I have worked in middle and high schools in both Georgia and North Carolina for over 15 years while using many different assessment and review preparation programs. The continually-evolving technology scene has become even more user-friendly with many programs being widely available and accessible on various platforms (both stationary and portable devices). USATestprep (USATP) has developed themselves into the technological leader in educational assessment and review software, hands-down!
As a middle school science instructor, I began using USATP and had received NO previous training in its purpose nor applications before creating an account. I would estimate that within about the first twenty minutes of generally navigating the website, I had already created an online class for my science students and began experimenting (no pun intended) with various assignment types. It does NOT take an expert user in order to become quickly comfortable and adept in managing the features USATP has to offer. This alone could make USATP a tool that new and/or beginning district teachers could quickly learn, especially in this age where most new teachers have a substantial amount of previous training with technology. If a school were to use USATP as a mainstream assessment/review resource, brief trainings could be held in order to have all teachers become familiar with the program’s immense educational perks!
I began using USATP mainly because of the detailed data collection each educator (or leader) can view, evaluate, and reflect upon once an assignment or assessment has been completed. In this age of all areas of education being evaluated (and too often scrutinized), EVERY stakeholder in the school can now be aware of a student’s progress across all subjects and grade levels. Individualized instruction can be instantly utilized as students can see their progress from the course’s beginning to its conclusion. Students have different-colored “dots” that show their achievement and completion progress based on mastering state (and local) standards within each subject. Students can also develop their own lessons and meet their goals without having a teacher assign them work. If a student is not meeting a particular goal or having trouble with certain concepts over others, EVERYONE in their intervention circle (parents, teachers, school leaders) can view their areas of strengths and weaknesses. The teacher can even assign review activities based on individual (or group) weaknesses for detailed remediation. Once I became more competent in my understanding of how USATP worked, I invited my leadership team to watch me use the program in both small and large student group settings. I also invited them to grade-level and department meetings where we were analyzing data and able to build common formative assessments based on our standards and areas of common needs improvement.
It should NEVER be a school leader’s goal to become satisfied with all teachers simply answering to him/her; rather, teachers should be expected to become subject experts and communicate clear, realistic, and adaptable goals for his/her students. USATP contains such a detailed system of information that allows teachers to fully reflect upon the students’ individual strengths and weaknesses; however, common patterns across different student classes can allow teachers to develop their own professional development plan (PDP) and really hold them accountable for ensuring that students are being instructed and evaluated in accordance to school, district, and state best practices and standards. King Solomon wrote in one of his many proverbs, “A person of understanding has wisdom.” USATP is full of built-in applications that allow students, teachers, and leaders to all improve from basic classroom instruction that is built upon the age-old method of ever-changing yet constant teacher pedagogical growth. Once you are able to display that you are not only subject- competent, but subject-expert material, school leaders will be able to see that there are teachers within their own school setting that can help lead and guide teachers of all ability levels and spread some of the professional development sessions within their own four school walls!
Every state has offered its version of training in differentiated instruction over the last 20 years; however, most educational agencies have seen fewer people enter into teaching than ever before. Most states have their version of a state competency exam for all subjects; however, students are often evaluated the same while the schools and districts urge teachers to offer varying instructional and assessment methods. While USATP is a software program where students are expected to answer the correct response on subject-matter questions, the VARIETY of questions and modeling styles apply to many different types of learners. There are five-question vocabulary assignments (with built-in hints, Spanish-text accessibility), 10-question multiple-choice assignments (with varying difficulty ability levels), performance task assignments (with matching, fill-in-the-blank, Venn diagrams, etc.), crossword puzzles, personalized vocabulary flashcards, individual and group-wide review games, and so much more. I have used review games for major concepts and/or final exam review sessions where learners of various strengths are placed together in order to best work together as a team.
Roseth (2017) recorded one student’s response to best practices in comprehending material:
No matter the grade level, if students with varying ability levels (AIG, 504, IEP, mainstream, EL, etc.) are able to cooperate and collaborate to maintain some common success while having fun, it should be a no-brainer for schools to have immediate access to USATP!
When students are communicating with everyone about their educational progress and can personalize their own experiences with the content, the entire school improvement process becomes more successful because of the following formula:
When students are able to see their own differences within one another but still support one another in the learning process, they are also becoming lifelong learners and encouragers that all leaders want their student body to develop into. I did not fully appreciate this until I became a parent eight years ago, but I would not want to imagine my children learning without this wonderful instructional tool in their classes!
Thank you to our guest writer and teacher, Matt Bracewell from Tuscola High School, NC.
About to the author: Dr. Matt Bracewell grew up on a peanut farm in south GA where he began his education. He graduated from Columbus State University with his B.S., M.Ed., and Ed.S. degrees, all in Education and Leadership. He graduated from Walden University in 2016 where he received his Ed.D. in Teacher Leadership. His doctoral study entitled “The Attitudes of Males Towards Teaching” has been downloaded and shared on all 6 inhabitable continents. He has taught grades 6-12 for over 15 years in both Georgia and North Carolina. He and his wife, Briana, have been married for over 12 years and they have three sons: Watson-8, Ridge- 6, Griffin- 3, and their lone daughter, Merritt- 2. Matt serves as a deacon in his church where his family is deeply involved. In addition to teaching in the public schools, he also helps lead a men’s discipleship group and teaches with Liberty University in both their School of Education and the Online Academy. He enjoys spending time with his family, watching the Atlanta Braves and Georgia Bulldogs, and deer hunting.
Roseth, C., & Henion, A. (2017, March 21). Peers, more than teachers, inspire us to learn.
Retrieved January 31, 2020, from https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2017/peers-more-than-teachers-inspire-us-to-learn/