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!  

stressed studentStudents in Tennessee prepare every year to take the TNReady test and prove they have learned enough to enter the world or proceed to college. The tests are an important benchmark for student progress. They are intended to measure understanding instead of memorization.
Students in third through eighth grade take TNReady assessments in English language arts, math, science, and social studies at the end of each school year. Teachers cover necessary materials to help their classes prepare for the assessments. This year, technical difficulties impeded the test’s efficacy, and lawmakers agreed to wipe the slate clean for students. That means negative results won’t be counted against test-takers for the 2018 cycle. Next year, however, the test will be back in full force. Parents and teachers alike can help students prepare for the 2019 TNReady in many ways.  

Focus on Healthy Habits

Children need help learning how to study and learn effectively. They should be encouraged to follow a balanced schedule for homework and extra study. Using calendars and rewards for younger children can help them learn to pace themselves and manage their own time. Students are often guilty of procrastination which can make keeping up with study work difficult. Teaching your kids to be proactive in their own education will make them better able to succeed in school.

Make Learning Fun

Studies show that children better remember concepts they learn in a multitude of ways. Tactile learning is more valuable because of its impact. An article from National Geographic reminds us to help our children interact with their environment for better results. Interactive courses can have a real influence on students:

“Our auditory memory isn’t as robust as we might like to think it is,” says Amy Poremba. “We think that we are great at integrating all the senses,” but the experiment shows that tactile and visual memory easily trumped auditory memory.

Consider enrolling your child in a Minecraft program, science workshop, or STEM summer camps.  

Enlist Test Prep Help

Another way you can help your child succeed in school, on the TNReady test, and future placement exams is to enroll them in an online test prep course. The structured setting of most test prep sites allows students to work within the standards through a variety of exercises. Students can enjoy games, video lessons, and practice quizzes, all directed at helping them understand test materials.  

Your third to the eighth-grade student can benefit in many ways from small adjustments to their routine. Taking time to help them learn how to study properly is the first step towards school success. Enrolling your student in interesting extracurriculars or summer programs can give them a leg up in school. Lastly, using test prep websites is a great way to improve your child’s confidence in his or her abilities. Since confidence is key for test takers, never underestimate this last perk.

WritingAre we here already? Is it testing season again? Well of course it is, and just like death, taxes, and another movie based on a comic book, we’ve got to deal with it. Students- and parents- will stress and fret, and there is nothing we can do to prevent that. There are, however, some nuggets of wisdom we can try to impart to help them deal with this time of year. What follows is some advice I’ve given to my own students over the years.
Sleep… Wonderful, Wonderful Sleep. We all know that young people need more sleep. While teachers may not be able to do much to get students to go to sleep at home, it’s something worth telling them- and parents- over and over.

– DO.NOT.CRAM. Make sure to tell students this well ahead of time, not just the days before SOL testing. Rather than rush to shove one’s mind full of information, emphasize to students the need to review often in the days and weeks before the test.

– Fuel Up! Students need to eat a good breakfast and drink plenty of water before their SOL tests. Have them avoid sugary, high carb foods, and instead focus on choices packed with protein.

– Water, Water Everywhere. Massive infusions of caffeine is a great way to wipe out focus. Urge them NOT to binge on coffee and energy drinks. Instead, H20 is the way to go. Hydrate in the days leading up to testing, not just the day of or the day before.

– Move It! Students need to get rid of stress during this time of the year. Encourage them to go for a run, shoot some baskets, or anything that will help them to blow off some steam before and after studying and SOL testing.

– Prepare For the Ice Age. Testing rooms are notoriously arctic-like in the morning. Encourage students to dress in layers so they can peel off a light jacket or sweater as the day heats up. They should be focused on their test, not on worrying about hypothermia or frostbite.

– Good Old #2. If they’re using pencils, be sure they bring plenty of them- all sharpened- to the testing facility. Time wasted looking for or sharpening pencils is not time that can be won back.

As spring approaches, teachers, students, and parents in the great state of Indiana have much for which to prepare. The Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus (ISTEP+) measures student achievement from 3rd through 8th and 10th grade. The two-part testing system checks student understanding of English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.

The combined results of these exams are used to measure the efficacy of the Indiana school system as a whole. Additionally, the class of 2019 will be required to pass the English and Mathematics portion for graduation. For those reasons, test preparation is paramount.

Depending on your teaching style, you may use ISTEP+ practice guides throughout the year, or only in the months leading up to exams. Either way, a program like that provided by USATestPrep can be invaluable to teachers and pupils alike.

Our standards-based program allows you to integrate ISTEP+ study into daily assignments, technology-enhanced practice, educational games, and more. The dynamic classroom assistant can even track progress and help students engage in performance-guided remediation. Further, USATestPrep provides an overview of the state standards for each grade level and subject.

To help you get the most out of ISTEP+ practice, we’ve compiled some study tips and strategies which will boost student performance.

1. Use Dynamic Lessons for Content Comprehension

Since students learn in a variety of ways, teaching them with more than one tactic is the best route to encourage understanding. Incorporating games, bell ringers, videos, performance tasks, puzzles, and more can liven up test preparation and improve student retention. Group activities and periodic quizzes can also help pupils remember content under pressure.

USATestPrep ensures that all supplementary learning items are standards-based for optimal student comprehension. The program also includes understanding checks for the provided material, as seen below.  

Memory retention is more natural when we care about what we’re learning. That’s why students get better grades in the classes which they enjoy. The obvious approach is to engage your class in innovative learning modules to spark their curiosity, imagination and, ultimately, their memories.

2. Familiarize Students with Test Mechanics

The ISTEP+ consists of two parts, given between February and May. Each section includes English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. The ELA part is 3 hours and 45 minutes, while Math is given 2 hours. The result is a very long test for children to focus on and attempt to complete. Especially for younger or more restless pupils, practice is critical.

Working with your students on practice exams and modules specifically designed for the ISTEP+ is paramount in helping children endure such an extended set of tests. Since the test can be administered online or on paper, students should be familiarized with both options. If your class has sufficiently learned the material, testing should be easy.

However, students can be intimidated by the ISTEP+. Allowing your pupils to track their progress with the class scoreboard function can encourage confidence in their abilities. Sometimes the difference between passing and failing is only believing you could pass.

3. Demystify Technology-enhanced Items

The ISTEP+ makes use of technology-enhanced modules to assess student computer skills within the test setting. It would be a mistake to let your pupils encounter these types of questions on the exam only. Instead, assigning online coursework through USATestPrep will familiarize your students with technology-enhanced items.

Content such as drag-and-drop questions, graphs, visual representations and more are tailored to the ISTEP+ standards and at your fingertips for classroom activities, homework and more. Assigning technology-enhanced modules on a regular basis will lead to higher student confidence when faced with the real test.

4. Improve Student Focus

Lengthy tests are challenging for students who have trouble focusing. Even if your class understands the concepts discussed empirically, they may not perform well on exams. To combat this problem try focus exercises or self-regulation techniques.

In Canada, students are regularly trusted with greater control of their education. Teachers observe children and try to suggest ways to overcome stress, hyperactivity, and lethargy. Students are then expected to engage themselves when necessary to return focus to their lessons. The model of self-regulating can look different for each pupil. It may mean a student jogging to release unnecessary energy or approaching teachings in an unconventional way.

In the US, flipped classrooms rely on students to manage their time at home and participate in engaging classroom modules as a group. The approach can only succeed if students are sufficiently invested in their education.  

Favorite ways to improve focus in a group include breaking up long activities into short tasks, getting kids moving, utilizing attention breaks and playing memory games. With USATestprep, you can use flash cards, short videos, games, and puzzles to improve pupil concentration.

Making learning fun and hands-on is a popular and effective method to help students take charge of their futures. Oftentimes, kids are expected to sit and listen to teachers riddle off facts, but their brains don’t work that way. Switching up your routines can eliminate fidgeting and complaints in class.  

5. Bolster Student Confidence

Since students who feel comfortable and able will score better on exams, you need to pave the way for students to know they are capable. The scoreboard can help show students their improvement in a visual way. Meanwhile, audible praise can be a motivator for many pupils. Additionally, many children feel more confident when given greater responsibility.  

An idea you may like is to create peer tutoring across grade levels. This approach allows each class to feel capable and take ownership of their understanding of the material. The National Education Association encourages peer tutoring to improve student performance.

As a teacher, you have vested interest in your student’s ISTEP+ performance. Now you can have a partner in improving student test scores. Employing the help of a standards-based study and classroom model can lead you to a whole new way of encountering ISTEP+ preparation. 

What fun ways have you done ISTEP+ prep? Do you worry about student concentration?

You’ve dreamed about this since you were old enough to cheer for their sports teams. You’ve imagined yourself enmeshed in the campus life you’ve seen pictures of online. You’ve talked to your friends and family about achieving this goal you’ve had for so long – being accepted to your dream college. But how do you do that? Sitting back wishing and hoping isn’t enough. Just because you have the school’s emblem drawn all over the cover of your school notebook, you know all the stats of their basketball team, or your closet is full of their school colors does not mean that you are an automatic shoe-in, given what is likely some very stiff acceptance competition.

Dreams don’t generally come true from sitting back and waiting for them to happen – you have to take charge and make things happen! That includes preparing for success at your dream school: It takes thoughtful planning ahead of time. While there are no guarantees for acceptance to any particular school, there are some things you can do to give yourself an advantage over the competition. Here are some tips to help you increase your chances of making that dream come true.

The Academics

Grades Matter – Schools look at your transcripts, GPA, and test scores in determining whether or not you would be a good fit for their expectations. Generally speaking, colleges don’t want to have to babysit those who are unprepared for the rigors of college-level work, by offering remedial classes. In high school, take classes that will prepare you for the rigors of college – and excel at them! While you may have some hiccups in your transcript history (like that science class you earned a D in), that doesn’t necessarily mean your ship is sunk. But it does mean that you need to be aware of it and be ready to explain what happened and, more importantly, what you learned from the experience. So, you made it up in summer school and earned a B: great. But what did you learn as a result of having to retake the course? Have your time management skills improved? Do you better understand and appreciate the work required to write a complete lab report? Schools want to see that you are resilient and that you take every stumble as an opportunity to learn and grow. While there is usually an opportunity at some point in the application process to explain low grades, too many low grades cannot be excused or overlooked. This brings us to the topic of what kinds of classes appear on your transcript.

There are conflicting views on whether it is better for students to take higher-level courses like Honors, AP, or IB and perhaps risk not getting all As, or whether it is better to take “easier” classes to keep a high GPA. Ultimately, the decision is yours. Challenging higher-level courses indicate something about your personality – that you are willing to work hard, to take risks, to challenge yourself; but not doing well in them could sink your GPA. Taking lower-level courses also says something about your academic drive, the value you place on education, and your personal push to learn. Balancing your course load in a way that will allow for both challenge and success is probably the best way to go.

Test Scores Matter – As much as society doesn’t like the idea of “teaching to the test,” test scores matter. In both state or district testing, as well as national testing like the SAT or ACT, the scores matter. Many people experience test anxiety and, as a result of nerves and self-inflicted pressure to be perfect, may not test well. To help combat this, take as many practice tests as you can. Your high school may offer free or reduced cost opportunities to take the PSAT or other standardized tests. The more practice you get with them, the more comfortable you may feel and the easier you may find it to navigate through them. If test-taking really makes you nauseous, consider enrolling in test-taking support courses that will teach you hints and tips for the process. Sometimes there are even free workshops offered at local schools, libraries, or community centers. And take as many AP tests as you can; they are good practice for test-taking, and the credits you earn from the scores you receive may transfer to your school of choice and allow you to start with higher-level courses once you get there. Taking the test also demonstrates that you were serious about the studies and weren’t just taking the class so it would look good on your transcripts.

The Activities

Activities Help – Participation in clubs, activities, and other extracurricular events looks good on your academic resume, but there’s a balance to strike between 

quantity and quality. Rather than attempting to join 30 different clubs, stick to several that are meaningful to you and that you enjoy participating in. Being in clubs and organizations that promote community volunteer work and allow you to “give back” shows a sense of social awareness and concern for others. Participation in one-day events or trying different types of clubs and organizations is good to help you find what you like, but once you find something, stick with it for an extended period of time. Jumping from activity to activity can make you appear flighty on your application and doesn’t speak to the dedication that you may have for a particular cause or organization.

Look for Opportunities Everywhere – When you are trying to figure out where to spend your activities time, keep in mind that there is a variety of places and ways to get involved. Joining academic clubs and activities at school, academic societies or organizations like NHS or Scholar-Athletes, being part of a sports team (either at school or through the community), religious-based service organizations, or community-based programs and clubs are all great ways to be involved in the community and show that you are engaged with the world around you.

Be an Active Participant at School – Being a part of your high school’s sports team shows dedication, time management, collaboration and a team-player mentality. But there are other ways to get involved at school as well. Try out for the school choir or music program. Studies show that students who are involved with music have higher math scores. Join the speech and debate team, which builds public speaking skills and effective argument structure and delivery, in addition to critical thinking skills. Become a part of the yearbook staff or join the journalism club and hone those language and communication skills (along with graphic design and computer skills in this digital age). Run for student council: You may not be elected President, but cabinet members have responsibilities and participation in student government shows that you can work collaboratively with others to achieve a common goal. If your school doesn’t offer a club or organization that you think would be beneficial to the students or community, take an active leadership role and start a club or local chapter on campus! Participation in clubs shows that you can both give and take direction and instruction and work collaboratively with others. Starting a club takes initiative and a sense of awareness that will help you stand out from the applicant crowd.

Expand Your Horizons – Many of the activities you can participate in school offer another benefit: travel opportunities to participate in competitions. Even if it’s just travel across town, getting out of your bubble and broadening your horizons by participating in these types of experiences help you stand out from other applicants. Another great way to expand your understanding of the global community is by participating in a foreign exchange student program, either as a student traveler to another country or as a host family for a foreign student. Immersion in another country or hosting a student from another culture gives you unique experiences and understandings to share in your application process.

Here are some student exchange program links for you to explore:

https://www.ef.edu/pg/student-exchange/

https://www.afsusa.org/

https://asse.com/

https://exchanges.state.gov/us/high-school (this site also has links to scholarship opportunities that can help make exchange programs more affordable!)

Be an Active Member of Your Community – Giving of your time and actively participating in your community signal to schools that you will probably be an engaged and involved student on their campus. Whether volunteering at an elementary school, helping the little kids with their homework, at an animal shelter walking the dogs or cleaning out kennels, or feeding the homeless, a variety of volunteer experiences will help the admissions panel get a better sense of who you are and what is important to you. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity and American Red Cross, and local organizations all have volunteer opportunities for teens to get involved.

The Attitude

Ask What You Can Do for Them – Consider the strengths and talents that you can bring to your dream school campus. It’s not enough to be there soaking in the greatness of others – you must contribute greatness as well! What are some of your strengths or talents that you can share with others and lend to the school community to make it even greater? Think about adjectives that describe you and how those qualities would benefit the campus community. In your application process, take every opportunity to showcase and brag about the unique attributes that you bring.

Have a Back-Up Plan – Yes, you have applied to your dream school, you can practically envision the set-up of your dorm room, the taste the cafeteria food, but…what if the school you long to attend isn’t as enthusiastic about inviting you to be a student? All is not lost, even if there is a rejection letter sent your way. Find out: Is there a waitlist? How long before you’ll know for sure? Can you transfer in after freshman year? What are the requirements to do so? If none of these are possibilities or if your love for this school quickly dissipates with the rejection, what is your backup plan? Whether it is applying to a second-choice school or taking a gap year to work or travel, you need to have other options in mind, just in case the unthinkable happens.

Be Ready to Brag – Some people have a very difficult time writing about themselves in a positive way because they have been taught to be “humble” and not brag. Other people have a low self-esteem and genuinely struggle with finding positive aspects of themselves to share with others. Regardless, your college application requires a certain level of bragging – because if you’re not going to toot your own horn and explain to complete strangers what makes you special and unique and worth their consideration in attending their school who will? If you are having a difficult time coming up with an extensive list of adjectives that describe you, ask a trusted friend or family member to compile a list of words they think describe your personality and your accomplishments. Reminisce with others about experiences you’ve had or things you’ve done that maybe you haven’t thought about or considered in quite some time, but which were impactful moments in your life and could lend themselves to strong application essays.

Who to Help You Brag – Most college applications will ask for letters of recommendation in addition to your application. These letters of recommendation should be written by people who really know you and can speak to your great qualities. A teacher who still has to check the seating chart to be certain of your name is probably not going to be able to write the most glowing recommendation. Letters of recommendation should be written by people who can provide specific examples of things you have done or how they have seen your characteristics at work. Asking a teacher or counselor who is overwhelmed by other commitments, who doesn’t really know you or your background, is not a good choice to write your letter. Consider asking managers at work, coaches, or academic advisors to write your letter. Do not pick a family member, even if you “worked” for them by babysitting or helping in the summer. You want non-familial people who can be objective but who respect and admire you enough to write a strong letter of recommendation.

Watch your Social Media Activity – Think what you tweet to your friends or post on Facebook stays within friendly territory? Not so much. Everything you post, every comment you make, is accessible to school admissions officers if it is on a public social media platform. As with employers these days, admissions officers can and do check the social media accounts of prospective students. And if they don’t like what they see, they may not choose to invite you to be a part of their school. So be smart about what you post, both words and pictures. Be careful how and to what you reply and comment on – Big Brother may be watching! This link will share with you some of the warnings about the impact your social media presence can have on your chances for admission.

Let Your Creativity Shine – Have you heard about the high school student who wrote her application essay on the effects of Costco on her life? It was brilliantly creative and wildly imaginative and allowed her to stand out from the competition. It also helped gain her acceptance to five Ivy League schools. So be creative in your approach to your application essays! Consider the thousands of commonplace responses admissions officers must read through and then think outside the box. Allow your personality to come through. But never, ever, lie on your application.

Plan Ahead – Despite what you might think, your best writing comes when there is time to reread and revise. Don’t wait until the last minute. After you write your application essays and paragraphs, let them sit and marinate for at least 24 hours, then look at them again with a fresh and critical eye. Take your time filling out applications; don’t try to do 5 in one night. They are long and tend to be pretty boring and if you’re not your sharpest self when filling them out, you may miss something important. For application essays, make sure that each one is tailored to the school to which you are applying. Use specific references to the school to show that you’ve done your homework and researched what the school has to offer and how you are going to take advantage of those offerings. Also, apply for every scholarship available – it gives you practice writing and may earn you money as well. There are thousands of scholarship opportunities out there, so do some legwork and find ones that apply to you. Don’t forget about local and community-based scholarships. The national ones may have hundreds of thousands of students vying for them, but with scholarships offered through your high school or community, the applicant pool drops significantly. Some scholarships can even be applied for before you are a senior, so you don’t have to wait and be burdened by all of them at once – check out what’s available to you to apply to as a freshman, sophomore, or junior.

Remember Your Audience – When you write your application essays and writing tasks, remember your audience. The admissions officers are not your pals. They are educated people representing institutions of higher learning. That doesn’t mean that you should use the thesaurus app with every word, but do proofread your work and see where you can substitute more elevated language that demonstrates you are a thoughtful, educated person who would be an asset to this school.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize – It can be tiring towards the end of your high school journey. You’ve spent 12 or more years working hard, cramming for tests, preparing reports, and the end is so close. But your senior year is not the time to kick back and coast. Although many students see their senior year as a months-long party, enjoying all of the perks and privileges that tend to come along with being a senior, it is important to keep challenging yourself and to not slack off or pick up poor study habits. Stay strong! Don’t give in to the peer pressure and drama that can get you off-track and derail the success and hard work you’ve put in so far. Take a full load of academic classes, even in your senior year. Or, if you’re not taking a full load of classes, make sure that you are using that extra time working a part-time job or participating in community events and activities that will show you are a compassionate, involved member of your community. Commitments to responsibilities both in and out of school impress admissions officers.

There is a LOT to balance and keep track of in high school. However, if you can fit in a part-time job or you have passions or hobbies, make sure that you are using your time wisely and in a way that will be advantageous to you. Playing video games all night in the basement may be fun, and, if you are applying to a computer graphics or gaming program might be very appropriate. For the average college applicant, however, this is not a productive use of time. You should balance work and play and relaxation, but make sure that there is a balance.

In Conclusion… With some hard work and focus, admission to your dream school is not out of the realm of possibility. Take into consideration the advice provided here and continue to do some more research on your own about hints and tips to help ensure your success. You CAN do this, but it will take work on your part. So, you can make excuses or you can make it happen! Dream big and best of luck!

“My child has a 3.90 GPA, always aces math tests, and excels in AP English, but can’t seem to figure out the SAT!”

This is something we hear from parents at least a few times a week. To them, and especially to students, the stark incongruity between a student’s notable academic performance and not-so-notable SAT or ACT scores is difficult to reconcile, and can be extremely discouraging. This is especially so when there are students in your child’s peer group who seem to just “get it.” They barely study for the SAT or ACT and come out with off-the-charts scores.

If the situation above sounds familiar, we’re here to assure you that this is not a problem unique to you and your child: High-achievers struggle with the SAT and ACT all the time. Understanding the major reasons why top students run into standardized testing roadblocks is the first step in conquering the challenges these exams present.

The styles of the SAT and ACT deviate greatly from what students are used to seeing

Current high school curricula present information in a very cookie-cutter way. In their English classes, students are presented with fifteen vocabulary words on Monday, and told they will have a quiz on those words on Friday. They study those words, define them on the quiz (and maybe use them in sentences), and that’s it. For their reading responsibilities, students might be assigned a chapter in a book and told to write a reflection focusing on the use of three specific literary elements in the text. Students read the chapter, discuss it with friends and the teacher, and present their reflections. In their mathematics classes, students learn a topic, are taught how to solve two or three different sub-types of questions relevant to that topic, and see pretty much the same thing on the next exam. Topics are segregated, and quizzes and tests are often not cumulative.

Unfortunately, the SAT and ACT are entirely different. Different topics are mixed together, and it’s not necessarily the case that the student will have recently reviewed the strategy needed to solve any given problem.

Much of the mathematics on the SAT and ACT is foundational

“The SAT and ACT test easy math.”

For any advanced student, hearing that line from educators and fellow students is galling. But it’s true! The SAT and ACT test basic mathematics concepts, the foundations of which are usually taught in the 8th and 9th grade…and this is the major problem! Because most students are exposed to many “simple” concepts tested on the SAT and ACT––ratios, fractions, proportions, patterns, strange symbols, among many others––in late middle school or early high school, they may not recall how to deal with them by the time they’re high school juniors and see these concepts again on the SAT and ACT. Further, the fundamentals of these topics may never have been solidified in the first place. For example, it’s often the case that more abstract concepts like fractions and percentages don’t “sink in” the first time around. Unfortunately, the current system makes it difficult to fix these problems. Teachers of more advanced high school mathematics courses like Geometry, Algebra 2, Trigonometry, and Precalculus, are often bound by rigid and packed curricula, and thus have no choice but to assume their students have these fundamentals down; there isn’t time for them to go back and reteach what the students are supposed to have under their belts.

All reading is not equal

The SAT and ACT emphasize reading for broad ideas and understanding the intention and direction of an author’s argument. Once again, by the time they reach high school, students are presumed to have mastered these abilities, and are tasked with more intellectually advanced approaches with respect to the literature they read: providing thematic and character analyses, exposing and explaining literary elements in the texts, etc. However, many students simply don’t have a strong ability to do what is assumed to be the most fundamental of reading tasks: “getting the point” of a passage. This can spell disaster on either the SAT or ACT.

What are students to do?
The most important thing for advanced students to keep in mind is this: Great performance in school by no means guarantees great performance on the SAT or ACT. There are many things to know that will help you succeed on these tests, but the first step is to make sure your fundamentals are solid. Only then are you ready to learn the techniques and strategies specific to the SAT and ACT. If you have difficulties with things like fractions, percents, finding the main idea, and dealing with difficult words, consider seeking help to address these issues. In this way, you can ensure that you’re putting your best effort forward on your standardized college admissions exams!

About the Author

Evan Wessler graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Bucknell University with a degree in Biology in 2009. Evan‘s experience has given him the ability to excel as a top educator at Method Test Prep. In his early days, Evan aspired to be an astronomer. One of his life goals is to travel the world in hopes of finding inspiration to write a work of fiction. A natural planner, Evan lives by the quote, “Previous planning prevents poor performance.”

Most educators will see social media as nothing more than a distraction for their students. It’s true that sometimes, our attachment to it can look more like an addiction. However, there’s more to social media than meets the eye. After all, Facebook has its roots in Harvard University, so can it be used to improve education? Here’s how it can be used in the classroom, and beyond, to bring students together and improve learning.

Create A Community

The main purpose of a social network is to bring people together. You can take advantage of that as an educator. Give your students a space where they can get together outside of class and talk about what they’re learning. It’s especially good if several students are finding the same concepts challenging. It gives them the opportunity to get together and work through the problems, perhaps with a student that’s already grasped the material.

Share Learning Materials With Students

As the educator, you can get involved with your students’ social media group, too. For example, it’s a great way to share materials with them, whether they’re directly linked to your subject or not. Educators may send links to sites such as StateOfWriting that can help students with assignment writing. This can cut down the amount of time you spend answering emails from students, as you can address all students at once.

Encourage Debate

When your class is in session, you’ll be encouraging your students to get involved and debate with each other. Social media gives them the chance to continue the debate outside of the classroom. After all, some students may only think of some points once they’ve had time to mull over the class, and some students may not feel comfortable speaking up in front of the class. This gives everyone the chance to talk about the topics at hand and learn more from each other.

Enable Students To Help Themselves And Each Other

When students need help with their work, being part of a social media network means that they can look to their peers for support. This means that they can get help with a simple question, or make connections help to more complex support if they need it. The Huffington Post says that students have taken to recommending good academic tutoring sites to each other. This means that they can become more self-sufficient and look for help themselves when they need it.

How To Implement Social Media In Your Classroom

If this all sounds good to you, then you’ll need to look at implementing social media in your classroom. Before you do, it’s worth addressing some concerns that you may have:

How do you ensure students use social networks appropriately? The way to do this is to teach them how to use social networks in general. Show them what happens to the data that they post, and how it never really disappears from the internet. It’s especially important to implement rules for using social media, especially in class.

How do you find time for networking? Ideally, this needs to be changed at the administration level. If you want to implement networking in your classroom, you’ll need to talk to your management and have them create the time for you. Show them how important it can be for your students’ development.

Where should you set up a social network? Many schools and universities already use online portals, such as Moodle, to bring together all their resources. It’s fairly simple to set up a network on them for your students to join and start discussing the learning at hand. If your school doesn’t have this, there are plenty of educational social networks online that you can use to create an online portal. Depending on the age of your students, you can even invite their parents to join, too.

The main thing to do when creating social networks for your students is to discuss it with them first. You’ll need to explain what’s expected of them when they use it, and lay down some ground rules. It may also be a good time to go over your school’s online usage policy. Also, it’s a good time to remind students that usage of technology at school is a privilege, not a right. If you make it clear that any student using the network improperly will have the privilege to use it revoked, it should keep issues to a minimum.

Now that you have done this, you can kick things off by sharing discussion questions online or sharing important resources. If you can spark a conversation online, then you’ll be off to a good start.

You can go far with social media in education, if you know how to use it. Use these tips to set your class up for networking. You’ll see just how much it can benefit your students.

Author Bio:
Rachel Summers is a freelance writer whose passion is helping students get the most out of their learning journey. She started out as a writer and journalist in the newspaper industry, before breaking out to go freelance and follow her own passions. Her writing is designed to help you get the most out of college.

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.

In our changing economy, college entrance isn’t the only path to a successful career. However, high school students must be prepared to enter the workforce lest they flounder in minimum wage jobs. Additionally, a university education doesn’t guarantee career success. Graduates need various skills which they aren’t likely to learn in lecture halls.

Most parents and teachers focus on raising test scores to help high school students enter college. However, even those students who pursue higher education directly after graduation may need to work, and all graduates will eventually be initiated into the job market. If helping your student realize a lucrative career is important to you, you may wonder what else you need to consider.

There are avenues you can pursue to ready your high school student for their future career. Whether they embark on a college education or enter the workforce immediately, the preparation you have initiated will help them realize success.

Future Ready Students

What are future ready students and what is the significance of future readiness? The careers of the future require more than a degree to compete in the global economy. Future readiness is a term used to describe students who are adequately prepared to enter the workforce. There are multiple factors which contribute to your student’s future readiness.

A helpful resource in determining your child’s future readiness is the College and Career Readiness and Success Organizer. This graphic representation of the many factors to future success can help parents and students target weaknesses and create plans to address them. While this infographic has been set up to help schools comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act; it is invaluable to anyone unsure of what career readiness really means.

 

Every student is an individual, with their own goals and talents. However, here are some key areas you can focus on to help your high school student prepare for the workforce.

Tech Savvy Teens

Most high school students are adept at playing video games, tweeting their thoughts and interacting with the global world through technology. While past generations may have discouraged these skills, there are a multitude of future careers for which technologically savvy students can head.

In fact, more than 7.3 million people were employed in tech jobs in 2016, a growth of 3% from 2015. According to the 2016 “Future of Jobs Report,” many middle management and administrative jobs will disappear by 2020. The report predicts data analysts will be in high demand as changes in the workforce cement. The future of marketing also depends on developments in technology and the needs of global consumers.

 

Social media coordinators, video game programmers, website optimizers and digital assistants are all careers which require tech-savvy individuals. In a growing tech industry, these are also examples of jobs likely to be in demand over the next few years. However, knowing how to update their Facebook status won’t put your student ahead of the competition. According to a 2014 report, profound technological foundations need to be built and expanded to translate casual technical knowledge into working knowledge.

Working knowledge in technology is increasingly valuable as presented by the Cyberstates 2017 report. The report informs us that while 6.9 million people work in the tech industry, another 7.3 million individuals are employed in tech positions supporting other industries. The resulting 14.2 million workers are somehow involved in technology for their primary source of income. It stands to reason that understanding the tech industry and its components is valuable across the job market.

Excerpt from CompTIA Cyberstates 2017 report.

 

The future ready student must understand technology, be digitally literate and practice good digital citizenship. Here are some steps to developing your teen’s technological skills with possible career paths in mind.

  • Encourage your student to develop existing tech skills. Enrollment in free online courses via Coursera or participation in school tech projects are great ways to expand your student’s skills.
  • Engage your teen in understanding how to evaluate the authenticity of digital information, use technology to research and communicate, and collaborate with others. While some teens may already be digitally literate, many use social media irresponsibly or cannot discern genuine resources from false facts.
  • Ensure your teen practices good digital citizenship. Key components include safe browsing, password security, and responsible sharing. Make sure your high school student is aware of how their online interactions can affect future job prospects.

Adaptable Workers

Employees who have multiple skill sets and continue to develop themselves professionally are in high demand. Encourage your high school student to pursue lifelong learning on their chosen path. The idea that graduation or earning a degree is the end of education is no longer relevant. Many employers actively search for individuals who can adapt to changing economic needs and are open to continual learning.

Additionally, those employees who demonstrate an ability to adapt to work environment changes are likely to succeed over others. A 2013 report cited capacity to work in a team, fluid intelligence, problem-solving and innovation as influential factors to success in the 21st-century workplace.

Source: November 2013 ETS Research Report, 21st Century Workforce Competencies

Teamwork is critical in many workplaces. Sports, clubs and even gaming teams can demonstrate the importance of teamwork. Employees are also called upon to work autonomously in many roles. Teaching your high school student to be responsible, set their deadlines and be accountable is imperative to future success. Here are a few ways to develop your high school student’s adaptability.

  • Encourage your teen to volunteer or work part-time during summer or holiday breaks.
  • Enroll your student in skill-based courses online or in person. Develop a diverse portfolio of skills which will make them more desirable to employers.
  • Encourage team sports, clubs, etc.
  • Require accountability from your teen. Set savings goals for teens with jobs. Follow up with study and homework assignments to show your teen the value of planning. Reward positive behavior and responsibility from your high schooler.

Emotional Stability

When we mention emotional stability for the future ready student, there are a few ways to measure this. However, it’s important to note that employers want dependable workers who can perform under pressure when necessary.

Experiences gained through volunteer work, part-time jobs and team activities are valuable in creating emotional stability. Talking to your teen about their goals and plans realistically is another important step for parents. Parents who encourage unrealistic aims and expectations are only setting teens up for failure.

 

The World Economic Forum lists emotional intelligence sixth in their list of Top 10 Skills for workers in 2020. That’s a significant change from 2015 when emotional intelligence didn’t make the list. This change shows how employers are adapting their hiring models and how job seekers must evolve to compete.

Commitment to Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learning for career development is nothing new. In fact, a 1981 report by the National Institute of Education touted the importance of lifelong development to career success. However, the report and subsequent employer investment hinged significantly on experiential learning. In the workplace of today, corporate seminars and classes aren’t enough for the ambitious worker.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 27% of adults surveyed reported holding a non-degree credential. These credentials included postsecondary certificates, certifications, and licenses. The report shows a correlation between continuing education and earnings, employment and advancement in a career.

For example, the earnings of those surveyed directly increased along with the percentage of individuals holding non-degree credentials. Only 19%, of those surveyed to have earned less than $20,000 from 2015 to 2016, held a non-degree credential. Meanwhile, 31% of individuals who made $20,000 to $50,000 in that same period, held a non-degree credential. And, 41% who earned more than $50,000, during that time frame, held at least one non-degree credential.

Excerpt from Adult Training and Education: Results from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2016

 

Experts agree that the job market is changing. Many common positions may cease to exist in 20 years. A May 2017 NY Times article posited that truck and cab drivers, even accountants would soon be obsolete. Instilling the value of extended learning, outside a classroom, in your high school student can help them achieve future goals.

  • Engage in continued education with your high school student. Take online courses through Coursera or Academic Earth.
  • Encourage your high school student to learn new skills or ideas through open learning opportunities. Courses are available through the The Open University.
  • Incorporate weekly Ted Talks into your teen’s schedule. This informal resource can help them present themselves better to future employers.
  • Linguistic development is a tremendous asset for businesses, have your teen practice or learn a new language with Duolingo.
  • Encourage your high school student to learn coding and other web development skills. Utilize resources like Codecademy, Treehouse, and The Code Player.

Career Preparation

Being ready to compete in the fast-paced job market of tomorrow will take more than extra courses, informational videos, and a stable personality. Everything your teen has done before graduation can be used to make them more attractive to employers. High school students should have some form of work experience before graduation. Volunteer work, internships and part-time jobs all count as valuable experience.

 

Although work in STEM continues to advance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of the fastest growing occupations from 2014 to 2024 will require little or no college education. Wind turbine technicians, for example, are expected to increase by 108% during the projected timeframe. Other occupations like occupational therapy assistants and interpreters are expected to increase by 29 to 40% from 2014 to 2024.

A report released in April of 2017 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted only 69.7% of 2016 high school graduates enrolled in college. That leaves 31.3% of students looking for work. However, only 72.3% of youth not enrolled in college were engaged in the workforce. This disparity is likely due to teens being unprepared for workforce competition.

Interestingly, 72.9% of high school graduates held jobs in 2016. While the figures jumped to 82.5% among youth with some college or associate’s education. Meanwhile, the greatest employment gap remains among individuals without a high school diploma, with only 52.9% engaged in the workforce. To improve these numbers, teens and young adults need to embrace alternative education and other development opportunities.

Volunteer Positions

There are a multitude of volunteer opportunities for the teen looking to add to their portfolio. However, focusing on those experiences which represent the right traits and point towards a future career is a smart move.

For teens who want to branch into the animal industry, there are plenty of opportunities which will demonstrate a love for animals. High school students can walk dogs for the local shelter, walk and feed dogs for senior citizens living alone or make signs for lost dogs through local networks.

High schoolers who want to branch into customer service will find they are better served by work which helps people directly. Suggest your teen organize a toy or food drive, hold a car wash, bake sale or rummage sale and donate the money to charity, or volunteer at a homeless or women’s shelter.

Additionally, teens pursuing employment in a specialized field like technology or accounting can volunteer their services to help the elderly or any non-profit organization. Using their skills to assist a non-profit will prove competence and dedication.

Internships

Similarly, some companies may offer internships where your student can gain experience without pay. Often, narrowing down the industries your teen would like to target will help the process. Have your teen find companies which operate in their preferred sector. Then, have them apply to work as an intern.

Although they will likely spend time getting coffee and running errands, they will gain an understanding of how the industry works and hopefully references for future applications.

Work Experience

Never underestimate the value of actual work experience for young adults pursuing careers. Regardless of the industry or position, teens can parlay a good work ethic into valuable references or recommendations. In 2016, retail salespersons, cashiers and food workers still top U.S. occupations in sheer numbers. Consequently, gaining some work experience is a practical step for high school students before entering professional careers.

 

For the self-starting high school student, running their own business is a huge advantage for future employment. Something as simple as mowing lawns or selling items on eBay for community members can teach your teen about business and gain them professional references.

For high school students who want to experience life before college or a career, consider encouraging them to earn a TEFL certificate and teach English abroad. This path counts as work experience (potentially, also as volunteering) and adds valuable life experience with travel and cultural awareness. Additionally, working while traveling is much more beneficial to your teen’s future career than backpacking aimlessly.

Self-Promotion

Helping your high school student prepare for a career will require at least some focus on the application and interview process. Remember, even the most qualified individual must prove their worth before getting the job.

Resume Building

Creating a resume or CV is a task which many young adults underestimate. However, the truth is their resume is your teen’s foot in the door. A poorly written or formatted resume will be pushed aside, regardless of qualifications. For that reason, teaching high school students how to create the right sales pitch for each job is important.

Have your high school graduate write multiple resumes or CVs for different job types and review them against the guidelines on WikiHow. Pay particular attention to format and wording when critiquing your teen’s resume. Also, practice writing cover letters and discuss appropriate references.

Confidence

If you have built a foundation of emotional stability, confidence should be inborn for your teen. However, there are some key steps which will project confidence to prospective employers. Have your teens practice the following guidelines for more successful job searches.

  • Dress for the job you want. Remind your high school student that their appearance does make a difference to employers. If the job requires a suit and tie, they should present themselves dressed accordingly. The same can be said for overdressing, as it shows a lack of knowledge about the position.
  • Make eye contact. Employers judge interviewees on their first impressions. Making eye contact, shaking hands and smiling are all good practices.
  • Talk positively. Young adults should speak positively about their experiences, competencies, and goals.
  • Make positive statements. Teens must communicate clearly about what they want and what they are worth. Help them practice assertive self-assessment. I.e., “I am always on time,” or ” I am an expert in Java programming.”

Digital Awareness

In the information age, everything you post online can be an asset or liability. Make sure your high school student understands that employers may search their social media profiles for clues to their real personality. Teens should know how to set privacy rules for their online accounts and understand how information can be connected to them online.

Practical Preparedness

While you may not employ all of these strategies and tips to prepare your high school student for a career, every teen should have a plan. Graduates entering college should be aware of the markets they will attempt to gain employment in and work towards employability while in school. Those teens entering the workforce without a college education should have a solid outline for finding a stable career.

Regardless of plans, each high school student should develop a career plan which includes the following five steps.

  1. Decide on a career path. Everyone has preferences for the industry in which they’d like to work. Knowing what they want to do (even for now) will help teens achieve future goals.
  2. Understand career expectations. Being realistic in goals is critical to confidence and achievement. Help your high school student research what qualifications their preferred career will require.
  3. Create actionable steps. Once your teen knows the requirements they will need for success, help them create a path. Enrollment in online courses, fine-tuning recreational skills, and choosing continued education resources will help teens solidify their usefulness to employers.
  4. Advertise their assets. Help your high school student create a professional resume and appearance for job hunting. Encourage them to begin looking before graduation and search on a schedule.
  5. Allow for time. Encourage your student to gain work or volunteer experience while searching for the right career opportunity. Don’t let them be discouraged by the slow process of finding the right job.

Involve Your Teen

The evolving job market can be intimidating to new high school graduates, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be prepared. Helping your teen understand the core competencies needed for continued success in the 21st-century workplace is the first step in preparation. Your high school student should be an active partner in achieving their future goals.

Consequently, discussing the ways your high school student can prepare for a career is the first step in any plan. Communicate the importance of making decisions and working towards their goals. Help your high schooler map out their future; don’t depend on covert steering to get them on track. Teenagers must play an active role in their futures, or they won’t be inclined to continue work on the foundation you’ve laid with them.

For parents and teachers who want to prepare high school students for career success, it may be easy to take the reins. However, remember your high schooler will soon be a young adult steering themselves through life. Share this article with them and discuss their goals, skills, and options. Be realistic about plans and encourage them to find the path which works for them.

Resources

College and Career Readiness and Success Organizer

Writing Student Resumes

Coursera

Academic Earth

The Open University

TED Talks

Duolingo

Code Academy

Treehouse

The Code Player

Bureau of Labor Statistics; Career Planning for High Schoolers

International TEFL Academy

Radford University Career Center; Interviewing

WikiHow, 7 Ways to Make a Resume

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.

nprEd

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.