• In the past, teachers could select a different start or end date for assignments within a group assignment on USATestprep.
    • We are simplifying the Group Assignment interface:
      • Teachers will select one start date and one end date for the entire group.
      • The date picker tool is more user-friendly with a prettier calendar (updated for single assignments too).
      • We added a message next to the end date to remind reachers that assignments are available to students for 2 months afterwards.
    • If teachers prefer the old system of multiple assignment due dates, they can create multiple single assignments or break up group assignments into smaller chunks.
    • What’s the benefit?
      This change saves time when creating a group assignment and simplifies the interface quite a bit (no more date columns).  Also, the date picker calendar is more user-friendly.
    • What about existing group assignments?
      Nothing will be changed.  The exception is if a teacher adjusts the dates via the Settings modal (they will need to select one start date and one end date for everything), or if they click the Edit button to make changes to their assignment, they’ll have to select one start date and one end date for everything.
    • Existing group assignments will not be affected unless teachers: 
      • Edit the start or end date.
      • Add an additional assignment to the group.

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1) Click on the “Classes” tab. Then, click the “Create New Class” link.

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2) Give your class a name. Then, select the test(s) that will be used by this class and click “Continue.”

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3) Now you can add students to your class. As you find the students you are looking for, you can add them by clicking the “+Add” link to the left of their names. Student names will appear on the left side as they are added. Click “Save and Manage Class” when finished.

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4) Successful class creation will take you to the page seen below. Here you can click “Edit Class” to make adjustments, click “Password Cards” to print login information cards for each student, or click “Lock Game Arcade” to prevent students from playing games.

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Need more help creating your class? Be sure to watch this video.

1) To change your account information, email preferences, or avatar, click “Edit Account.” Click “Account Information” to view activation codes, usage data, renewal dates, and account contacts.

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2) Click on “Webinars” to access a wealth of training and expert insights on using USATestprep. Both pre-recorded and live sessions are available.

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3) To access standards-aligned resources by content area and grade level, mouse over the top navigation. Click on the content area you wish to use. You will see a wide variety of online and printable resources, as well as projector games.

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4) Click the respective tabs to create a class, benchmark, or assignment. Future emails will provide in-depth directions on using these sections of the website.

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5) To access help resources, additional training information, and FAQs, click the “Need Help?” link. You may also contact USATestprep directly by clicking the “Feedback & Contact” button at the bottom of any page.

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We’re beginning 2017 with a great enhancement: group assignments STAY TOGETHER in Graded Work.  No longer do you have to use your FBI skills to find the first set of practice questions that a student completed for a 30-assignment group.  

Other updates to Graded Work include:

  • new Completed column to show date completed and elapsed time
  • Filters to view all results, assignments only, or independent practice only
  • Group assignments can be expanded
    • Only completed assignments will appear
    • In the screenshot, for example, the student has completed 3 out of 12
  • Due dates appear in pink if the assignment was completed late
  • Elementary level students have a slightly different view since the Teacher/Class column was never implemented for elementary — that will be added soon

With our national science scores remaining below those of many other countries, US states continue to look for ways to change the way we teach science. The newest set of science standards is the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and the number of states adopting the NGSS standards or a version of them, is growing.  Let’s look at the history and the future of the NGSS.

What are the NGSS?

The NGSS are a set of standards that cover every grade level and every scientific discipline.  According to their developers, these are standards that go beyond a specific discipline and attempt to integrate all disciplines to the real-world.  The focus is on a 3-Dimensional Model, which includes Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs), Scientific and Engineering Practices (SEPs), and Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs).  The goal is for students to understand that science is more than just memorizing facts, and that science should be interwoven where it fits into the world.

How were the NGSS developed?

The idea of uniform science standards is not new.  The National Research Council (NRC) was created over a century ago to focus on the use of scientific research in American industries. ngss_logo_tag-300x137
Project 2061, created by Advancing Science, Serving Society (ASSS) in 1985, helped to define scientific literacy through its publication, Science for All Americans. In 1996, the NRC published National Science Education Standards, which were designed to enable the nation to achieve the goal of scientific literacy. In 2010, the NRC began the process of creating guidelines to change the way we teach science. A Framework for K-12 Science Education, released in 2011, provided the foundation to help develop standards that address what K-12 science students should know.  This was the beginning of the NGSS. In the fall of 2011, 26 states with an 18-member panel of experts appointed by the NRCBlog Articles worked together to write the new standards.  The final draft of the NGSS was released in April 2013, and Rhode Island was the first to adopt them in May 2013.  This was separate from the development of the Common Core standards released in 2010, although the NGSS team worked with the Common Core writers to help with literacy connections.

The future of the NGSS?

As of February 2016, 17 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards, while over 40 states have shown interest in them. With pressure to improve science scores and science education in the United States, many states see the NGSS as a way to bring about that change.  At this point, the future of the NGSS remains to be seen.  The NGSS are meant to serve as a guideline, and the decision to follow all or parts of that guideline is ultimately up to each individual state, but there must also be buy-in from the local and classroom levels.

Why should my state look at adopting the NGSS?

Some of the advantages of the NGSS standards are:

  • Previous national standards are out-of-date
  • Emphasis on how to use science in the real world
  • Helps prepare students for STEM-related careers
  • Helps students to solve problems as opposed to only learning facts
  • States can save money by not having to develop their own standards
  • Links the different science disciplines together

What are some of the cons of the NGSS?

There are also potential drawbacks to adopting the new standards.  Some questions are:

  • Will adequate teacher training be available?
  • Are the standards too specific, and do they remove some of the creativity from teachers and students?
  • What is the cost to implement the new standards?
  • Will elected officials, students, teachers, and parents buy into the idea of uniform standards across state lines?

The NGSS are backed by research, and they were developed by both scientists and educators.  As with any new development in education, many states are waiting to see how other states fare with the new standards.  Only time will tell if NGSS are the answer to improving science education in the United States.

About the Author
A former science teacher in Georgia, Dr Michael Tolmich is now USATestprep’s Science Content Team Leader. He lives with his wife and their two sons in Tucker, GA.

Here are some recent enhancements to your USATestprep account:

    • Assignment setting terminology of “retest” missed items to “retry” missed items.
    • Benchmark answer key printing available in Spanish (questions only, not performance tasks or free responses). usatestprep-inc-online-state-specific-review-and-benchmark-testing-1-1
    • Teacher chart when comparing two benchmarks — each benchmark is now represented per teacher.
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Reading a history textbook is a lot like being at the end of a line of players in the old game, “telephone,” in which a message is passed along in whispers from one person to the next. By the time it gets to the end of the line, the message has often changed quite a bit, and is often shorter and less detailed than it was at first — if it is not hilariously wrong!

By the time an event is narrated in a textbook, it has likely passed through many hands and tellings: The textbook author has herself read it in an article, whose author, in turn, read it in a historical anthology (such as one of the Cambridge “companion” volumes). The authors of the anthology, in turn, may have read an account of the event in a famous monograph written by an eminent historian of the last century, and so forth. But what was the original “message” in this game of telephone? What did the first narration of the event sound like?

Take the story of Julius Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon: He knew, both as a matter of tradition and according to Senate declarations, that to cross the Rubicon into Italy with his army amounted to a declaration of war and an act of treason against Rome. His decision to cross the the river in 49 BC led to a war and to developments in his life which have had incalculably many consequences for all subsequent history. Even the phrase, “to cross the Rubicon,” has become a proverbial way to express the idea of taking an action which cannot be reversed.

So what was that first Rubicon-crossing like? Thanks to the internet, we can easily get close to the original telling of this story.

When it comes to the history of ancient Greece and Rome, there is no better resource for those of us who are not Classics scholars than the Loeb Classical Library. The LCL is a collection of over 500 volumes of the most essential surviving literature of the ancient world, presented in the original Greek and Latin with facing-page English versions.

The Loeb project began in 1911, so many of the translations are now in the public domain. These have been gathered into a digital library of PDFs called Loebolus (or “little Loeb”), which can be downloaded either individually or complete in one file. There are also more browser-friendly versions of many of these available on LacusCurtius and at the Perseus Digital Library.

The LCL includes three volumes containing five of Caesar’s own historical works but, alas, in none of them does he offer his own account of the Rubicon moment. But Plutarch and Suetonius, two authors who wrote less than a century after the event, offer us very compelling accounts from much farther up the “telephone” line than our textbooks!

Plutarch (in his Life of Caesar) tells us:

He [Caesar] himself spent the day in public, attending and watching the exercises of gladiators; but a little before evening he bathed and dressed and went into the banqueting hall. Here he held brief converse with those who had been invited to supper, and just as it was getting dark and went away, after addressing courteously most of his guests and bidding them await his return. To a few of his friends, however, he had previously given directions to follow him, not all by the same route, but some by one way and some by another. He himself mounted one of his hired carts and drove at first along another road, then turned towards Ariminum. When he came to the river which separates Cisalpine Gaul from the rest of Italy (it is called the Rubicon), and began to reflect, now that he drew nearer to the fearful step and was agitated by the magnitude of his ventures, he checked his speed. Then, halting in his course, he communed with himself a long time in silence as his resolution wavered back and forth, and his purpose then suffered change after change. For a long time, too, he discussed his perplexities with his friends who were present, among whom was Asinius Pollio, estimating the great evils for all mankind which would follow their passage of the river, and the wide fame of it which they would leave to posterity. But finally, with a sort of passion, as if abandoning calculation and casting himself upon the future, and uttering the phrase with which men usually prelude their plunge into desperate and daring fortunes, “Let the die be cast,” he hastened to cross the river; and going at full speed now for the rest of the time, before daybreak he dashed into Ariminum and took possession of it. It is said, moreover, that on the night before he crossed the river he had an unnatural dream; he thought, namely, that he was having incestuous intercourse with his own mother.

Suetonius gives his account in his Lives of the Twelve Caesars:

Then, overtaking his cohorts at the river Rubicon, which was the boundary of his province, he paused for a while, and realizing what a step he was taking, he turned to those about him and said: “Even yet we may draw back; but once cross yon little bridge, and the whole issue is with the sword.”

As he stood in doubt, this sign was given him. On a sudden there appeared hard by a being of wondrous stature and beauty, who sat and played upon a reed; and when not only the shepherds flocked to hear him, but many of the soldiers left their posts, and among them some of the trumpeters, the apparition snatched a trumpet from one of them, rushed to the river, and sounding the war-note with mighty blast, strode to the opposite bank. Then Caesar cried: “Take we the course which the signs of the gods and the false dealing of our foes point out. The die is cast,” said he.

Accordingly, crossing with his army, and welcoming the tribunes of the commons, who had come to him after being driven from Rome, he harangued the soldiers with tears, and rending his robe from his breast besought their faithful service.

It should be clear that using the internet to “go up the telephone line” and to get closer to the sources of history is a great way to make the events and stories more lively and easier to relate to, as opposed to waiting for the messages to get all the way down to the textbooks we use in the classroom.

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.

Well, it’s about that time again: more tests, more stress. Students and educators around the nation are concerned with their SAT and ACT test scores. Most of their efforts are focused on increasing their scores based on their academic efforts. What if there were a quick and easy way to ensure you’re maximizing the results of your students’ hard work and study? Though we can neither prevent the tests nor keep students from fretting over them, we can attempt to reduce some of the stress the tests induce. What follows is some advice we’ve given to our own students, and have attempted to heed in our own lives. Feel free to pass this on down the line.

1. Don’t Cram
Just hearing the word “cram” conjures painful images that can be counter-productive. Instead, encourage students to review plenty in the days and weeks before the test. Of course, even the most-urged advice may not find purchase with your flock. We can try, though.

2. Get Moving
Students need to blow off some steam during testing time, so they should get some exercise. Not only is this good for their bodies, but studies show that it can help jog their memory too (pun intended).

3. Water, Please
Hydrate in the days leading up to testing, not just the day of or the day before.

4. No Jitters
Just like teachers, many students have massive infusions of caffeine each day. But they should avoid having too much of it on test day. Having the caffeine jitters can distract their focus and lead to a poorer performance than they normally would experience. Speaking of which…

5. First Door on the Left
Be sure to remind them to hit the bathroom before the test. ‘Nuff said.

6. Dress in Layers
Ok, not the MOST important tip, but it often seems that testing sites might double as meat lockers.  If students have a sweater to put on- or a t-shirt to pare down should it actually be warm- they can help regulate their body temperature and focus more on the test.

7. What’s the Point?
Be sure they bring plenty of writing implements. Two sharpened pencils and two pens? That should do, but have a few others just to be safe. After all, minds aren’t the only things that get dull or dry up over the course of a test.

This great infographic shows a few more non-academic ways to make the most out of testing day. The first couple are fairly obvious, get sleep and eat well. The rest of them, not so much. They include body language, inner dialog, gum, and others.

Groza Learning Center Shares 8 Hacks to Improve SAT and ACT Test Scores

Clearly, there are more tips, but applying these can help calm more pre-test nerves (for both of you). Read more at the Groza Learning Center.

kirbyAbout the Author
Kirby Spivey taught AP World History, US History, and many other Social Studies courses in Georgia. He and his wife live in Atlanta, GA. Both he and his wife still have nightmares about being unprepared for final exams.

The College Board’s Advanced Placement programs have long been a staple of American high schools. For some students, the prestige of having an AP class on one’s resume draws them to the demanding courses, while parents may entrain visions of massive tuition savings once college hits. But dollars and status aside, the courses require students — and teachers — to strive to keep up with the rigors of the curriculum.

That curriculum, though, has garnered much attention in recent years. Updates take place regularly, of course, but rarely do they solicit any sort of notice outside of the teachers who have to revamp their plans every decade or so. No doubt you remember this was not the case in 2014 when the AP US History test experienced an overhaul. Critics, both in academia and in the general public, blasted the new standards for downplaying American exceptionalism and for emphasizing concepts over facts. Bowing to the pressure, the College Board quickly released a re-revamped curriculum in August of 2015. Since then, national media has resumed its “radio silence” of nearly all things AP.

Teachers, of course, understand that changes (likely less controversial) are always afoot. The 2016-17 school year saw major changes to Calculus AB, Calculus BC, and World History courses. The Calculus changes, according to some, were more tweaks than fundamental changes. World History, however, saw a massive reorganization of both the curriculum and the exam. Unlike APUSH’s first revision, the APWH curriculum changes were not only less (or “non-“) controversial but rich with details and specifics. Its testing format also emphasizes both facts and historical thinking skills. The efficacy of these course changes will only be known once the exams are graded and tabulated in July.

So what’s on tap for the 2017-18 school year? According to the College Board’s “Advances in AP” website, nothing new — something that, from personal experience, is welcomed news to AP teachers around the globe. The next major overhaul looks to be U.S. Government in Politics in 2018-19, the first in a decade. These changes promise a “deeper conceptual understanding of political processes” rather than a memorization of facts and specific Court cases. Students will be expected to interpret data and draw conclusions from those sources. In general, the expectations mirror many of those in the revised US History and World History courses. And as with those previous courses, teachers of this AP course will be expected to submit a revised course syllabus for an audit review. But again: this will not go into effect until the 2018-19 school year.

For AP U.S. Government teachers: you may want to get to work. For everyone else: we can hear your sigh of relief from here.

About the Author

Kirby Spivey taught AP World History, US History, and many other Social Studies courses in Georgia. He and his wife live in Atlanta

Tips:

  • How can I view the answer key for a test?
    • This depends:
    • If a benchmark, go to the Benchmarks tab —> Options menu —> Answer Key
      • The answers will be bolded
      • Explanations for all answers are also available
    • If a practice test (small, medium, large, full, or domain test), then those tests are randomly-generated for every student —> NO answer key
    • If a teacher asks how to see the questions the students have, explain that since practice tests, practice questions, and vocabulary are all randomly-generated, there’s no way to preview the exact questions
      • A teacher can certainly go to the Options menu —> Preview to see what the assignment will be like, but the questions will vary each time
      • If a teacher wants the ability to see the exact questions that students will have, then direct him/her to creating a benchmark

New Features:

  • Not exactly a feature, but we’ve added some copy on the login page to help with auto-fill issues

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  • Coming later this month… …Test Drive, a new racing game in your Game Arcade!usatestprep-ambassadors-1
  • “Assignment Submitted” message: 
    • There’s nothing to prevent students from opening a test or benchmark in two different tabs or browsers.  Before this change, students could submit the test in each tab (even if the assignment only allowed 1 attempt), thereby creating confusion and frustration for teachers.  
      • Why do students have multiple results for this benchmark?  
      • Why is the benchmark result in a different column in my gradebook? 
      • How did the benchmark become disconnected from the assignment?  
    • Students can still open and save a test in multiple tabs/ browsers.  BUT, there’s now a check in place upon submitting.  If the test or benchmark has already been submitted and met the number of attempts allowed by the teacher, then they receive the message “Assignment Submitted”