As Atlanta’s tech star continues to rise, one local EdTech company has reached its 2 millionth student, after an unlikely beginning. The company was started by two former school teachers in 1998. Today their test prep resources are used in over 75% of Georgia’s high schools.

Unlike most test prep tools, USATestprep doesn’t just help with national tests like the ACT and SAT but offers practice aligned to state-specific tests. In Georgia, this means test prep resources for the GA Milestones.

kelsey bensonCobb County middle school teacher, Kelsey Benson, says she and her students enjoy using the platform’s projector games to practice the Georgia standardsA local student, Alyssa, says: “USATestprep is a really good study site. I use it before all of my tests, and I always get As. USATestprep really has helped me for all tests…”

Founder Jay Eckard sees agile companies benefiting from this sea of change by using tech to allow for even greater customization of curricula. One way USATestprep is working to stay ahead of the curve is with a new game arcade. Students earn points to redeem in the arcade by completing practice assignment from their teachers. Since the launch of the arcade last school year, USATestprep has seen an increase in students’ scores on practice work.

Fast Facts:

  • This past school year, Kennesaw-based USATestprep helped over 63,000 teachers prepare their 2,000,000 students for high-stakes testing.
  • Over 200,000 practice items have been developed by the company’s team of former school teachers. These include questions, instructional videos, engaging tasks, and more.

About USATestprep:

High school teachers Jay Eckard and Joe Winterscheidt started USATestprep because they saw a need to support students and teachers with new state testing requirements back in 1998. They wanted to make teachers’ lives easier and to help students pass the new state tests in order to graduate.

With the growing number of tech-savvy educators and students, expectations regarding the educational outcomes as well the process are constantly changing. Traditional ways are quickly becoming obsolete because they cannot meet the personal learning needs of modern students.

To be successful, a teacher needs to play multiple complex roles. For example, he or she needs to be an excellent analyst, instructor, and facilitator. Also, a critical requirement is an effective learning management strategy.

Learn conceptIn the simplest form, learning management strategy is an approach utilized by a teacher to lead the educational process. Naturally, this strategy has been under the heavy influence of new technology and innovational approaches, so it’s really necessary to keep it updated.
Are you confident in your own learning management strategy? Do you think it meets the needs of your students? Let’s discuss some signs that tell that you need to change or adjust it as soon as possible.

Your planning is complex

For teachers, planning is a typical part of the educational process. Given that many factors need to be considered to outline the future direction of the process, a careful and thorough job is required here.

How difficult for you is it to plan your educational process? If you think it’s quite difficult?, think about your approach and planning tools. Do you use online learning management systems, such as Edmodo and Blackboard for that? These sophisticated tools designed specifically for educators can simplify the process by providing special planning resources.

If you still don’t use technology in your planning and paperwork is your best friend when it comes to planning educational process, it is a good sign that you need to change your strategy.

Digital communication with your students is ineffective

In modern schools that try to keep up with the latest technology in education, digital communication is one of the most important aspects. For example, by using learning management systems like the ones mentioned above, teachers collaborate with their students online (give them homework, provide feedback, arrange discussions, and assign various projects).

If you don’t take advantage of digital communication or rarely use it, you should think about improving your online collaboration with students. All you have to do is sign up for a teacher account on one of the learning management systems.

It’s difficult for you to incorporate any form of media into each class and assignment

Even if you don’t consider yourself a traditional teacher, you may find some difficulties including multimedia in your teaching. For example, some classes require videos and interactive tasks for students but your approach does not use them.

You should incorporate various types of media because they help to address specific learning needs of different students.  Consider using Google to to find videos or slides for use in your classroom.

“Many of your students, for example, might be visual learners and prefer visuals to learn new information,” says Anna Cole, a senior educator from Assignment Helper. “By using a strategy that does not appreciate media, you cannot improve their educational outcomes.’

Your students are unmotivated

Do you think your class is sufficiently motivated to learn? Do you observe good engagement during the lessons? If the answer to these questions is “no,” you need to change your learning management strategy soon.

Once again, you can turn to innovative learning management systems to help. For example, Edmodo uses badges to help motivate students to increase their practice time and push their learning. These badges are designed to let them show off their accomplishments.

A recent study published in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Journal also concluded that platforms like Edmodo enable students to enjoy learning by strengthening their learning motivation and autonomy.

You don’t use cloud technology

Do you find yourself worrying about possible loss student assignments and teaching materials stored on your computer? If you do, here is why you might want to change your current learning management strategy.

There are four principal advantages of using cloud-based technologies in the classroom:

  • Safe storage of information, group projects, submitted assignments, and other educational materials that make it easier to consolidate them.
  • Cloud classroom. The students who cannot attend classes can access cloud-based assignments to keep up with the class.
  • E-learning. The effectiveness of e-learning has already been proven. It allows you to improve students’ skills much faster and more effectively than the traditional methods.
  • Mobility. Cloud-based technologies allow you to access the homework and assignments from anywhere, from any device. No more excuses for missing assignments.

Your strategy does not include personalized and blended learning

The needs of every student have to be met if you want them to have the best outcomes. If you feel like you’re taking a general approach that does not consider different learning needs, this is a good reason to consider changing it.

Your strategy does not promote change in the classroom

Have you been using the same educational materials for several years straight? What about assignments? How has your teaching approach changed over the recent years? If no significant change has been adopted by your approach, it’s a sign that you’re going in circles (while the others advance).

A change-friendly approach is critical. New knowledge and teaching methods are developed fast, so you should not be left out from the innovation process.

Some other tools to try in your new learning management strategy:

Lucy Benton is a writing coach and an editor who finds her passion in expressing her own thoughts as a blogger. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

No school budget for field trips? Here are 50 places in Georgia you can take your class for free. We divided these destinations into three categories: Science, Social Studies, and Other. Please let us know when your school visits one of these sites.

Science:

AlbanyRadium Springs Gardens One of Georgia’s seven natural wonders, Radium Springs gushes forth 70,000 gallons of 68-degree water per minute from an underground cave.skitch-6
AthensBear Hollow Zoo The zoo is home to a variety of non-releasable wildlife. An intimate zoo with fewer than 30 species of animals.
AthensGeorgia Museum of Natural History Explore these 14 natural history collections: Archaeology, Arthropod, Botany Herbarium, Economic Geology, Herpetology, Ichthyology, Invertebrate, Mammalogy, Mycological Herbarium, Ornithology, Paleontology, Pollen and Plant Microspore, Rocks and Minerals, and Zooarchaeology.
AthensState Botanical Garden of Georgia This 313-acre preserve, with its specialized theme gardens and collections, more than five miles of nature trails, and four major facilities including a tropical conservatory, is visited by over 200,000 people each year.
Atlanta CDC Museum The museum features changing exhibits throughout the year, in addition to its permanent installations. Four temporary exhibitions are on display each year.
AtlantaFernbank Science Center Experience the exhibit hall, observatory, and outdoor gardens. Be sure to check out the teacher resources on their website.
AugustaPhinizy Center – Come see a variety of wildlife such as Blue Herons, Red-Shouldered Hawks, Otters, and Alligators in their natural habitat. Visitors can experience the thrill of hearing Kingfishers or delight in the many summer dragonflies in the Nature park.
ColumbusOxbow Meadows This nature center offers a view of the ecoregion of West Georgia and the Chattahoochee Valley, while providing access to the area’s plants and animals.
DunwoodyDunwoody Nature Center (near Atlanta) Nature center, field trip activities, gardens, resources for teachers, conservation programs, and more.
ElbertonElberton Granite Museum (east of Athens) Offers exciting historical exhibits, artifacts and educational displays. The three levels of self-guided exhibits allow visitors to see unique granite products, as well as antique granite working tools.
JacksonDauset Trails Nature Center Nature center with a variety of activities. See both farm exhibits and and wildlife.
Johns CreekAutry Mill Listen to their phone audio tour to enhance your experience, and learn about the historic features as you walk along the paths.
LithoniaArabia Mountain More than 2,000 acres, two monadnock mountains, three lakes, and many historic sites. Rich with plant life, Arabia Mountain hosts five endangered plants grow at Arabia Mountain.
Locust GroveNoah’s Ark Rehabilitation This 250-acre wildlife rehab center showcases over 1,500 animals. Walk the 1 mile trail to see both exotic animals and farm animals.
MilledgevilleNatural History Museum and Planetarium A museum dedicated to Earth sciences, with an emphasis on fossils and evolution. Check out the educational resources on their website too.
Statesboro Botanical Garden at Georgia Southern (east Savannah) See the 11 acres of gardens on this early twentieth century farmstead. Wander the trails, paths and courtyards and explore the intriguing natural wonders of the southeastern coastal plain.
St Simons IslandCanon Point Preserve Over 600 acres managed by the Nature Conservancy. Be sure to check out the lesson plans on the website.

Social Studies:

AndersonvilleCamp Sumter Prison (north-west of Cordele) The Camp Sumter military prison in Andersonville was one of the largest Confederate military prisons of the Civil War.5f236a2c-1dd8-b71b-0bae828d6336ce0d
AtlantaFederal Reserve Bank Discover the story of money—from barter to modern times. Learn about the history of banking in America and see examples of rare currency.
AtlantaGeorgia State Capitol Offers both guided and self-guided tours of this 120+ year old building.
AtlantaGovernor’s Mansion The tour is a hybrid of guided and self-guided tour. Docents are stationed in each room to teach you about the items.
AtlantaJimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum The museum showcases photographs and historical memorabilia from the Carter presidency. A replica of the Oval Office and gifts received by the Carters are also on display.
AtlantaThe King Center See Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dr & Mrs King’s crypt, Dr King’s birthplace, and more.
AugustaAugusta Canal Built in 1845 for power, water and transportation use, it is the only industrial canal in the American South in continuous use.
ChickamaugaChickamauga National Military Park (north of Dalton) Learn about the Civil War’s Atlanta Campaign with the 1,400 monuments and historical markers on these battlefields. Don’t miss the indoor exhibits, either.
ColumbusThe Columbus Museum One of the largest museums in the southeast, it is unique for its dual concentration on American art and regional history. Offers a variety of educational programming, interactive gallery opportunities, school programs, and teacher workshops.
ColumbusNational Infantry Museum Thousands of artifacts, monuments, interactive exhibits, and video presentations make the National Infantry Museum, one of the nation’s leading military history destinations.
DaltonPrater’s Mill Heritage Park Peek into the heritage of rural, northwest Georgia. See a working 19th-century grist mill, a cotton gin, general store, wildlife, and more.
DuluthMcDaniel Farm Park This farm has been restored to depict a typical 1930s farm in Gwinnett County. See the farmhouse, barn, blacksmith shed, carriage house, and tenant house.
KennesawKennesaw Mountain Battlefield A 2,965 acre National Battlefield that preserves a key Civil War battleground of the Atlanta Campaign.
KennesawMuseum of History and Holocaust Education See a number of World War II exhibits, and learn about the museum’s educational programs and resources.
MaconMuseum of Aviation Twenty or more aircraft are on display in one of the nation’s most popular Air Force museums.
MaconOcmulgee National Monument Ocmulgee is the ancestral homeland of the Muscogee (better known as Creek) Nation, who now reside in Oklahoma.  See the mounds that were constructed for the elite members of their culture.
MariettaMarietta Fire Museum A collection of items used by the Marietta Fire Department since the 1800s, including vehicles, clothing, equipment, antiques, photos, displays, and more.
McDonoughHeritage Park Veterans Museum The museum showcases vehicles, uniforms, and artifacts, a display of the two Henry County Medal of Honor recipients, and a Henry County Fallen Hero area.
MorrowNational Archives at Atlanta Over 180,000 cubic feet of microfilm and textual records, as well as maps, photographs, and architectural drawings.
Sandy SpringsAnne Frank Exhibit Over 500 photographs and a replica of her room are used to tell the story of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl who hid with her family from the Nazis.
SavannahSavannah Belles Ferry See Savannah’s historic harbor with a free ferry ride.
St Simons IslandFort Frederica British forces defeated the invading Spanish near here in 1742 to ensure Georgia’s future as an English colony.

Other:

AlbanyThronateeska Heritage Center Thronateeska’s campus includes a history museum, science museum, railcar display, the Georgia Museum of Surveying & Mapping, and the Southaimee_photos11 Georgia Archives.
AtlantaAtlanta Contemporary This museum’s ever-changing exhibits feature consequential artists from the local, national, and international art scenes.
AtlantaMuseum of Papermaking This internationally renowned resource on the history of paper and paper technology features a collection of over 10,000 watermarks, papers, tools, machines, and manuscripts.
AthensDodd Galleries The galleries’ programming and five exhibits examine the cultural and social contexts around us while challenging contemporary perceptions of art making.
AthensGeorgia Museum of Art With over 10,000 objects in the permanent collection alone, this art museum has something for everyone.
AthensLyndon House Arts Center Come see the generous number of unique exhibits in this art museum. Includes work from local artists.
AugustaWestobou Gallery The gallery offers curated exhibitions by national, regional, and local artists, with a focus on emerging and mid-career contemporary and experimental artists.
DuluthHudgens Center for Art & Learning The Hudgens Center displays rotating exhibits with works from their private collection, as well as local artists and guest curators.
LilburnMandir Temple Enjoy beauty and discovery at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir – a Hindu temple that showcases exquisite Indian design and workmanship.
RomeOak Hill and the Martha Berry Museum Tour the Oak Hill house and see the art gallery and temporary exhibitions in the museum.
SavannahCathedral of St John the Baptist This 19th century Catholic cathedral is said to be one of the top 10 historic sites to visit in the United States.

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this list is not an endorsement or intended to be representative of this company or author’s views.”

 

  1. If you allowed multiple attempts for an assignment, the highestdownload score will display automatically in your gradebook — there is no filtering required. If you allowed students to retry missed items, then click the “Show Grades” link and change the grades filter from Original to Retest.
  2. Assignments taking a long time to load? The Assignments tab just got a lot quicker! With more user-friendly filters and sorting capabilities, it is easier to find the assignments you want. Thedownload-2 Assignments tab updates results every 15 minutes. If you need results sooner, click on the refresh arrows at the top of the Completed column.
  3. The class Progress Report now includes all types of activities, including performance tasks, vocabulary practice, puzzles, and videos. All options are checked by default, so use the gear icon in the top right corner to customize what data you want to see for each standard, as well as to set a specific date range.download-1

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”