Birmingham nonprofits partner to provide quality ACT prep

20 Jan Birmingham nonprofits partner to provide quality ACT prep

Written as a collaboration between The Birmingham Education Foundation and College Admissions Made Possible (CAMP)

“Slowly, I started to see it spread – that moment where the numbers on the board were no longer a foreign language and started to make sense.”

Ramsha Farrukh, a 2015 ACT teaching fellow and senior neuroscience major at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, shares these words as she reflects on her experience working with students at two Birmingham City schools last year.

“That was my favorite moment about teaching. I loved being able to instill confidence into students about their own abilities.”

This is a confidence that many students need as they prepare for college. Performance on college entrance exams like the ACT is one of the key factors in determining students eligibility for admission and scholarships at most colleges and universities.

“Test scores matter,” says Karin Bell, a college counselor for College Admissions Made Possible and 20-year high school counseling veteran.

Whether we like it or not, decisions are being made about our students based on those numbers. Those numbers can help open doors for students, or they may close doors. It’s really about students having options.

Research shows that having options and awareness of those options is important, especially for students who are low-income or first generation. The Birmingham Education Foundation and College Admissions Made Possible are increasing options for students by preparing them for college entrance exams.

Reducing inequalities in college advising and test preparation was one of the promising interventions to address barriers to college opportunity for low-income students identified in 2014 by the Executive Office of the President.

With many for-profit companies charging anywhere from $400- $2000, quality ACT preparation is something that many students cannot afford. Fortunately, all eleventh-grade students at Ramsay and Carver High school were able to receive weekly ACT preparation free of charge through a partnership with the Birmingham Education Foundation, College Admissions Made Possible, and organizations like Alabama Power.

The test preparation is making a difference in the lives of students at both schools.

“[It] has been an integral part of Ramsay High School’s academic program for the last three years and it has proven to add value to academic instruction for our students… We have seen increases in our student scores and would recommend this program to other schools,” said Cassandra Fincher-Fells, principal at Ramsay High School.

Last year, class of 2017 participants at Ramsay High School saw an average increase of about 3 points from their diagnostic to their April ACT score.

The ACT preparation course offered through this partnership was unique in that it was offered to all students during the school day.

“It is important for students to have time set aside to prepare for college applications and everything that comes along with the college process,” says Jarian Lee, a senior in the International Baccalaureate program at Ramsay High School. Lee scored above a 28 on the ACT and plans to major in political science next fall.

J. W. Carpenter serves as the executive director of the Birmingham Education Foundation.

“I think what we’ve seen over the last two years is that if we keep student achievement at the center, and assemble a diverse group of funders, educators, and community supporters, our students will rise to the occasion,” says Carpenter.

“We have a lot more work to do, but thanks to the partnership we have with the Birmingham City Schools, the Bold Goals Coalition, and funders like Alabama Power, the Community Foundation, Protective Life, and Susan Mott Webb, I’m confident we will continue that progress.”

Carver High School saw student benchmark attainment for the class of 2017 increase by 195% compared to the junior year benchmark attainment of the previous class.

Jazmund Walker is a graduate of Carver High School and the communications and outreach coordinator of College Admissions Made Possible.

Walker, who currently serves as Miss Natural Hair Health and Beauty, visited students at her alma mater to share her story of success and encourage students to take advantage of this opportunity.

“I did not have an organization like CAMP helping me through the college admissions process, let alone for free”, says Walker.