Member News: Finn Prep teams with CR schools

Kelly Finn, founder and CEO of the test prep business Finn Prep located in Office Evolution Cedar Rapids, has seen firsthand the power ACT preparation has to change lives. Over her six years in business, her students have seen an average score increase of 4 points, giving students opportunities to get into college, increasing chances of getting accepted into more selective institutions, and for some, chances at a full-ride scholarship.

The Curriculum Facilitator in Career and Technical Education for the Cedar Rapids Community School District, Tara Troester, approached Ms. Finn about working with an at-risk student. Kelly gladly agreed to take 50% off the usual $698 test prep fee and suggested the district write a grant to fund the other half. The district was able to use some leftover flood recovery money and the student joined the class. Ms. Finn hopes the experience will serve as a model for future collaborations between schools and test prep services.

“know this can change people’s lives,” said Ms. Finn, who was herself a first generation college graduate before going on to earn a PhD in Teaching and Learning, an MS in Mathematics and a K-12 Teaching License from The University of Iowa.

“This is a real game changer and I believe it is needed,” she said. “Coe College, for instance, will admit you with [a score of] 17 or 18 at the last minute, but it also costs $50,000 a year, so you don’t want that. Getting a higher ACT score is a way to become ‘golden’, to go to college for free, or be able to apply to an Ivy League…or to get in at all. There are so many good reasons to have a higher score.”

Ms. Finn’s track record is just that. Using strategies she discovered in advanced math class, she has helped many students. Two years ago, she helped a Washington High School student increase his score from a 17 to a 23. That was enough of a jump to get that student into Mount Mercy University. More recently, she assisted a student in raising his score enough to qualify for a full-ride scholarship.

Running this business is very, very rewarding, particularly now,” she said. “I understand a little bit about these kids because of my own background, so I hope that this kind of partnership can become an ongoing thing.”

 Ms. Finn said the state’s three-year slide in average ACT scores is evidence more intensive test preparation is badly needed. Iowa students averaged a composite score of 21.8 out of 36 this year, just slightly above the national average of 20.8. The percentage of Iowa students meeting math benchmarks dropped from 48% in 2014 to 44% this year.

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