DEMOCRATIZING HIGHER EDUCATION, ONE BOOK AT A TIME
Democratizing Higher Ed...Don’t Standardized Tests Take Care of That?
Standardized exams seek to estimate academic potential and achievement of students competing for college spots in an international talent pool. Coupled with high school grades, they are believed to be the most-powerful predictor of college readiness.
All things equal, standardized test scores level the academic playing field by allowing students of limited financial means to outcompete other students in the college-admissions process, and even help them to pay for school with merit scholarships earned from high scores.
But all things never really are equal.
Intelligence, aptitude, and motivation are well distributed across populations, but standardized test scores correlate tightly with household income. Stated another way, the unfairness of standardized tests stems from resource inequality. The fact that some students can afford classes, tutors, subscription-model online help, and test-prep books (among other advantages), while others cannot, is at the root of this unfairness.
Why does this matter? Stated Another Way...Why Send Four Bucks to WBE?
For students from wealthy families, standardized exams are just a small element of a detailed college application. Although the process is stressful for these students, the outcome for these students is hardly in doubt. They will attend college; the standardized testing experience is not determinative for these students.
The same cannot be said for students from families whose incomes are lower. Many scholarships are based on academic achievement measured by test scores, and students can test out of dozens of credits by taking advanced classes in high school. Poorer performance on standardized tests—which can be attributed in large measure to poorer access to test prep—may bar their entry on academic grounds, or make attendance cost-prohibitive.
The SAT/ACT may go away, but other standardized tests, including the AB and IB exams surely will remain, and—in an SAT-free world—they will only increase in importance.
In the face of this, the Washington Book Exchange seeks to democratize higher education, one book at a time.
In short, by mitigating test-related resource inequality. The good news is that there really is no reason for this disparity to exist. There are plenty of resources to go around.
By the end of a high school career, many students find themselves with a stack of standardized test prep books from years of SAT, ACT, AP, or IB exam preparation. Most of these materials, used to prepare for crucial college-entrance or other high-stakes exams, remain in like-new condition, and can be repurposed to help students in need.
Unfortunately, these materials, which cost anywhere as much as $50 per book, often are thrown away each year when there are many students in need who can benefit from these valuable resources. Despite their effectiveness, unlike textbooks, schools do not provide them.
The Washington Book Exchange fills this gap. The WBE is a student-run program that collects and redistributes AP, SAT, and ACT prep books to students in Washington State in a way that preserves the dignity of our recipients. No one at their schools—indeed, no one other than our small staff of volunteers—will even know they received a book.
Does it Work?
Since its launch in the Bellevue School District three years ago, the Washington Book Exchange (then called the Bellevue Book Exchange) has touched the lives of hundreds of students through the redistribution of lightly used test-prep books. Its success in a seemingly improbable location—the 4th wealthiest school district in Washington state—pointed to a wider need, and inspired our volunteer team to expand statewide.
Doing just that, this month, the WBE expanded to its first school outside of the Bellevue School District, and intends to establish many more “franchises” in school districts all over the state to serve students locally, as well as to support online, remote requests from any high school student in the state.
If you believe in our mission of sharing existing resources to all students to ace their exams, please subscribe to our Stay Updated newsletter to follow along for donation opportunities.
$4.00: 1 book shipped to a student in need
$20.00: 5 books shipped to students in need
$100: 25 books shipped to students in need
We know there are many causes vying for your attention, but secondary-school education—as you no doubt know—was badly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and as such, students preparing for high-stakes exams have had even less scholastic support than ever before. This does not look like it will improve soon.
It’s even harder on students in need. Money is tighter than ever. They are more likely to have slower internet connections than their wealthier peers. In-person instruction is nothing but a memory. They need access to high-quality test-prep resources.
You can help.
Will you do so?