Founder Of Kaplan Test Prep Remembered

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="http://www.npr.org/player/embed/112215648/112216563" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

Test preparation pioneer Stanley Kaplan has died at the age of 90. Kaplan made millions from the simple idea that you can actually study for the SAT.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Stanley H. Kaplan, the man who prepped millions of students to take standardized tests has died. He was 90 years old. Kaplan started his business in a Brooklyn basement and turned it into a $2.5 billion educational company.

NPR's Robert Smith has this remembrance.

ROBERT SMITH: The funeral for Stanley H. Kaplan was held this afternoon in New York. And his loved ones faced one last test question: How to describe the man who changed the college admissions game? Was he, A: the businessman?

Ms. SUSAN KAPLAN: The legacy of his creating an industry of test preparations…

SMITH: That is his daughter, Susan Kaplan. Answer B: the revolutionary?

Mr. SCOTT BELSKY: I mean, he was very interested in providing the advantage for the disadvantaged.

SMITH: That was his grandson, Scott Belsky. Or answer C: the boogeyman.

Mr. ANDY ROSEN (CEO, Kaplan, Inc.): Stanley was a pariah within the educational establishment for decades.

SMITH: Andy Rosen is the CEO of Kaplan. As any Kaplan student can tell you, when the question comes at the beginning of a test or a radio story, you go with your gut: D, all of the above. It's hard to believe in this age when there are test prep courses for first graders, that once upon a time people believed that you couldn't study for standardized tests.

Mr. ROSEN: (unintelligible) like a blood test. You can't prepare for it. You know, it would stamp on your forehead your worthiness.

SMITH: But Stanley Kaplan, the son of Jewish immigrants, believed that there wasn't a test out there you couldn't study for. In 1987, he appeared on NPR with tips for ACT and SAT. For instance, he knows that questions were ordered from easy to most difficult.

Mr. STANLEY KAPLAN (Founder, Kaplan, Inc.): When you get to the end and you - and it's a difficult question, quickly, you get an answer and that's there among the choices, you'd better be suspicious. Ha, they must have plunked in a choice based upon a mistake that people usually make.

SMITH: Kaplan started tutoring when he was 14 years old. But he always wanted to be a doctor. Even though Kaplan graduated second in his class at City College of New York, he wasn't accepted to a single medical school. He later said he felt it was because he went to public school and was Jewish. There were quotas at the time.

Scott Belsky is Kaplan's grandson.

Mr. BELSKY: What motivated my grandfather was seeing a lot of people who were really bright and had a lot of ambition and not being able to get into medical schools, to colleges, whether it's because of their religion or because of their race.

SMITH: Kaplan started his business in a basement preparing students for the New York state exams. Then came the SAT prep. And an entire generation of striving Brooklyn kids beat a path to his door. New York Senator Chuck Schumer actually worked for Kaplan - his first job - spinning off test prep materials on the mimeograph machine.

Senator CHUCK SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): Stanley believed that these tests could overcome all the other barriers that, you know, America was ultimately the Ameritocracy. And even if your last name was different and you went to a large, you know, 5,000-person Brooklyn public school, if you could do well on these tests, you could get somewhere.

SMITH: For Senator Schumer it was a very, very good score and admission to Harvard. For Stanley Kaplan, the road was harder. He was banned from college campuses and even sued for his claims of improving scores. But in the end, experts admitted he could do it. In 1984, he sold the Kaplan company to The Washington Post for $45 million. Today, it's The Post's biggest moneymaker. Stanley Kaplan died on Sunday in New York.

Robert Smith, NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.