake the full master SAT test, again identifying areas where work needs to be done, and quantifying their improvement in an easy to use graphical interface.
Although I had to pay a large fee to use the program back then, PrepMe announced last year that they were acquired by Naviance, the system we already have used at Shrewsbury High School for many years, and were going to be offering for a small fee the ability for schools to make this available to all of their students. That means that for Shrewsbury parents, the days of dropping a fortune on SAT prep are long gone.
Why is this all so exciting to me, and so important? Well, for several reasons. First and foremost, whether we like it or not, performance on the SAT is a large defining factor in college admissions, and this is going to be a huge help to all of our students. Also, because it’s an online program, there is no longer a need for a rigid class schedule, and the students can use this whenever they want, and wherever they might be at the time, whether hanging out at home or even on a long car ride. Of course any student will get out of it only what they are willing to put in the time and energy for, but that’s like everything else. The key thing here is just to provide them with the tools they need to succeed, after which it’s up to them to take advantage of it. I really take my hat off to the SHS administration for finally making this a reality, and think it’s going to be one of the best things we’ve done in a long time.
Of course, my hope is that this is just the beginning, and represents the first step in the continued use of online learning programs that I have been talking about in articles for a long time. This is really the direction that many districts have been going in, and a fantastic way to provide a better education for our youth without the need for increasing the budget for the rest of the community. There are countless ways to use technology to augment, NOT replace, the existing systems, and no doubt we will be seeing more such tools leveraged in the years to come.