Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Bridge the Divide: The Largest, Private Nonprofit Testing Organization, ETS, Is Working to Eliminate Educational Disparities within Underserved Communities

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Bridge the Divide: The Largest, Private Nonprofit Testing Organization, ETS, Is Working to Eliminate Educational Disparities within Underserved Communities

Article excerpt

PRINCETON, N.J

If you mention the name ETS--or Educational Testing Service--you're bound to come across an anxious high school or college student who will recount a horror story about their test-taking experience.

And while it's true that ETS--the world's largest, private, nonprofit educational testing, research and assessment organization--is best known for its standardized tests, the testing company has also been actively working to educate the public that it does more than simply create exams. Through its Center for Advocacy and Philanthropy (CAAP), ETS has been leading an effort to bridge the educational divide and improve outcomes for individuals and organizations throughout the nation.

Philanthropy and advocacy

Created in 2013, the Center has been using the ETS brand and its fiscal dollars to invest in community-based projects that focus on eliminating educational disparities, particularly within underserved and underrepresented communities.

"We see our advocacy role as raising awareness and shining the spotlight on what I like to call these burgeoning issues that are critical in education," says Lenora Green, executive director of CAAP and a longtime employee of ETS. "They may not be well known issues, but they will be. Or if they are well-known, there is a lot of misunderstanding around them."

Philanthropy is hardly new to the 69-year-old company that is headquartered on a sprawling green-acre campus in Princeton, New Jersey, and has regional offices around the United States, including San Antonio, Washington, D.C., and the Bay Area. Under its former president Kurt M. Landgraf, ETS created the Social Investment Fund, which committed a percentage of its profits to support local community initiatives administered by local school districts and nonprofit organizations that provide needed social services.

In its early days, the support went mostly to the local community surrounding the offices of ETS, but CAAP later replaced the fund and expanded its work on a national level.

For example, several years ago, CAAP helped to fund iCount, a research project developed by Dr. Robert Teranishi, a professor of education and the Morgan and Helen Chu Endowed Chair in Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

iCount is an ambitious effort that helps disaggregate data when examining issues that impact Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in education, debunking age-old stereotypes of Asian Americans as the model minority.

As a result of ETS's support of the iCount initiative, ETS President and CEO Walt MacDonald spoke at a White House conference last fall about the importance of data disaggregation.

"Support from the Center for Advocacy and Philanthropy at ETS has been instrumental in our effort to create a data quality campaign for AAPIs in education," says Teranishi, author of the groundbreaking Asians in the Ivory Tower. "Through their partnership, iCount has been able to raise awareness about the need for disaggregated data. We have gathered and shared best practices regarding data disaggregation policies and practices and we have developed important partnerships across the public and private sector and with various education stakeholders. ICount would not have been possible without the support from the Center."

Policy and partnership

For Green, philanthropy isn't just about giving money away. She sees the Center and ETS as being important conveners that can propel important policy discussions and partnerships. These partnerships can lead to conferences such as the one held in April at Rutgers University-Camden that focused on improving outcomes for young girls of color. …

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