As of today:

  • Benchmark answer keys will have the correct answers bolded and italicized (in some browsers).
  • The following changes have been made to your “Assignments” tab:
    • Group assignments won’t load until you click to expand.
    • Pagination
    • Ability to hide the filter
    • If a filter is set, the Filter Assignments link is formatted.
    • No more “Grades” button; now all buttons say “Results”
    • Settings modal will show if a student has taken an assignment — and if so, they cannot be removed from the assignment.
    • Edit button grays out for a group assignment if there are results.
    • Completed column does not update in real time (every 15 minutes), so there’s a refresh icon to instantly retrieve results.

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We’re beginning 2017 with a great enhancement: group assignments STAY TOGETHER in Graded Work.  No longer do you have to use your FBI skills to find the first set of practice questions that a student completed for a 30-assignment group.  

Other updates to Graded Work include:

  • new Completed column to show date completed and elapsed time
  • Filters to view all results, assignments only, or independent practice only
  • Group assignments can be expanded
    • Only completed assignments will appear
    • In the screenshot, for example, the student has completed 3 out of 12
  • Due dates appear in pink if the assignment was completed late
  • Elementary level students have a slightly different view since the Teacher/Class column was never implemented for elementary — that will be added soon

With our national science scores remaining below those of many other countries, US states continue to look for ways to change the way we teach science. The newest set of science standards is the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and the number of states adopting the NGSS standards or a version of them, is growing.  Let’s look at the history and the future of the NGSS.

What are the NGSS?

The NGSS are a set of standards that cover every grade level and every scientific discipline.  According to their developers, these are standards that go beyond a specific discipline and attempt to integrate all disciplines to the real-world.  The focus is on a 3-Dimensional Model, which includes Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs), Scientific and Engineering Practices (SEPs), and Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs).  The goal is for students to understand that science is more than just memorizing facts, and that science should be interwoven where it fits into the world.

How were the NGSS developed?

The idea of uniform science standards is not new.  The National Research Council (NRC) was created over a century ago to focus on the use of scientific research in American industries. ngss_logo_tag-300x137
Project 2061, created by Advancing Science, Serving Society (ASSS) in 1985, helped to define scientific literacy through its publication, Science for All Americans. In 1996, the NRC published National Science Education Standards, which were designed to enable the nation to achieve the goal of scientific literacy. In 2010, the NRC began the process of creating guidelines to change the way we teach science. A Framework for K-12 Science Education, released in 2011, provided the foundation to help develop standards that address what K-12 science students should know.  This was the beginning of the NGSS. In the fall of 2011, 26 states with an 18-member panel of experts appointed by the NRCBlog Articles worked together to write the new standards.  The final draft of the NGSS was released in April 2013, and Rhode Island was the first to adopt them in May 2013.  This was separate from the development of the Common Core standards released in 2010, although the NGSS team worked with the Common Core writers to help with literacy connections.

The future of the NGSS?

As of February 2016, 17 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards, while over 40 states have shown interest in them. With pressure to improve science scores and science education in the United States, many states see the NGSS as a way to bring about that change.  At this point, the future of the NGSS remains to be seen.  The NGSS are meant to serve as a guideline, and the decision to follow all or parts of that guideline is ultimately up to each individual state, but there must also be buy-in from the local and classroom levels.

Why should my state look at adopting the NGSS?

Some of the advantages of the NGSS standards are:

  • Previous national standards are out-of-date
  • Emphasis on how to use science in the real world
  • Helps prepare students for STEM-related careers
  • Helps students to solve problems as opposed to only learning facts
  • States can save money by not having to develop their own standards
  • Links the different science disciplines together

What are some of the cons of the NGSS?

There are also potential drawbacks to adopting the new standards.  Some questions are:

  • Will adequate teacher training be available?
  • Are the standards too specific, and do they remove some of the creativity from teachers and students?
  • What is the cost to implement the new standards?
  • Will elected officials, students, teachers, and parents buy into the idea of uniform standards across state lines?

The NGSS are backed by research, and they were developed by both scientists and educators.  As with any new development in education, many states are waiting to see how other states fare with the new standards.  Only time will tell if NGSS are the answer to improving science education in the United States.

About the Author
A former science teacher in Georgia, Dr Michael Tolmich is now USATestprep’s Science Content Team Leader. He lives with his wife and their two sons in Tucker, GA.

Here are some recent enhancements to your USATestprep account:

    • Assignment setting terminology of “retest” missed items to “retry” missed items.
    • Benchmark answer key printing available in Spanish (questions only, not performance tasks or free responses). usatestprep-inc-online-state-specific-review-and-benchmark-testing-1-1
    • Teacher chart when comparing two benchmarks — each benchmark is now represented per teacher.
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The College Board’s Advanced Placement programs have long been a staple of American high schools. For some students, the prestige of having an AP class on one’s resume draws them to the demanding courses, while parents may entrain visions of massive tuition savings once college hits. But dollars and status aside, the courses require students — and teachers — to strive to keep up with the rigors of the curriculum.

That curriculum, though, has garnered much attention in recent years. Updates take place regularly, of course, but rarely do they solicit any sort of notice outside of the teachers who have to revamp their plans every decade or so. No doubt you remember this was not the case in 2014 when the AP US History test experienced an overhaul. Critics, both in academia and in the general public, blasted the new standards for downplaying American exceptionalism and for emphasizing concepts over facts. Bowing to the pressure, the College Board quickly released a re-revamped curriculum in August of 2015. Since then, national media has resumed its “radio silence” of nearly all things AP.

Teachers, of course, understand that changes (likely less controversial) are always afoot. The 2016-17 school year saw major changes to Calculus AB, Calculus BC, and World History courses. The Calculus changes, according to some, were more tweaks than fundamental changes. World History, however, saw a massive reorganization of both the curriculum and the exam. Unlike APUSH’s first revision, the APWH curriculum changes were not only less (or “non-“) controversial but rich with details and specifics. Its testing format also emphasizes both facts and historical thinking skills. The efficacy of these course changes will only be known once the exams are graded and tabulated in July.

So what’s on tap for the 2017-18 school year? According to the College Board’s “Advances in AP” website, nothing new — something that, from personal experience, is welcomed news to AP teachers around the globe. The next major overhaul looks to be U.S. Government in Politics in 2018-19, the first in a decade. These changes promise a “deeper conceptual understanding of political processes” rather than a memorization of facts and specific Court cases. Students will be expected to interpret data and draw conclusions from those sources. In general, the expectations mirror many of those in the revised US History and World History courses. And as with those previous courses, teachers of this AP course will be expected to submit a revised course syllabus for an audit review. But again: this will not go into effect until the 2018-19 school year.

For AP U.S. Government teachers: you may want to get to work. For everyone else: we can hear your sigh of relief from here.

About the Author

Kirby Spivey taught AP World History, US History, and many other Social Studies courses in Georgia. He and his wife live in Atlanta

Tips:

  • How can I view the answer key for a test?
    • This depends:
    • If a benchmark, go to the Benchmarks tab —> Options menu —> Answer Key
      • The answers will be bolded
      • Explanations for all answers are also available
    • If a practice test (small, medium, large, full, or domain test), then those tests are randomly-generated for every student —> NO answer key
    • If a teacher asks how to see the questions the students have, explain that since practice tests, practice questions, and vocabulary are all randomly-generated, there’s no way to preview the exact questions
      • A teacher can certainly go to the Options menu —> Preview to see what the assignment will be like, but the questions will vary each time
      • If a teacher wants the ability to see the exact questions that students will have, then direct him/her to creating a benchmark

New Features:

  • Not exactly a feature, but we’ve added some copy on the login page to help with auto-fill issues

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  • Coming later this month… …Test Drive, a new racing game in your Game Arcade!usatestprep-ambassadors-1
  • “Assignment Submitted” message: 
    • There’s nothing to prevent students from opening a test or benchmark in two different tabs or browsers.  Before this change, students could submit the test in each tab (even if the assignment only allowed 1 attempt), thereby creating confusion and frustration for teachers.  
      • Why do students have multiple results for this benchmark?  
      • Why is the benchmark result in a different column in my gradebook? 
      • How did the benchmark become disconnected from the assignment?  
    • Students can still open and save a test in multiple tabs/ browsers.  BUT, there’s now a check in place upon submitting.  If the test or benchmark has already been submitted and met the number of attempts allowed by the teacher, then they receive the message “Assignment Submitted”

Assignment writing can be a real drag, but it doesn’t have to be. If your students can develop the right habits and learn the right tricks to writing a great assignment, the whole process becomes a lot easier. The internet is a great place to find resources and tools to help you out, so check out these nine tools to help your students get the most out of their writing.

  1. Paraphrasing Tool: You want to use the work and research of experts in your essay, to strengthen your arguments and solidify your point of view. However, you need to be careful not to write in their work verbatim. It can look as though you’ve not put the effort in, and can even lead to plagiarism accusations. This tool lets you paste the text in and gets suggestions for paraphrasing them, so you can include them without worry.Male student working on report in library
  2. Boom Essays: The best way to proofread your work is to have someone else read it for you. However, sometimes you just don’t have time or someone with the right experience to get it done. When this is the case, you can call on this writing service. They’ll read your work over, and even edit it if needed.
  3. Plagiarisma: Are you worried that your essay may get picked up for plagiarism? Paste it into this tool, and it will tell you if any sections will trigger plagiarism checks. You can then edit them before your deadline.
  4. EssayRoo: Most students don’t have infinite free time to get their assignments done. They’re working, raising families, or caring for loved ones. If you’re short on time and can’t get your essay done, you can hire the professionals from this service to help you. They’re highly qualified and will consult you so you could write the perfect essay for your assignment.
  5. EasyBib: Bibliographies carry marks, and most students lose marks on these. This tool allows you to put in the books you use, and generates a bibliography for you.
  6. Proofread Bot: No matter how much you read your essay over, you can still miss errors in your writing. The best way to get around this is to use this tool. Paste your essay into the text box, and it will highlight any errors that it finds in your work. You can correct them easily from here, and then copy the corrected text back into your essay.
  7. University Tutor: If you need a help to handle your coursework assignment, this site offers some of the most qualified tutors around. You can browse their portfolios, so you can choose a tutor that has the expertise in academic writing. This way, you know you’ll write an original essay that will get you the marks you need.
  8. Thesis Generator: Planning essays can be something of a nightmare for some students. This tool helps you create an essay plan quickly and easily. Simply follow the steps and answer the questions given, and you’ll have a plan made especially for you.
  9. LucidChart: If you need to create flowcharts in your assignments, this tool is the best one to use. It works with almost any operating system, and they look slick and professional with only a few minutes work.

Try these tools when your class needs some help writing your next assignment. They’ll help students develop skills and become better writers. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your students’ grades will improve with just a little extra effort put in. As any teacher knows, anything that makes writing easier has got to be a good thing.

Student Dot Rank Settings

  • On any content area page, students can track their own progress and proficiency.
  • Proficiency is displayed using Dot Rank, our system of green, orange, pink, and grey dots.
  • Students have two options to calculate their Dot Rank scores — best practice question set only or cumulative total of all test, benchmark, and practice questions.
  • New easy toggle at the top of the page makes it easy to switch views.
  • Click on the Dot Rank link to view scoring breakdown for each color dot.
  • Vocabulary, performance tasks, and videos are tracked through the Progress bar.

Watch a video about the Dot Rank settings.

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Did You Know…?

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new_view_teacher1Do You Love Using USATestprep?

Would you like to receive free perks and be recognized for your passion? Then check out USATestprep’s new Ambassador Program. Our Ambassadors help spread the word and educate teachers about USATestprep. In exchange, Ambassadors are rewarded with free swag, online recognition, first-to-know status, access to our super user community, and more!

Go here to request exclusive access.

Every year USATestprep hosts user meetings throughout the country to help you, our customers, get the most from your USATestprep experience.  This January we have added a few new locations to ensure that more educators are able to take advantage of these training events.

All events are from 8:30am-12:30pm and include a certificate for 4 hours of professional development, a continental breakfast break, and USATestprep swag. Cost is $65 per person. Be sure to bring your laptop or tablet to the training.

These user meetings are a great time of instruction and Q&A for:

  • New users, seeking a feature overview
  • Experienced users, looking to improve their experience
  • Teachers, who want to maximize our classroom resources
  • Administrators, who want to track class and school performance

These events are for teachers and administrators who want to:

  • Become familiar with USATestprep’s capabilities
  • Learn how to use newly-released features
  • Get the most out of USATestprep at a classroom, building, or district level
User Meeting Schedule

January