What we learn in each grade can differ across states. To guarantee that all schools in the same state meet certain requirements, there are academic standards. In the state of Indiana, the Indiana State Board of Education has created and implemented the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress Plus (ISTEP+) for grade 10.

Requirement for Graduation

The ISTEP+ exams are so important for consistency across the state that the Indiana Department of Education has made the passing of the Grade 10 ISTEP+ in English/Language Arts and Mathematics a requirement for those graduating in 2019 and on. Of course, there are additional requirements that can be used in place of this, but the ISTEP+ exams are possibly the least complicated option.

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In 2013, the state of Texas recognized that too many of its college students were not academically ready for college-level classes. In an effort to address this problem, the State Education Department introduced the Texas Success Initiative (TSI).  Evaluating the areas of reading, writing, and math, the TSI gives prospective colleges an idea of how academically successful you might be. Based on performance, a student might be placed in either a traditional college course or a course with assistance to improve certain skills. To help students complete 

college and earn a degree, the state of Texas has invested many of its resources into assisting college advisors to place students in the courses where they will be most successful.  Since the competition for jobs upon graduation is intense, the TSI enables students to be better prepared with the skills needed to pursue a career. So, how do you prepare for the TSI?

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student working in classroomThere are many paths students may take as they leave high school. One option is to take the ACT WorkKeys tests and earn a National Career Readiness Certificate. The WorkKeys CRC can be a stepping stone towards enriching careers for new graduates. The certificate is earned by successful completion of the three ACT WorkKeys assessments: Applied Math, Graphic Literacy, and Workplace Documents.

Students can also choose to take the Applied Technology, Business Writing, Workplace Observation, Fit, and Talent exams offered under the ACT WorkKeys umbrella. These tests allow students to demonstrate real-life skills and prove their ability to enter the workforce. While the WorkKeys is a gauge for practical skills, it’s important that students take preparation seriously.  

Prepare Properly

If your high schooler is planning to take any of the ACT WorkKeys exams, make sure they are prepared. The worst mistake many students make is being unsure of a test’s mechanics and underestimating the complexity of the subject.  

Practice Tests

One of the best ways to understand the ACT WorkKeys exams is to take practice tests. These practice tests not only help your teen understand the way the test is structured, but they also help increase students’ confidence. Students who undertake practice tests are much better prepared for the real tests.

Utilize Online Study Materials

The other mistake many teens make is to assume they are ready for these skill tests without proper test prep. While many of the skills being tested are considered common knowledge, some are more complex. Additionally, being well-prepared is the best way to ensure success.

Many parents find that online test prep websites which use the WorkKeys curriculum are valuable assets. Students are led through a set of problems and activities specialized for the ACT WorkKeys tests. Instead of aimless studying, teens are led through a step-by-step guide towards success on their chosen exams.

Entering the Workforce with ACT WorkKeys

Your student’s WorkKeys assessments can help direct them towards specific careers. The job profiles can help students understand their scores and their potential career aptitude. This important function of the exams is essential to helping students plan for their futures.

Once your teens are ready to start applying for jobs, the ACT WorkKeys can bolster their resumes. High test performance allows teens to show off their skills and abilities to potential employers. Since new graduates may not have past employment to show, the WorkKeys assessments can be vital to demonstrate their potential.

Regardless of whether your teen is planning on taking the SAT, enrolling in a university, or entering the workforce after high school, the ACT WorkKeys can prove a valuable investment. Teenagers are given a solid foundation by which to understand the business world. Subsequently, these building blocks can be used to differentiate your graduate from other job applicants.

In a world where new graduates must compete for a finite number of jobs, breaking apart from the pack is essential. Your teen can use the ACT WorkKeys assessments to diversify their skills and prove themselves more capable of transitioning to life after high school.

Texas schools assess student achievement starting in third grade with the STAAR program. The program wasDrawing at lesson implemented in 2012 to help assess student understanding. Early achievement can be a good indicator of later success. For that reason, helping your student improve their STAAR scores can put them on the road to college enrollment.

The test assesses reading and mathematics for students in grades three through eight. For students grades four and seven, the 
STAAR tests writing. Science is implemented for students in grades five and eight. Eighth-graders take a social studies exam. There are also end-of-course tests for English I, English II, Algebra I, Biology, and U.S. history.

Improve STAAR Scores

There are a lot of ways you can help your student master the STAAR assessments, get more out of school, and prepare for higher education. Making your child’s education a priority can be the difference between not being accepted into college versus the Ivy League.

Teach Good Study Habits

Many students are unaware of how to properly study and concentrate. Starting at a young age can help your child understand the importance of self-discipline and priorities. Many young students find study calendars with rewards helpful. As they grow and become accustomed to self-scheduling and prioritization, study becomes easier.

  • Make studying a daily routine.
  • Create a cohesive study zone.
  • Learn how to make notes.
  • Employ sensory learning techniques.

Take Advantage of Online Learning Centers

Enrolling your students in online test prep courses can be an important way to develop their skills and improve STAAR scores. The valuable insight provided by courses developed with standards in mind can be the difference between success and failure for some children. Finding the right course will enable your student to prosper and learn unimpeded.

Engage in Outside Learning

Giving your child fun experiences which allow for experiential learning can help them explore the world around them. That exploration can help your student be more curious and attentive in future courses. Consider the benefits of summer courses, nature groups, Minecraft classes and other creative experiences.

While children need structure, they also thrive on change. The expansion which new experiences give your child’s mind is hard to measure. However, it is known that children learn better when they have fun, touch, feel, see and hear the world around them.

Taking these few simple steps can help your children succeed on the STAAR exams and future courses. Remember that solid foundations help build constant behaviors. Give your children an example of good study habits to follow so they may study and succeed in school. Make learning fun to encourage exploration. Lastly, take advantage of online courses to help develop your child’s skills and understanding.

students group in computer lab classroomCompetition to enter the job market or be admitted to colleges is increasing every year. More international students are gaining entry into top US universities. At the same time, top sectors of job growth in the STEM arena are constantly expanding and searching for qualified candidates. However, American students are losing out on those jobs at startling rates.

To help students compete and reach the necessary benchmarks, states have been reforming and renewing graduation protocols for the past few years. In Florida, students are required to take the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test or PERT. The test is designed to determine readiness for Intermediate Algebra and Freshman Composition I. This system was launched in 2010 with the intention of helping better prepare Florida students for the world beyond high school.

Overcoming the Curve

While all students must complete the PERT to graduate, graduating is not a magical key to success in today’s world. Students need to go above and beyond basic qualification with AP courses and college entrance exams. Many teachers follow the PERT student study guide leading up to the test. Putting in a little extra work, however, can pay off for test takers.

Study Skills

An oft-overlooked reason for scholastic underachieving is being ill-prepared. Many children are never taught how to study properly. They procrastinate, try to cram useless information, and fail to plan ahead. Focus on teaching your children how to organize their work schedules and use alternative study methods from a young age.  

As published in National Geographic, memory is more easily accessed by using visual and tactile experience. Listening attentively in class is often not enough to retain information.

This reinforces the importance of multisensory learning and shows that the tactile can be very important,” says John Black, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor in the Department of Human Development at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Outside Programs

Getting your children involved in educational after-school programs or groups is another great way to help them get a leg up on the competition. There are many STEM camps and programs available for bright children in Florida. Getting young children involved in STEM is a great predictor of future success, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. Thanks to these findings, many states have recently enacted STEM learning requirements for early childhood education.

Parents should take note and use this valuable information to give young students the headstart they need in STEM. Don’t leave it up to the school to introduce STEM topics or your child will continue to lag behind.

Test Prep Programs

Once you’ve given your child a solid foundation for academic achievement, you can enroll them in an online program which will develop their skills. Some programs can tailor material to align with state standards and prepare students for their assessments. This step enables students to work independently of their peers and often results in higher exam scores.

Practice Exams

Another prime opportunity exists in PERT practice tests. Students who undergo practice exams for the PERT or other college entrance exams generally score higher on the final test. This is because they gain confidence in the test format and content through practice. Encourage your child to take the practice exam before they take the real test. This strategy can help them relax on exam day and reach their full potential.

Graduation Situation

In Florida, there are several factors which can determine your student’s college readiness and future success. The state administers the PERT, to assess student preparedness to enter universities after graduation. The SAT and ACT are also available for college-bound teens. However, the picture we get when we look at the performance of Florida students is that they are improving year to year.

Group of university students working in libraryWith all the requirements needed to get into a good college and on the right track, sometimes it’s hard to focus on any one thing. Students need extracurriculars, sports, clubs, languages, volunteer work and more just to be competitive when they apply for college. And let’s not forget high grade-point averages, SAT and ACT scores, and AP courses. With everything your student needs to keep track of, it’s easy to forget one tiny detail.

The state of Ohio requires students to complete a number of tests to graduate. There are different rules, depending on performance and the tests chosen. However, entering the world without a high school diploma would be detrimental to your student’s future. As a parent, you should understand the graduation rules and requirements.  

Graduation Pathways

Ohio graduation requirements say students need to earn a minimum of 20 credits. Further, they are required to complete a minimum of two semesters of fine arts, and courses in financial literacy and economics. On top of coursework, students must choose one of the following pathways to earn their diploma.

Ohio’s Graduation Tests (OGT)

Students can take the seven-part end-of-course state tests, known as the OGT. They must earn 18 out of 35 possible points. Each test is worth up to five points, depending on performance. Students need a minimum of four points in math, four points in English language arts, and six points between science and social studies.

Workforce Readiness Certification

Students can choose to earn an industry-recognized credential or a group of credentials which equal 12 points and earn the required score on the WorkKeys test. Ohio pays for students to take the test one time. In some districts, the Senior Only program allows kids to earn credentials in one school year.


Each district dictates whether students may take the
SAT or the ACT. The chosen test allows students to earn remediation-free scores, determined by Ohio’s university presidents, in math and English language arts. The one-time statewide spring test is administered in grade 11 free of charge.


  • ACT

  • SAT


  • SAT


  • MARCH 1, 2016

English Language Arts English subscore of 18 (or higher) Writing 430

(or higher)

Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) 480 (or higher)
Entered high school prior to July 1, 2014, reading subscore of 21 (or higher) Reading 450

(or higher)

Entered high school after July 1, 2014, reading subscore of 22 (or higher)
Mathematics Mathematics subscore of 22

(or higher)

Mathematics 520

(or higher)

Mathematics 530

(or higher)

Ohio students score higher than the national average, according to the 2017 ACT College and Career Readiness Report. Data from the Nation’s Report Card agrees, showing Ohio in line with median performance across the country. This means graduating students have a better than average chance at obtaining gainful employment or continuing on to higher education. However, that doesn’t mean your student can sit back and relax.

Planning Ahead

Since each graduation pathway requires different courses and tests, students should choose wisely. Helping your student make this decision, based on his or her graduation plans, is the best option. If your student plans to apply to four-year colleges, the SAT or ACT will be unavoidable. For those wanting to jump into the job market, a workforce certification may be the answer. Likewise, for those students who plan to attend community college, practicing for the OGT would be best.  

Regardless of the path chosen, your student should begin preparation early to ensure timely graduation. Failure to complete the requirements could result in missed chances for your high school senior.

Test Preparation

For those students completing the OGT, practice tests can be invaluable. Since your child will have to undergo seven different tests, scheduling practice sessions and organizing time is important for success. There are also test prep tools available online which can focus your student’s study efforts towards the test of their choice.

Even the College Board has recently begun touting the value of online test prep websites. In 2016, they released a statement which included the following quote:

In addition to the 115-point average score increase associated with 20 hours of practice, shorter practice periods also correlate with meaningful score gains. For example, 6 to 8 hours of practice on Official SAT Practice is associated with an average 90-point increase.”

From this statement, we can see that even the makers of the SAT agree that test prep can make a meaningful difference in your student’s score. This same principle can be applied to students taking the OGT, workforce readiness courses and the ACT. Using personalized tutoring apps and services in short sessions, rather than cramming before a test, can increase understanding and performance.  

There is a lot to consider regarding graduation when you take everything into account for your Ohio student. However, each child is an individual, and the graduation pathways allow for customized choices, based on your student’s goals and interests. The best thing is to make the most of the choice your student makes by helping them focus, prepare, and have confidence for test days.

Teachers have real challenges ahead of them each year when it comes to helping students succeed in school. Earning a diploma and moving on to higher education are increasingly important each year. Without these markers for aptitude, graduates are hard pressed to find gainful employment.
Students who graduate ill-prepared for college are unlikely to pursue higher education and later find satisfactory employment. For that reason, the Arkansas Department of Education has recently implemented teacher training and changed the yearly benchmarks to improve student performance. The ADE has adopted a new annual standardized testing model tailored to specific programs within schools and designed to achieve higher competency scores across disciplines.

Adopting ACT Aspire

For students in Arkansas, academic understanding is now measured in benchmarks by administration of the ACT Aspire test. The ACT Aspire was approved in 2015 for students grades 3 through 10. The test measures comprehension in English, reading, math, science, and writing. Additionally, ninth and tenth graders receive a predicted score for the ACT.

Since the new regimen was adopted in 2015, we can expect teachers and students alike to undergo a learning curve. Arkansas’ teachers are invited to summer workshops on preparing students for the ACT Aspire tests. Hopefully, the coming years will show an upswing in student mastery of the areas addressed.  

Steps to Help Your Students Succeed

If you’re reading all this as a parent, you may wonder how all these scores and tests can help your child. The answer is this: Knowledge is power. Knowing how the school system is preparing your child and what obstacles may impede them is paramount for overcoming possible hurdles.  

You can help your student surpass state standards by using practice exams and taking advantage of test preparation tools online. Many tools can help your student learn the concepts needed for every stage of the ACT Aspire test and, later, the ACT.  

Teach Good Study Habits

Many students suffer from poor study habits. Things like procrastination can hurt a student’s chances in school and in life. Help your student organize their homework schedule beginning at a young age. Use calendars and planners to ensure that study time is divided equitably between subjects.

Invest in Online Supplements

Find an online program which uses your the Arkansas standards to inform its program. These types of platforms use games, quizzes and video lessons to help your classes grasp core concepts. You can use an online study site to bridge gaps during breaks or to help your students stay ahead of the curve at school.

Play to Your Students’ Strengths

Every kid has individual interests and talents, and it’s important to encourage their evolution. Children learn more and retain better when they’re having fun. For that reason, make learning fun at school and at home. The future of the nation depends on our children. Recent changes to the state assessments are a good sign for the future of Arkansas. To improve your students’ college readiness, use all the tools at your disposal and make education a priority!  

The USATestprep content team has been very busy this winter adding resources to better match your state’s tests.  Below is a list of some of the things that we have accomplished recently. We’ve added hundreds of each of these:
  • New “Choose All” style Technology-Enhanced Performance Tasks, sometimes called “Multi-Select”
  • New questions authored across our most widely-accessed standards
  • New and newly-improved instructional videos
  • New free response/essay style questions
  • New printable worksheets added to our database
The Choose All items are now available under Performance Tasks when making your benchmarks. We focused on adding most of these to the tests where students will see them this spring. Finally, we are currently working on providing you with Evidence-Based Selected Response and Multiple-Part Selected Response. Be on the lookout for these soon.

The story of each individual’s math education can be represented, in stages, by the sets of numbers which he or she has used as a universe of discourse. A universe of discourse is best thought of, in math terms, as the largest set of numbers being talked about — i.e., the set of numbers from which all solutions to problems and equations must be drawn.

In the beginning, we usually have only the counting numbers or the whole numbers, and if a number isn’t in one of those sets it doesn’t exist. That’s why, for example, a 1st-grader will solemnly assure us that, “5 doesn’t go into 19” and, “You can’t take 5 from 3!”

Once the rational numbers, including negative integers, have been revealed, many new problems become solvable. The process continues until the entire set of real numbers is on the table, including the somewhat mysterious irrationals. This is a “map” of the real numbers:

The next, and last, big step is the introduction of the imaginary numbers, when the square root of -1 is defined to be the imaginary unit, i. When the imaginaries are added to the reals, we have the set (or, more properly speaking, the field) of complex numbers. Any number of the form a + bi, where a and b are real numbers, is a complex number. If b happens to be 0, then a + bi is the real number, a. If b is not 0, then a + bi is an imaginary number.

The complete picture looks like this:

Sometimes there is confusion on this last point: Some contend that, for example, 2 + 3i is “complex,” while 3i is not. This is incorrect: 2 + 3i and 3i are imaginary numbers (try finding them on a number line!), but both are complex, because both can be written in the form a + bi.

larry-headshotAbout the Author
A former math teacher in Georgia, Larry Coty is now USATestprep’s Math Content Team Leader. He has two daughters and resides in Tucker, GA.

Any of us around on that day in 2001 remember the emotion and uncertainty of those first few hours. Our students, though, have no such memories. All they know they will come from their parents, from us, from YouTube, or from elsewhere. So what to do? How to convey not just the heartbreak and bewilderment but – most importantly – the facts and the hindsight that time affords? Well, as professional teachers, you’ve found ways. You know what works, and what may need some tweaking. We’ve found a few good sites that may help infuse your plans with some new or different perspectives.

9/11 Memorial & Museum  

As stated on its website, this program is a collaboration between the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the NYC Department of Education, and the NJ Commission on Holocaust Education. Lesson plans are divided by grade level, containing material appropriate to the age of the learners. Teaching guides are included, as well.

Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility 

MCTSR also has many plans grouped by grade level. Of particular note is “The Second Day,” a video created by a 14 year-old student who lived blocks from Ground Zero.


This National Public Radio article offers less pedagogical insight, but does include perspective about the years after the attack. There are some useful links embedded in the report  – including one to the aforementioned 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

Teaching Tolerance

Created on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, these plans were created by a middle school language arts teacher in Ohio. She offers a number of strategies and mindsets to help with teaching the multiple perspectives of the terrorist attacks.

Al Jazeera 

Offering the perspective of those indirectly and unjustly blamed for the attacks, this article provides information that could be used in the teaching of the subject. Though it offers no lesson plans, the first-hand accounts it contains could be fodder for deeper discussions about the reactions of people in the days- and years- after 9/11.

All of these can, in some way, provide teachers with new angles and additional information for teaching this very complex event. We hope this helps in even the smallest of ways.

Photo Credit to: https://www.flickr.com/people/themachinestops 

kirbyAbout the Author
Kirby Spivey taught AP World History, US History, and numerous other Social Studies courses in Georgia. Mr. Spivey currently leads USATestprep’s Social Studies content team. He and his wife live in Atlanta. He was helping students with a project on Federalism in the school library when the first plane hit the North Tower.