It was midnight when Shaheed finished his shift at Burger King, a job he took to support his family’s living expenses. He’d been there since 4pm, right after drum line practice ended. As he waited for the bus to take him home, he thought about the day ahead of him, a big day, one for which he and his classmates attending KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy (NCA) had been preparing diligently for the prior month and a half.
It was ACT test day, and the stakes were high. Shaheed’s scores would potentially influence not only his college acceptances but also the extent of financial aid that might be available to him. That he’d only had six weeks to prepare already put him at a disadvantage. Many of his same-age peers attending some of the east coast’s most elite boarding schools less than an hour away would’ve spent months – if not years – preparing, paying upwards of $20,000-$30,000 just to hit the coveted ACT score of 30 or higher. For Shaheed and his peers, paying for test preparation was beyond their means, but, thanks to a partnership between NCA and Winward Academy, Shaheed and his classmates were able to participate in a learner-centered educational program informed by more than forty years of learning research.