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Seeking Help in the Accountability Era


Long known for its role in preparing students to take college entrance exams, Kaplan, Inc. now is spending more time helping school districts with curriculum and professional development. Kaplan's Seppy Basili talks about the company's role in those areas. Included: Information about services Kaplan provides to educators.

Increased accountability demands on educators have led to more districts and teachers turning to outside resources for help. Among those resources is Kaplan, Inc., a company traditionally known for its test-preparation programs. Kaplan now also offers after-school education centers, as well as programs for K-12 schools, post-secondary education, and professional training.

Seppy Basili

As Kaplan's vice president of learning and assessment, Guiseppe (Seppy) Basili guides strategy and product development for Kaplan K12 Learning Services. He has helped Kaplan K12 Learning Services design and deliver instructional programs to more than 1,000 schools nationwide. He also oversees in-house professional development programs.

Basili recently talked with Education World about the types of support services educators now are seeking.

Education World: How do you see the new SAT -- with a writing section -- affecting school curricula?

Seppy Basili: The new SAT was created in part to pressure high schools to improve curricula, so the new format will certainly challenge most schools to re-examine their curriculum.

EW: Since the passage of No Child Left Behind, in what areas are schools seeking the most assistance from Kaplan?

Basili: NCLB really is creating enormous change in schools -- districts are connecting data to faces in ways they haven't before. Those districts are turning to Kaplan for a range of services -- from intervention services for students with the greatest need to professional development for teachers. Districts also are turning to Kaplan for solutions, such as the Achievement Planner learning platform -- a comprehensive solution that includes formative assessment, state testing analysis, and targeted lesson plans.

EW: How do you respond to some educators' concerns that they are being forced to "teach to the test" more than ever now, and that it is adversely impacting education?

Basili: While traditional thinking is that teachers shouldn't "teach to the test," the educational landscape has changed during the past several years. Today, we live in a world of criterion-referenced tests, which establishes a proficiency baseline that every student should be able to perform at. State tests are based on state standards. There's no problem whatsoever in having tests that are standards-based and standards-driven.

EW: Why do you think achievement gaps persist on some standardized tests for minority and female students?

Basili: Actually, the most distinctive achievement gap on the SAT is based on socioeconomic level and family income. Students with access to better educational resources inherently perform better at standardized tests. There also has been a great deal of research conducted regarding the gender gap. Ironically, the traits that make girls stronger students -- thoughtful and measured responses, conservative guessing -- work to their disadvantage when it comes to test taking.

"NCLB really is creating enormous change in schools -- districts are connecting data to faces in ways that they haven't before," says Seppy Basili, vice president of learning and assessment, for Kaplan, Inc.

EW: What types of professional development does Kaplan offer educators?

Basili: Kaplan offers a host of professional development opportunities, ranging from 'reading intervention strategies and programs' to 'using student data to inform instruction.'

EW: What are some of the concerns educators voice to you about meeting accountability and achievement standards?

Basili: The main concerns I've heard from educators revolve around lack of resources -- particularly lack of materials that allow for differentiated instruction.

This e-interview with Seppy Basili is part of the Education World Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.

Article by Ellen R. Delisio
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