Summer Learning and Tutoring

Summer Learning Happens So Fast Summer is nearly here and, as students get through their finals and AP tests, it can be hard to convince them that summer learning is an opportunity rather than a chore. Depending on the individual student’s strengths, goals, and timeline, summer tutoring can be optimal for ACT or SAT preparation. Test Dates to Target There are several dates remaining to take the ACT or SAT in 2018 for students to consider: These dates may be more or less valuable depending on your class year, as well as several other factors: The summer and early fall test dates can be terrific opportunities for rising juniors to wrap up their standardized test preparation before the winter holidays and the hectic schedule of junior year classes and extracurriculars. The remaining 2018 test dates are critical for rising seniors to lock in their test scores before sending in college applications. Students who have yet to take a test can utilize the summer for a comprehensive introduction/overview. Students who have official scores already, but who want to try for a bit more growth, can review material they’ve already covered previously for deeper understanding, as well as incorporate more advanced content and skills from their junior year studies.   A Focus on Math One of the factors to consider in designing a student’s summer test preparation plan is the student’s most recently completed classroom math level. The ACT and SAT both cover math content up to and including trigonometry. However, there are a limited number of questions that require this content knowledge, so students shoring up their foundational math skills can make terrific gains without covering the most challenging material on the tests. Summer tutoring can help a student to close any gaps in previous math knowledge, such as geometry, while connecting more advanced math skills to the student’s foundational skills. This leads not only to score growth, but also to deeper math learning that can be applied in the next school year’s math class and beyond. Building Comprehension Tutors and students can make great use of the summer months by building comprehension skills, which often take more time to develop. The deeper comprehension skills required for success on the reading and science passages can benefit from early intensive focus while math and grammar content knowledge are being refreshed and developed throughout the summer and subsequent school year. There are strong opportunities for growth available throughout the test preparation process before advanced algebra and trigonometry are addressed in students’ math classes. The ACT’s Science section and the SAT’s focus on historical documents are examples of areas that students should be thinking about early and often. Comprehension ability and individualized annotation techniques are tools that students can develop during their summer tutoring and then utilize in the fall (and beyond). The Advantages of Summer Tutoring Another consideration is your student’s school-year extracurricular commitments. Grades are critically important in the semesters before college applications are due, and the added stress of a big [...]

Incorporating and Adapting to Inquiry-Based Instruction

Researchers and educators have long emphasized the importance and value of engaging students in the authentic practices of the discipline they study (e.g. Edelson, 1998). Indeed, many argue that students cannot fully understand concepts without also participating in the practices through which these ideas are developed. In the classroom, this means engaging students in forms of inquiry that are similar to those that are used by literary scholars, historians, or scientists. In all subjects, this type of inquiry involves student-driven investigations of complex or “no known answer” problems. In science, inquiry-based learning more specifically includes hands-on investigations, analyzing scientific data in many forms, including texts and graphics, and creating models to understand and explain scientific phenomena. Although the specific practices vary by discipline, the goal of apprenticing students to develop authentic habits of mind and reasoning skills remains constant. Transitioning from Traditional Instruction Experts agree that there are benefits to infusing authentic disciplinary inquiry into instruction, though moving away from traditional instruction can be challenging for many teachers. Inquiry-based learning has been shown to support not only conceptual understanding (e.g. White & Frederickson, 1998), but also understanding the skills and practices of the discipline. It has also been shown to increase students’ interest and engagement (e.g. Welch, Klopfer, Aikenhead, & Robinson, 1981). Implementing inquiry-based learning in the classroom, however, comes with its own set of challenges. Productive inquiry-based learning is often complex, messy, and boisterous. Inquiry classrooms can initially seem less under control from a classroom management standpoint, with students loudly but productively collaborating. Teachers also commonly struggle with the balance between letting students independently engage in inquiry and ensuring they make the right connections. For many teachers, this work necessitates a shift in instructional practice as well as classroom management strategies. To facilitate this transition, teachers need opportunities to learn about and practice new forms of instruction in low stakes settings, such as professional development, before trying them out in classrooms. The Role of Professional Development Professional development that builds expertise and, in particular, self-efficacy with new instructional practices is the most valuable. In fact, research suggests that teachers’ sense of personal self-efficacy—the degree to which they believe that they can impact student learning—strongly influenced their attitudes toward implementing new instructional practices (Guskey, 1998). Teachers with a greater sense of self-efficacy thought that new practices were more congruent with their current practices and, more importantly, less difficult to implement. High self-efficacy teachers also rated new instructional practices as more important than teachers with low self-efficacy. This work suggests that building teachers’ self-efficacy, through professional development and other forms of support, is critical to success with innovative instruction. Academic Approach offers professional development and instructional tools that support teachers in learning how to incorporate cutting-edge instructional practices, such as disciplinary inquiry. Our SAT Curriculum Toolkit includes curricular materials that engage students in skills and practices that align with disciplinary inquiry and reflect the types of reasoning that students will engage with on the SAT. The toolkit also includes professional development [...]

SAT Scores: What Teachers Can Do After Test Day

In Illinois, Michigan, and across the country, students and educators had been preparing for months to get ready for one day: April 10, the SAT school day administration. With so much energy and motivation cresting around test day, educators may be wondering, “What next?” Here are some other questions to consider as the school year winds down. How can we make the most of the SAT score release? Students will no doubt be anxiously awaiting their scores, which are expected to release in mid-May. As educators, consider how you can build context for your students as they anticipate their scores. If students took the PSAT/NMSQT in October, they may be interested to know that expected growth from the 11th grade PSAT to the SAT is 40 points on the composite, or 20 points on each subject score. The College Readiness Benchmarks are 480 in Evidence-based Reading and Writing and 530 in Math, and the on-track scores for the 11th grade PSAT are 460 and 510. Each college and university also reports the SAT score range of their middle 50% of admitted students. Knowing the ranges for schools like University of Illinois – Chicago (1080-1340 for the middle 50%), Michigan State University (1070-1350), Northwestern University (1480-1580), and University of Notre Dame (1410-1550) can help students build their wish lists as they prepare to apply senior year. Consider how you can use this data to announce your school-wide performance. As you analyze results, you may find encouraging statistics: Did you grow the average student’s SAT score by a greater amount than expected gains? Increase the number of students meeting or exceeding the college readiness benchmark? Improve the percent of students earning scores that allow them to access competitive colleges or scholarships? Building your understanding of the SAT scores and growth norms now can help you contextualize your school’s results compellingly when the scores are released to your students and to your community.   What if students are not happy with their SAT scores? While junior spring test dates are popular for students and often tied to accountability metrics for schools, thousands of seniors and rising seniors test each year. The class of 2019, who just tested as juniors, will have the opportunity to retest if desired on August 25 or October 6. Students who are considering a senior retest should also consider their test preparation plan. Multiple tests alone do not increase SAT scores; students should plan to practice and hone their skills over the summer to get ready for test day. Student score reports include a plethora of information that can guide this preparation. For example, students receive subscores in three math domains – Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math. These subscores can help students prioritize the skills that they should practice and review before test day. Educators can consider how to use this data to help students build individualized study and preparation plans that give students the best chance of increasing scores on [...]

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