Interview | Danny Levi Wants You to Get A Five

Danny Levi co-founder of GetAFiveby Victor Rivero

The people behind GetAFive have a passion to help high-achieving students study for their AP classes and prep for their AP exams on their own watch rather than go to “after hours” or weekend review sessions that can suck up hours of time. “With college admissions looking more closely at AP class grades and AP test scores than ever before, we felt this program would be incredibly helpful for high school students applying for college,” says Danny Levi, CEO of GetAFive.

Victor: What does the name mean?

GetAFive logoDanny: Hopefully this one makes sense. A 5 is the best score someone can achieve on an AP exam, and we want to help each of our students GetAFive.

Victor: What is it? Who created it?

Danny: GetAFive is an online, video-based AP class help and test prep service. Our review classes consist of one diagnostic exam, dozens of lesson modules and lesson quizzes, and practice tests. We aim to have 50-100 video reviews, and hundreds of practice questions to help students test their knowledge, find their weak spots, ace their classes and rock their AP tests.

Victor: What does it do? What are the benefits? 

GetAFive imageDanny: It is designed to help students have a better grasp of the materials learned in AP courses and tested on the AP exam. GetAFive is both a study aid for AP students to use to get better grades throughout their course and a test review and prep service to help them rock their AP exam in May. Better grades in these rigorous courses can help boost the student’s chances of getting into their top choice colleges and help them qualify for certain scholarships.  Higher exam scores increase the chance that students get college credit for their course, potentially leading to lower college costs and definitely leading to increased freedom of course selection.

Victor: How is it unique from other similar products/services? What companies do you see as in the same market?

Danny: The online test prep market is evolving. For standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT, there are several options for test preparation. There are some big players out there that offer classroom sessions and online courses. But this is not currently the case for the AP test prep market. Despite the growing number of students taking the AP test, there are no programs out there that focus their efforts on helping students prepare for the exams in May. We are changing that.

GetAFive is focused on creating a personalized learning environment that combines video-based review – which should not be seen as a substitute for the whole class – practice lessons, and practice tests. We help students know where to focus their studying with the diagnostic exam, and then help them brush up on those areas using our expert led video lessons. We follow those video lessons up by testing the students’ understanding with lesson quizzes and practice tests, which are also custom written for us by expert teachers.

Victor: When was it developed? What is something interesting or relevant about its development history?

Danny: The idea of GetAFive came from my co-founder, Lindsay Cohen, and her husband, Brian Cohen, who used to teach AP US History. Brian’s students always clamored for his year-end reviews held in after-school sessions, but many students were not able to attend each session because like most AP-level students, his students were overcommitted and their schedules were too dense to accommodate each review session.

Together, Lindsay and Brian thought moving the review online in a way that best replicated the in-person experience would have a meaningful impact for the busy, driven AP student.

Victor: Where did it originate? Where can you get it now?

Danny: We are online! So you can access GetAFive at http://www.getafive.com from the comfort of your couch.

Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?

GetAFive video lessonsDanny: GAF costs $75 per class, with discounts for buying more than one class. Currently we offer the service for AP Calculus AB, but we’ll be adding AP World History and AP US History over the next couple of months. We also plan on offering hand-grading of the free response questions on the practice exams for an additional fee.

Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it NOT for?

Danny: We aim to help out students who fall into any of the following categories: AP students looking for test review or help with class material, students who are NOT in an AP level course but want to take the AP exam, and homeschooled students who are planning on taking an AP exam. Additionally, teachers should view us as supplementary to their course and, if they offer them, review sessions.

Victor: What are your thoughts on education these days?

Danny: I have a LOT of thoughts on education these days, but for all intents and purposes, I’ll keep focused on the intersection of education and technology. As an internet entrepreneur who fairly closely watches trends in various industries, it’s become clear that people are expecting massive changes in education as a result of technology.  And I bet VC dollars back this up. There are a few online video websites, such as Khan Academy, which advocate for the much discussed and debated “flipped classroom” approach to learning, which relies heavily on an online video platform and lets students focus on their personal gaps rather than being dragged through a curriculum they cannot yet comprehend. There is also an uptick in online video based learning at the university level with websites like Coursera and Udacity. And beyond just video learning, there is a data boom in education, and several companies are trying to help schools make the most sense out of all of this data on their students. I think this means that education is slowly becoming more and more personalized — much like many things are online — but I also believe that the classroom isn’t going anywhere. One thing is for sure: students today are better prepared to use the vast and growing online resources that are made available to them.

On another note, there has been an uptick over the past several years with students enrolled in AP level courses and taking the exams. According to the College Board’s AP Report to the Nation, the number of high school graduates taking AP exams in 2011 nearly doubled to 903,630 from 431,573 in 2001.  AP classes give students a rigorous learning environment and give the teachers structure on how to deliver much of the content. They are by no means easy classes, which is reflected in the average scores of the AP exams taken each May. We have to do a better job of preparing students for their exams and of keeping them up-to-date in these fast moving courses in order to continue to grow the number of students who want to enroll and succeed in these classes.

Victor: What sort of formative experiences in your own education helped to inform your approach to creating GetAFive?

Danny: I went to a great high school that actually did not offer many AP classes. I think we had only one or two classes that actually required us to take the AP exam. So if a student wanted to take an AP class, he/she had to do so voluntarily. So a service like GetAFive would have been great in preparing me for the test, as my class was not geared to do so. That being said, the school that I went to was, and remains, a phenomenal school, and I forever feel grateful that I had amazing teachers and formative experiences there. I recognize that most students do not have access to schools of that caliber and the College Board does a great job with their AP curriculum and exams of training teachers to teach rigorous courses that enhance high schools. Don’t forget: AP courses can also be worth actual college credit, which is an extremely helpful money saving tool for students faced with the high cost of college.

Victor: How does GetAFive address some of your concerns about education?

Danny: I think GAF addresses a couple concerns about education. As I just mentioned, the cost of college is an enormous financial burden. Doing well (3 or better depending on which college) on an AP exam can help students test out of classes or even earn college credit that can ultimately help them graduate early. If we can help students prepare better for their AP exams, then we can potentially help them save a significant amount of money during college

I also think that GAF can just help students perform better in rigorous high school classes. Sometimes students become so laser focused on passing the AP exams, along with getting high scores on the ACT and SAT, that they forget that their report card grades are extremely important too. College admissions are looking more closely than ever at AP class grades, and GetAFive can help students ace their classes, in addition to the test itself.

Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of GetAFive?

Danny: As I mentioned before, we are definitely at an intersection of technology and education, and I think that we are all trying to figure out the right balance. With GetAFive, we make no attempt to take students out of the classroom, but rather serve as a supplement to the class and even a teacher’s aid. We are not quite a flipped classroom, but perhaps a flipped review session that teachers and students can turn to throughout the school year when a student is falling behind and can turn to any time a review is needed, not necessarily just before the AP Exams in May. We think that teachers, students, and their parents will all be huge advocates of our service, and we look forward to hearing from them as we move forward.

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