Princeton Review develops Internet-based test prep

The Princeton Review, well-known for helping higher-education students bone up for college entrance exams, has developed an Internet-based educational service to help K-12 teachers, students and students' parents prepare for state assessment tests.

Homeroom.com, launched last week by The Princeton Review, is designed to improve the performance of schools on state assessment tests and enhance the overall learning of its students. The Homeroom.com World Wide Web site (www.homeroom.com) includes a database of questions with which students can test their knowledge of material after finishing a lesson, making it possible to adapt lessons based on their performance.

"Homeroom.com is not instructive, it's not a textbook and not meant to replace textbooks," said Steven Hodas, vice president for online strategy and co-founder of Homeroom.com. "It's a diagnostic and prescriptive service that is designed to work adjacent to instruction, but not be instructive itself."

By tracking performance, the site enables educators to chart performance of a class as a whole, while also focusing on the performance and requirements of individual students, Hodas said. Meanwhile, students can work at their own pace through their lessons, targeting areas where they are struggling, he said.

The Texas pilot schools will use the program for grades 3 through 8 to prepare for the math portion of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test. The individual schools have not yet been selected, but that process will be complete in a few weeks, and Homeroom.com is "guaranteeing that students who use it will do better than kids that don't," Hodas said.

"If a third grader in Plano has just finished chapter three in his [or] her school book, they log on to Homeroom.com and are presented with a series of questions from the database," he said. "The questions are intersected with the state [mandated] assessment tests, and it's all very adaptive.... If a student is strong in an area, no more questions, but where they're weak, the program tracks back to the weak points and provides resources [for improvement]." Resources include materials from the Princeton Review, Web pages, CD-ROMs and print materials.

Homeroom.com will be made available through site licenses that can be purchased on a building, school, district or state level, Hodas said. The most expensive packages for an average school would cost about $4,000 a year, but district and state sales will be at discounted prices.

The Princeton Review traditionally has helped higher-education students prepare for the next level, but has been seeking a suitable opening in the K-12 market for some time, Hodas said. "Our core expertise is test preparation...and now mainstream [K-12] education has moved into test preparation," he said. "It's an opportunity we've been looking into for a long time."

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