“I looooove USATP!  So good for the kids. My favorite feature is the ‘remediation’ with a click of a button. There is NO way a teacher could do that in a class of 35-40. Some teachers are afraid of ‘tech,’ but I am sharing how awesome it is on my site. Thank you!”

Biology teacher Andrea Buckner

When we received the above email from California Quartz Hill High School biology teacher Andrea Buckner, we broke out the champagne, gave everyone a raise, and declared every third Friday “Andrea Buckner Day.”

Well, that’s what we wanted to do. Instead we settled for a few simple (but heartfelt) high-fives, and a renewed determination to do whatever we can to meet the needs of our teachers.

As a company founded by teachers, for teachers, with a lot of teachers working for us (seriously—they make us raise our hands in meetings before speaking), it’s in our DNA to simplify the staggering amount of work teachers face daily, while maintaining excellence in student performance and outcomes.

Here’s what Ms. Buckner had to say about how we’re doing with that goal:

USATP: You’ve been using USATestprep for about a year now. How did you first learn of us?

AB: I was googling something like “NGSS online tests” and found you. I was blown away by the price.

USATP: In a good way, we hope?

AB: Let’s just say you are priced exceptionally well!

USATP: So, you were looking for California standards-aligned science assessments?

AB: Yes, but I was also looking for tools that my colleagues and I could use to teach our kids in a way equal to or better than how we currently teach, while taking some of the load off our plate. What I love about this tool is that I can make sure the kids are learning, they’re getting multiple practice attempts to ensure they understand the concept, they’re getting homework and quizzes, and I don’t have to spend every evening and weekend creating and grading all of it. It’s just right there, ready for me.

USATP: We like to say we give teachers back their Tuesday and Thursday nights.

AB: (laughing): And their weekends!

USATP: How do you find you most often use the site?

AB: Mostly for homework and other teachers can’t believe how much homework I can get my kids to do. It’s because I can set score thresholds for the assignments. My kids will keep working on the same assignments until they know the material because they want to move on, and I don’t have to stand over them and keep assigning homework over and over. I love the assignment strands for homework.

USATP: And you mentioned your love of remediation.

AB: Yes, I love your remediation tool! I use it with tests. I can hit the individual remediation button and I tell my students that if they complete the remediation—which is individualized for them—I’ll let them take the test again.

Fun Fact:

Andrea may not realize it, but she has achieved rock-star status in the inner sanctums of USATestprep. For single user accounts, such as a science course, a “healthy” amount of student logins is considered to be around 300. Andrea’s class has posted 6,672 logins. AND COUNTING. 

Andrea—thank you for sharing your love of USATestprep with us, with your colleagues, and—if we can get those Friday’s declared Andrea Buckner Days—with the world.

Would you like your classroom featured on our blog? We love to brag about our users! Contact dena@usatestprep.com and we’ll get your story told!

VVA logo

Caitlyn Thomas is a Math 8 teacher at the Virginia Virtual Academy powered by K12. The academy formerly used Study Island but made the switch two years ago to USATestprep. Both middle and high school now use the online teacher and student success platform for benchmark assessments and daily classroom instruction.

Thomas believes the USATestprep platform makes it easy for teachers to quickly get up to speed. 

“We’ve grown tremendously over the past few years,” she says. “I think one year we had more new than returning teachers and, with so much being new, when we made the switch to a new learning platform it was almost like, ‘Oh no, here’s one more thing to learn.’ But it turned out to be really simple so it was never an issue.” 

Teachers at Virginia Virtual Academy are required to use the platform for their benchmark tests throughout the year and may use it additionally as they would like. Thomas uses the platform’s Virginia-aligned standards to prepare her students for state testing. She’s currently using the tool to plan her final push to prepare her Math 8 students for May standards testing. 

“I use the bank of items for review, checkpoint quizzes, and I create individual quizzes of about 5-10 questions on each standard to make sure my kids are ready and comfortable with what’s coming,” she says. “Virginia is very standards-based, so knowing I have a tool in my back pocket to help me teach the standards is a big help.”

When asked what she would tell schools or teachers considering USATestprep, Thomas says she would call out two things: ease of use and depth of data.

 “It’s super easy for me to create assessments. And the breadth of data I get is so far beyond students passing or not passing. I can look at the data by question, by standard, or by category. Having all those pieces of info is super helpful for me to be able to dial in.”

Good luck to all Ms. Thomas’ Math 8 students on their May testing! To learn more about how USATestprep can be used for assessments, test prep, and daily instruction, request a no-obligation free trial.

Anne Edwards has been teaching middle school world history for the better part of thirty-two years. (Let’s hear it for Anne.)

Yay Ms. Edwards!

A beloved teacher at Southwest Middle School in Orange County, Florida, Anne has been assessing, testing, remediating, wrangling, and enjoying her time in the classroom with her 6th grade world history students for twenty years. She started using USATestprep three years ago with amazing results.

USATP: Give us the headline on your thoughts surrounding USATestprep.

Anne: I love it!

USATP: And we love hearing that! How did you learn about us?

Anne: I was browsing online and read a review or found a page about it–I don’t even remember exactly what it was but I remember my reaction. I thought, “I have to try this.”

USATP: Were you using another online learning platform at the time?

Anne: No, I never used anything before USATestprep. Which is why it’s a little surprising that I’m such a cheerleader for the platform. But it truly makes life so much easier.

USATP: How so?

Anne: The remediation button alone probably frees up five hours a week of my time where I don’t have to spend a planning period working on remediation. Instead, I just click the button after an assessment and my students have everything they need to in front of them to shore up areas of weakness. It’s a huge timesaver because, obviously, not every child needs the same thing.

The remediation button alone probably frees up five hours a week of my time where I don’t have to spend a planning period working on remediation.

USATP: What do your students think of USATestprep?

Anne: The Sasquatch Olympics are a big hit–they talk about that all the time. But they also love that everything in the platform is short and gets to the point. Sixth graders can have the attention span of a gnat. They get a 3-minute video, they answer a few questions and boom. Done. They can move on.

USATP: How do you use USATestprep in the classroom?

Anne: I use it for in-class practice assignments, assessments, and remediation. The three other world history teachers and myself love the assessment data you provide. We have to provide a breakdown of the data by DOK standards and domain, and that’s exactly how the platform delivers it. I also use the data and tools for weekly one-on-one with my students. We sit together and they show me where they’re at, what they’ve done. They enjoy being able to track their own progress.

USATP: I believe you participate in the Green Dot Challenge?

Anne: We loooove the Green Dot Challenge! My kids are super competitive and we do an entire end-of-year sixth-grade world history green dot challenge.

USATP: Did you receive training on how to use our platform?

Anne: I’ve taken some over the years but really, I figured it out on my own. If I can do it, a monkey can do it. It really is that simple.

USATP: What’s the one thing you’d want to tell a teacher or administrator considering USATestprep for their classroom(s)?
Anne: Do it. You won’t regret it. There are so many things available and the company is fine-tuning resources all the time, which makes it even better.

Many thanks to Anne for her time and best of luck to all of Anne’s students in their testing. GO SEA LIONS!!

While teachers are typically the ones handing out assignments, when it came to finding the perfect teaching tool, one teacher in Danville, VA looked to his students for help.

High school English teacher Cary Wright has taught in Danville, VA for 23 years and counting. Two years ago, as he was preparing his 11th grade students at Galileo Magnet High School for their spring reading assessment, he asked his students to find a free or low-cost test-prep site. They came back to him with USATestprep.

Wright requested a free trial with amazing results. “I used the USATestprep report to help students who scored below 400 dial in on which standards they needed to work on. I then used the site to take my kids through remediation. Every single one of them passed.”

Wright quickly requested a subscription and now recommends USATestprep to every core content teacher.

“The best value I receive from the site is as a diagnostic tool at the beginning of the semester, said Wright. “This is the first semester I had the platform start to finish and what I did is create an assessment that was approximately 75% of the entire test. I gave that out the first day of class. That let me obtain an initial layout of each student’s skills and abilities, which was essential. Then I used the data to group students, pairing strengths and weaknesses for enhanced learning.”

“The best value I receive from the site is as a diagnostic tool at the beginning of the semester…”

Beyond assessment, Wright uses the platform for one-on-ones. “I work with the student in an individual conference to give support to those weaknesses identified by the program. Then they can do the work whenever they want to, which is fantastic,” he said. “Waiting for the bus, if they can’t sleep… it’s a huge timesaver for me. They’re doing the work, we’re both tracking it, and we’re both seeing results.”

Wright notes he appreciates the interaction offered by USATestprep. “When I wanted to tweak a couple of reading passages and questions, I called and got Larry Coty (USATestprep math and ELA lead coordinator) on the phone. He listened to what I wanted and made the changes immediately. I also requested new writing EOC products and Larry and team jumped right in.”

Per Coty, Wright’s request for new writing EOC products was great to receive. “It not only came at a time when we’re adding to our Virginia products and customer base, but was great because it was prompted by his good experiences using our reading products. With my thirty-plus years in the classroom, I enjoy hearing success stories from teachers like Cary. It’s personally satisfying to be able to give teachers time-saving  tools to use in their daily work with students–because I remember how valuable that time is.”

Finally, pricing is another selling point in Wright’s eyes. “The services and results I receive through USATestprep are immense, and the price is far better than any competitor. If I had one bit of advice for the company, it would be, ‘Keep up the good work.’”

Learn more about how USATestprep can be used for assessments, test prep, and daily instruction. Request a no-obligation free trial.

Farmington R-7 School District has been using USATestprep at varied grade levels for more than 5 years. We were thrilled (doing the happy dance), when they wrote us a letter telling us the five things they love about our standards-aligned solutions based platform.

5 Reasons We Love Using USATestprep

  1. The items in each database are rigorous and there are various types, including selected response (MC), short answer, free response, and various types of technology-enhanced questions. Read More»

What is Personalized Learning?

In a one-size-fits-all education system that encourages conformity to the desired “norm,” the theory of personalized learning is gaining attention in schools and communities across the nation. Understanding and appreciating students as unique individuals with unique needs and diverse learning styles, the personalized learning approach offers students a different methodology to meet their needs and enhance their education.

Tailored to individual learning preferences and seeking to meet the specific interests of a variety of learners, personalized learning plans seek to help encourage lifelong learning and increase student engagement in order to close achievement gaps and ensure college and career-readiness.

Personalized Learning is not a hands-off free-for-all. It requires identifying an end goal and working to meet that goal by backwards planning and the implementation of targeted, data-driven, high-interest instruction. Educational goals and the plan to meet them is highly personalized and flexible. Students create academic goals with the guidance of educators and regularly reflect on their goals, taking ownership of their educational plans. Read More»

What is Convergent and Divergent Thinking?

Convergent and divergent thinking are valuable tools in the classroom, but the concept didn’t start in the classroom. It started in the discipline of psychology.

The terms convergent and divergent thinking came from American psychologist JP Guilford in the 1950s. Guilford’s theory of the structure of human intellect identified three factors of intelligence that help define a person’s overall intellectual ability. The three factors (or dimensions) of intelligence are operations, content, and products.

Read More»

Hands-on experiences are one of the best ways to learn more, make great memories and gather new information. This is a list of free activities and field trip locations in Texas, from great works of art to the great outdoors! If you’re a teacher, tutor or a parent looking for free educational opportunities for your curious crew, or to give your students a break from STAAR and TSI test practice, check out one of these free field trip destinations around Texas.

Please note that large groups sometimes require advance reservations; be sure to contact the organization you’re interested in directly for more information.

Select the City

Read More»

The history of infinitely large quantities runs like a dark thread through the work and writings of the great mathematicians of the past 2000 years. For Greek thinkers such as Aristotle, as well as for their Hellenistic successors like Eratosthenes, the idea of an infinitely large set was incoherent or “irrational.” While all of these writers often used the notion of an “infinite” (or, more precisely, an “indefinitely long”) process, they all rejected the idea that a completed set could contain a number of items that wasn’t finite.

FractalThis situation, with the idea of infinity acting as a kind of backdrop to mathematical thinking, persisted until the work of mathematician Georg Cantor (1845-1918). After Cantor’s work was based on a simple conception: Two sets are the same size if, and only if, their members can be placed into a one-to-one correspondence with each other. So the sets {Moe, Larry, Curly} and {Groucho, Chico, Harpo} are the same size because we can define a correspondence (or, in math terms, a 1-1 function) from one to the other:

In cases of finite sets, this is obvious — so obvious that we simply use “cardinal numbers” such as 3 to represent the size of all sets like the two shown here. The “cardinality” of a set is, then, just the number you reach if you count up all its members.

One set is smaller than (i.e., has a smaller cardinality than) another set if you cannot find a one-to-one correspondence from it to the second set that doesn’t leave out some of that second set’s members. For example, if we add Zeppo to set B, then A is smaller than B, because Zeppo would be “leftover” from any one-to-one correspondence that included the other three Marx brothers.

As soon as we start thinking about larger sets, though, things get interesting. For example, consider these two sets:

A = {0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, … }

B = {0, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, … }

On the one hand, B is clearly a subset — and a proper subset — of A. That is, every member of B is also a member of A, but there are many members of A that are missing from B. So, in this sense, A is larger than B.

But consider the following function:

Clearly, if two sets’ being the same size means that you can “pair up” their items in a one-to-one correspondence, then A and B are actually the same size — which means they have the same cardinality. This result, that a set can be the same size as one of its parts, is not too surprising. After all, since A and B are both infinitely large, we are comfortable saying that they are the same size.

What Cantor did next, though, quite literally rocked the foundations of mathematics — especially because he did it in an area (sets) that had always been considered very elementary, even childishly simple.

There is a very simple set that can be formed from any given set, called its “power set,” which consists of all subsets of the original set.

For example, if A = {Moe, Larry, Curly}, then the power set of A is

P(A) = {ø, {Moe}, {Larry}, {Curly}, {Moe, Larry}, {Moe, Curly}, {Larry, Curly}, {Moe, Larry, Curly}}.

Notice that each set in P(A) is a subset of A and, more importantly, that P(A) is larger than A. A has a cardinality (or “size”) of 3, while P(A) has cardinality 8, which is 23. If you experiment with other sets, you’ll see that if a finite set has size n, the power set of that set will have size 2n.

Now, for an infinite set A, it is obvious that the power set, P(A), will be at least as large as A itself — for one thing, for any element x in A, there will be a corresponding set {x} which is a member of P(A). What we might expect, as with the case of A and B above, is that A and P(A) are the same size — after all, they’re both infinitely large, right?

Cantor, though proved this shocker: In fact, the cardinality of P(A) is larger than the cardinality of A! That is, he proved that any one-to-one mapping, starting from A and going to P(A) will “leave out” many, many, items of P(A) — as if we had left out infinitely many Zeppos in the case of A and B above! The conclusion is inescapable: The two sets, A and P(A), are both infinitely large, but P(A) is strictly larger than A. Cantor referred to the “sizes” of sets like P(A) as “transfinite” numbers, and his result means that there are many of these, and that they continue to grow — forever. Why? Well, once you have Cantor’s Theorem, which says that P(A) is always larger than A, then you can take the power set of the power set of A — i.e., P(P(A)) —  and get a larger set.

So we have a series of sets:  A is smaller than P(A), which is smaller than the P(P(A)), which is smaller than P(P(P(A))), and so on. If A itself is transfinite, then you have an unending sequence of transfinite sets, each one larger than the next.

The existence of this sequence was, as noted, a shock to the mathematical world — so much so that some great figures (Poincaré, for example) suggested that Cantor was out of his mind, or even a sinister character! For the past 100 years, however, Cantor’s work has blossomed into a vast and respected field within the boundaries of mathematical research.

Further reading:

Enderton, Herbert: Elements of Set Theory

Halmos, Paul: Naive Set Theory

Suppes, Patrick: Axiomatic Set Theory

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.

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