College-Ready For Real — BetterRhetor’s GoFundMe

Hello! We’re building an online platform to close the college-readiness gap. We could use a hand.

Year after year, for decades now, Education has been rife with “college-readiness standards” and “college-readiness assessments.” None of it has made a dent in the fact that the majority of students entering college are not academically prepared. They start off behind, never catch up, often drop out.

Donations via this GoFundMe will enable BetterRhetor to create the innovative, game-changing web space we envision (see our Ready For Real™ Platform page) for delivering our instructional resources, evaluating authentic student performance, and connecting high-schoolers to colleges where they can succeed.

It’s past time for a REAL answer, steeped in research, born from deep experience, devoid of bubble-tests and misaligned measures. At BetterRhetor we are dedicated to putting success within reach of everyone who aspires to a college education—regardless of their income or background. Achieving this goal requires finally closing the college-readiness gap for good. For REAL.

The college-readiness gap is one of the most persistent, consequential, and well-documented problems in education. Nearly 3/4 of students entering college are NOT prepared for college-level academic work. What they learn in high school isn’t aligned with what is expected of them in college.

Because they are unprepared, far too many students fail to earn their degree. They start out already behind and never catch up. Many eventually drop out, discouraged, in debt, and under-skilled. This is true of all populations, but underserved groups—low income, Black, Latina/o, Native American—fare worst of all.

Poor academic preparation affects not only college success but career prospects as well. Employers report that fundamental academic skills—critical thinking, problem-solving, writing—are among the abilities most lacking in job applicants, yet most important for workplace success.

“Gatekeeper” college admission exams—the ACT and SAT—are part of the problem. These tests contribute nothing to authentic learning, they disadvantage underserved populations, and they’re poor predictors of college success. All students, privileged and underprivileged, are ill-served by the current paradigm; any legitimate effort to close the college-readiness gap requires the disruption of this 60-year duopoly.

We believe that every student who wants to pursue higher education should have access to instruction and assessment aimed directly at helping them succeed. If we get it right before they get to college, more students will earn their degrees, and more will be ready to contribute in the workplace after they graduate.

In service to this mission, we’re raising funds to help build BetterRhetor’s Ready For Real™ Platform. The web-based platform will deliver to pre-college students and classrooms:
1) effective college-readiness instruction;
2) authentic college-readiness assessment; and
3) a better way to connect students with colleges that believe in them.

The platform’s online modules in Writing and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) are specifically designed to close the gap between high school and college instruction. They’re built on solid research, organized around student-driven extended projects, and designed to slot readily into existing courses and programs.

Students will be assessed on their REAL academic work—not their ability to fill in circles for a timed test. There’s no income-based test-prep advantages or unfair cost barriers. In addition, the platform will provide measures of progress and promise as well as achievement, resulting in comprehensive student profiles that better match students to schools where they can succeed.

If we’re going to close the college-readiness gap, college-bound students need to know what will be expected of them. They need opportunities to practice and demonstrate the full range of their abilities by doing in-depth, relevant academic work. They need socialization into authentic academic communities. And they need to know how to take responsibility for their own learning and performances.

Phase 1 of BetterRhetor’s vision is already complete. In the fall of 2017 we piloted our Ready For Real™ Writing Module with 120 high school students in Prescott, Arizona (see demo site for a sample). Over six weeks, the curriculum guided students step-by-step through the process of producing a research-supported persuasive essay; students got a focused, intensive introduction to the kind of authentic academic writing that will be expected of them in college.

In Phase 2, we’re developing and building a prototype of our platform to host the next iteration of the six-week writing module. With the module on an interactive web-based platform, we can get it into more classrooms and expand its features. We’ll also begin incorporating our proprietary framework for evaluating students’ cognitive, social, and personal competencies (see our CEO’s Getting Smart article “Integrating Cognitive, Social, and Personal Competencies”).

Phase 3 will add a STEM instructional module and bring full functionality. The finished platform will deliver complete competency-based assessment and reporting capability, delivering both rigorous instruction and actionable feedback. Teachers, administrators and other stakeholders can have confidence that their students are gaining the competencies most needed for college success. In addition, student performance information will contribute to our Real Student Portraits™—robust, comprehensive profiles of students, their capabilities, and their potentials.

Through our online platform, colleges will be able to more readily discover and connect with their best-fit recruits. In turn, students will gain a powerful new tool for both preparing for college-level work and connecting with schools that believe in them.

Students win, schools win; only outmoded billion-dollar tax-free testing organizations get left behind.

BetterRhetor’s long-term vision is ambitious, but closing the college-readiness gap for real is doable—and vital for the future of students, schools, employers, and our shared civic life.

Here are four ways you can help us:
1) Make a financial donation to keep our project moving forward;
2) Connect us with advocates, sponsors, and others who want to improve education;
3) Send us your amazing ideas;
4) Spread the word.

Please consider contributing whatever is possible for you. Every amount and action helps. Funds donated to this GoFundMe campaign will be used toward Phase 2 of our mission. Additional monies raised beyond our goal amount will be targeted for Phase 3.

Together we can put success within reach of more students by helping them get COLLEGE-READY FOR REAL.

For an extended discussion of the college-readiness gap, go here. For more information about BetterRhetor and our mission visit, plus check out our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. And to receive news and updates on our progress, join our mailing list here.

BetterRhetor’s A High-Schooler’s Guide to the Culture of College Academics: 8 Key Concepts is a FREE .pdf to help introduce a new, seemingly alien landscape to any high school student. It can be accessed here, and the whitepaper behind it here.


William Bryant, PhD
I’m the Founder and CEO of BetterRhetor. Before launching my own company, I worked in test development at ACT Inc. for nearly ten years. In my final years there, I was Director of Writing and Communications Assessments. You can read about my journey from there to here in my introductory “LevelUp” blog post.

My thesis (PhD, American Studies) and several published articles can be found on ResearchGate. My LinkedIn profile details more of my experience and qualifications. I’ve written for BRIGHT Magazine and am a contributing columnist at Getting Smart.

Rebecca Bryant
I’m the Operations Manager and Creative Director for BetterRhetor. In addition to managing day-to-day operations, I’m responsible for product design and forging the digital marketing and social media strategies for our start-up. Previously, I ran my own graphic design business in the Washington DC metro area for twenty-two years after graduating from James Madison University. I’m married to William and am likewise passionate about educational equity.

Kellee M. Franklin, PhD
I’ve worked for many years as a business consultant and executive advisor, helping a variety of organizations design business, data, and technology strategies that boost innovation, enhance product capabilities and user experience, and increase market growth (see my LinkedIn profile here). I serve on the Advisory Board of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center at Seattle University. My Ph.D., from Virginia Tech University, is in Human Development, Organizational Behavior. As a corporate leader and executive advisor, and in my numerous roles within academia, I recognize the need to improve students’ college readiness and strengthen their ability to contribute applicable skills to our global marketplace. That is why I’m pleased to support BetterRhetor as they develop an innovative solution that will fundamentally change the way students select and prepare themselves for a more rewarding college experience—and propel them to a future of unlimited possibilities.

Iulia Iordache
When entering college, I was a first-generation college student coming from Romania. Due to my public school background in a formerly communist country, there were many challenges that I faced in my years of college that I didn’t even recognize until later. After graduating from Grinnell College, my work has focused on supporting students from diverse backgrounds in Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore. I currently serve as a Dean’s Fellow and Intercultural Engagement Associate at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. I’m excited about BetterRhetor’s mission to better prepare students from disadvantaged backgrounds for the rigorousness of academic life in college. My role is to connect BetterRhetor to student perspectives and advise them on the experiences and challenges encountered by students first navigating college life. I am particularly interested in helping diverse and first-generation college students. You can view my LinkedIn profile here.

At BetterRhetor, we believe that finding solutions in education entails thinking and communicating BETTER with one another, encouraging the collaborative problem-solving abilities of a community of passionate RHETORS, who are prepared and eager to reason, speak, argue, decide, and do. That’s the kind of community we want to be part of.

Here’s the GoFundMe link again if you’d like to support our efforts. Many thanks!