Video Interview: Peter Rastrelli

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:Today, I'm excited to share with you my interview with Dr. Peter Rastrelli. We spoke about executive functions, impacts of COVID-19 on student learning and routines, and the best ways to support students learning at home. I hope you enjoy our conversation. Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-04-30T16:45:12+00:00April 30, 2020|Academic Approach, Letter|Comments Off on Video Interview: Peter Rastrelli

Special Considerations with Executive Functions

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:Today, we focus on special considerations as we we continue this week’s theme of executive functions, a set of behavioral skills related to the work of planning and prioritizing that are essential for academic success. Once again, our colleagues at Psychoeducational Resource Services, Peter Rastrelli, Tonya Gall, and Josh Price, have contributed the following:Are there differences to expect based on ages, and if so, what should we be aware of?Absolutely. While these skills are always developing, those middle to high schoolers can be a bit harder to work with…that said, the younger students will probably need more 1:1 support, at least getting started. Break down tasks into manageable pieces and then let them work independently of the pieces. With the younger student, help initiate the task but then back off. This gives them space to grow and also teaches patience.While all students seem to enjoy connecting, it seems the older students are eager to see familiar faces. Encourage them to connect with the teachers or mentors. Even connecting with a peer can be motivational and productive.Find out what the teacher-student contact options are. Schools are making a significant effort to keep students and teachers connected. Try having your student create a list of questions they can ask at the same time rather than each time a question comes up. They may even figure out an answer before asking for help. But getting the question down is what’s key.What about students with special needs?It’s important to do what’s possible to maintain the progress that was being made. We know that students with special needs or IEPs are among the most vulnerable at this time.Find out if there were specific programs that were being used for reading, math, or whatever area, and what can be used at home. Continue to work collaboratively with your school team and private team if you happen to have one. Reach out to the professionals to monitor the student’s progress. Some of this can be done with video conferencing.Be extremely positive. When students apply a new strategy with success, point it out specifically (“I like the way…..”). A great question to ask is, “How exactly did you do this?" It allows you to better understand of where they are cognitively and helps them internalize their own strategy, which will create a greater likelihood of repeating the desired behavior(s).When a student asks for help, resist the urge to correct everything. Mistakes are part of the learning process. Remember students don’t turn in perfect work at school, and they should not as we acquiesce to this new e-learning setting.Tomorrow, we’ll post our video interview with Dr. Peter Rastrelli.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder &

By |2020-04-29T17:36:28+00:00April 29, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Special Considerations with Executive Functions

Specific Tools to Support Executive Functions

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues: Today, we continue this week’s focus on executive functions, a set of behavioral skills related to the work of planning and prioritizing that are essential for academic success. Our colleagues at Psychoeducational Resource Services, Peter Rastrelli, Tonya Gall, and Josh Price, have contributed the following suggestions on specific tools to use: 1) Some simple tool suggestions include: Whiteboards (small ones) are a must Countdown timers (they are on your phone, but you can buy physical ones too) Use checkboxes or lists to check off or cross out completed items Pencil-in breaks, and be sure to provide good activity choices for those breaks (not a video game that will take 40 minutes). A reasonable break should include some sort of physical activity and one that easily allows the students to transition back to the learning process.  2) The climate in your house is important to consider: Where do the students work? In what room is most effective? What materials will your students need in front of them to effectively carry out their work?  3) Schedule-making can be a learning process: For the students 3rd grade and up, create a schedule with your student that allows them to understand what it means, how to use, and when to take breaks. Then, work out what the break schedule looks like. Allow the students to see the whole picture and then help break down the day into baby steps. Keep in mind a narrative script you can use when your student comes to you to and asks for help. You don’t have to respond to their immediate needs. 4) Make problem-solving an open conversation: Helping a student problem-solve is part of strengthening executive functioning - the student goes from being told a strategy to working through the frustration process independently. Prepare students with questions they can ask themselves in order to find the solution (i.e., is it posted on the site, did I ask a friend first, etc.). If they need to contact the teacher, try to have the kids create that email themselves and involve them directly in the dialogue. This helps to also create good advocacy skills. Remind students that if teachers do not respond within a timely manner, that they, too, might be a parent or someone who is taking care of loved ones during this shelter in place time. Patience! These executive functioning strategies support all students in both mindsets and availability to learn, and echo many of the e-learning best practices we build into our instruction. Tomorrow’s letter will focus on special considerations re: executive functioning. Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-04-28T17:22:00+00:00April 28, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Specific Tools to Support Executive Functions

Executive Functions for Students

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues: This week, we’re focusing on the theme of executive functions, a set of behavioral skills related to the work of planning and prioritizing. These skills are essential for academic success, and may be especially important to develop as students break from their usual learning routines. Our letters today through Wednesday are drawn from conversations with our colleagues at Psychoeducational Resource Services (PRS). These letters will culminate Thursday with my interview Dr. Peter Rastrelli, a PRS founder. What are executive functions and why do they matter? Peter Rastrelli: Executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal: essentially, they relate to the Problem Solving Process. This might include our thinking or acting but can also involve our emotions. Tonya Gall: Executive functioning in simple terms is being able to pay attention long enough carry out or “execute” goal-directed behaviors. It taps our thoughts, behaviors and emotions. As adults, we’ve established these skills (and are still learning at times!), but for our kids, these skills will continue to develop over time, well into early adulthood. It can be a challenge if we don’t know where we fall along that continuum. It’s important to understand where our kids fall along this spectrum too. What are basic steps parents and educators can take to support executive functions of their students, now that school is taking place at home?Josh Price: Structure is key with a designated school space, routine, and resources all in one place. Have the student create a daily checklist of what needs to be accomplished for that day and then a section for projects or assignments that are more long term. Set up time frames for tasks and use a timer if needed. Build in times for movement and breaks. Even with older students they have movement when transitioning from one class to the next, so sitting for two hours straight can be hard to do especially when there is no social interaction taking place. Peter Rastrelli: Empower the child. Realize they know a ton about how things go at school. Use that knowledge! Give them agency in choosing and creating structure. Tomorrow’s letter will focus more on specific tools to help. In addition, I also wanted to share a reminder for educators--we are offering our free webinar this week on e-learning best practices. Head here to register. Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-04-27T16:33:39+00:00April 27, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Executive Functions for Students

What will the online testing experience be for students?

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:We first wanted to share with you some new testing information--College Board has scheduled the SAT national test date for September 26. We'll share more information as it becomes available. Next, we’ve heard many questions from you about the future of online testing, specifically regarding the student’s test-taking experience:Will the online testing experience be substantially different from paper testing? Will students be able to read and reason and problem solve with the same strategies they’ve developed for success on pencil and paper tests?Can they annotate, eliminate, highlight, use calculators, etc.? While the features of online testing are a moving target, we’ve gathered a snapshot of their current state of development for their practice tests and listed them below for you. Yes, it will be a new frontier—adjustment will be required—but it is promising that some online features allow students to apply some of the best-practice critical reading and critical reasoning strategies we know lead to test-taking success.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-04-23T15:34:10+00:00April 23, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on What will the online testing experience be for students?

The Question of At-Home Testing

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues: Your responses to this week’s SAT and ACT updates have focused heavily on questions around at-home testing. We’ve prepared the following FAQs. With information developing daily, we’ll be sure to update these continually: Why is this option being offered? Is it definitely happening? Ultimately, the College Board and ACT are responding to the demand for the tests and uncertainty about the ability to offer in-person testing sites in the fall. The test-at-home option ensures students will have an opportunity to test regardless of potential lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, or social distancing restrictions in the fall that may prevent traditional testing setups. ACT has been pretty definitive that this option WILL be available in late fall/early winter. The College Board has said they will roll out this option for the SAT only if schools do not return in the fall. In both cases, it may be available only regionally in areas where in-person tests cannot be safely administered. Will there be any changes to test content or construct? The GMAT, GRE, and SSAT have all stated that the content and construct will be identical to their in-person versions, so it's likely the SAT and ACT will as well. The only tests that have seen major changes to construct are the AP exams, which eliminated their multiple-choice portions and moved to a shorter, limited number of free-response questions. This seems unlikely for the ACT and SAT as it would be a major departure from existing and validated constructs. Will they be scored similarly to pencil-and-paper or in-person tests? Neither the College Board nor ACT has released much detail on scoring for at-home tests. However, both testing agencies have been offering digital tests to schools and districts for some time, and have done studies evaluating the comparability of computer-based and pencil-and-paper tests. Both of them found that students performed better on the computer-based reading sections with minimal differences in the other sections. As a result, they both use a policy of equating: adjusting the scale for the computer-based version of the test to account for these differences. This means students may need to get more questions right on the computer-based version of the test to get the same score as the print version in cases where equating is necessary. It's possible equating will also be required for the remote proctored version of these tests as well. Other tests, like the GMAT, GRE, and SSAT (used for graduate or high school admissions) have already gone remote online and have shared more details. The GMAT, for example, uses the same scoring algorithm as the test center-based version. We will update you on any decisions the ACT or College Board announce around scoring. How will the testing agencies prevent cheating? What will proctoring look like? One of the major concerns about at-home testing is making it truly fair and ensuring students don't have the opportunity to get assistance. While the College Board and ACT have not released information about how they [...]

By |2020-04-22T10:55:00+00:00April 22, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on The Question of At-Home Testing

ACT Testing & Timeline Updates

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:Yesterday, we shared the most current SAT updates, and today we focus on the ACT. It’s a rapid time of innovation, so we’ll likely have more updates soon, but these are the most relevant and current in terms of ACT testing and timeline:Summer Testing OptionsThe June and July ACT are still proceeding as scheduled at this point. ACT is offering makeup testing dates for the June and July tests—should test centers be unable to open on June 13 or July 18, a makeup test date will be offered a week later on June 20 and July 25, respectively. Students can also switch for free from the June to the July date, if they prefer.On-Campus TestingACT also offers on-campus testing at colleges, and they are emphasizing that this option will continue to be available to students this fall. This allows an individual college or university to administer and ACT test on campus. The score is reportable, but only to that specific college.In-Home Remote ProctoringACT plans to roll out this new option to take the ACT at home in late fall/early winter 2020. They've released little information about this option so far, but we expect to see more in the next few weeks.New Testing OptionsAs previously announced, ACT is still planning to offer individual section retesting, online testing at national test sites, and superscoring for students who retake the exam starting in September 2020.Please reach out if we can help you in any way.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-04-21T17:06:12+00:00April 21, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on ACT Testing & Timeline Updates

SAT Testing & Timeline Updates

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues: After attending a College Board session, we want to update you with current SAT information. We’ll focus on ACT updates tomorrow. For now, we hope you find this extensive list of relevant SAT updates useful. National Test Dates The June SAT was canceled. As a result, they are adding a September SAT. They're planning to increase the number of testing sites and testing site capacity to satisfy demand and ensure every student can register. These test sites will use the latest social distancing guidelines to ensure the health and safety of students and staff. You can see the full 2020 schedule in College Board's graphic below. Students will be able to register for fall test dates by the end of May. Registration will open a week early for the August, September, and October test dates for "high priority" groups: any student who was registered for the June test and any member of the class of 2021 who has not taken an official SAT. School Day Testing With all spring school day tests canceled as well, College Board is also adding a school day test date in September in addition to October. They will focus on enrolling schools supporting the 770,000 students that were scheduled to test in the spring through school day testing, but any school or district wishing to offer an in-school SAT can opt into one of these test dates. The October PSAT and PSAT-NMSQT are currently still scheduled for October per usual. See the graphic below from College Board with school day test date information. Digital SAT Options College Board has committed to making a digital, at-home SAT available to all students in the event schools do not return in the fall. They have said the test will be simple, secure, fair, and valid for use in college admissions. The test will involve remote proctoring and will build on their previous experience delivering standardized tests remotely. They will also have opportunities for low-income students to request support in meeting the technical requirements to test. SAT Subject Testing There are currently no plans to adjust administration of Subject Tests. They will be available in August, October, November, and December--the new September test date will be SAT only. You can see the schedule in College Board's graphic below. Please let us know what other questions you have. Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO National SAT Testing Dates School Day Testing Dates

By |2020-04-20T09:53:00+00:00April 20, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on SAT Testing & Timeline Updates

Some Important FAQs on Testing & Planning

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues: We’re receiving, as expected, an influx of questions around test cancellations, rescheduling protocols, and planning. I’ve summarized some of these conversations with families and schools into the list of FAQs below. I hope you find it useful. When should my juniors, who were planning on taking the SAT in April or June, plan to take the SAT now? The SAT will be offered monthly starting in August and continuing in September, October, November, December. The College Board is planning a state-wide SAT in IL for public school students in October. When should my juniors plan to take the ACT? The June and July ACT dates are still scheduled, with increased flexibility. Even if the June ACT is canceled, the July ACT is definitely still an option for now. Given the serious health risk that group gatherings present for our students, what will the ACT and SAT do to protect them? Both ACT and the College Board are developing plans for at-home testing as well as online testing, with proctoring protocols to account for validity of test scores. We’ll keep you posted on these developments. If the ACT and/or SAT go online, does that mean significant changes in test structure or content, like it did for the online versions of AP exams? From the early releases of online tests we’ve seen, the test construct and content remains stable. That said, the change to at-home testing will likely involve changes in the way tests are proctored. We'll keep you updated on any other changes that occur. Is there a chance my students won't be able to test at all on the ACT or SAT? No. With ACT and SAT both confirming at-home options, students will definitively be able to test in the fall! They are also increasing capacity for the late summer/fall testing dates to make sure there is room for everyone. I notice some colleges are going "test optional." What does that mean for my students? Test optional does NOT mean test blind. Test optional colleges and universities are not requiring SAT or ACT scores (in many cases, just for the class of 2021), but they will be considering them as part of the application package. SAT or ACT scores will still be an important way for students to demonstrate college readiness and competitiveness in the applicant field. This certainly presents increased flexibility for the class of 2021 applying to colleges. Given that students are testing on delayed timelines, what should they be focused on right now? Since the beginning of school closings, we’ve maintained the same position: we need to be mindful of supporting students’ social-emotional learning, and we need to be mindful of preventing academic learning loss. First, let’s make sure everyone is safe in order to learn, and that students have the emotional supports to learn. Then, let’s work against academic learning loss. It’s important to keep students practicing math at the right levels of rigor and reading critically at the right [...]

By |2020-04-16T09:44:00+00:00April 16, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Some Important FAQs on Testing & Planning

Important SAT Updates from the College Board

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues: College Board announced today that they are canceling the June SAT test date. Instead, they are adding a September test date, meaning this year's juniors will have an opportunity to take the SAT every month this fall from August through December. The actual September date has not yet been released. SAT Test Details Students registered for the June SAT and juniors who haven't yet had an opportunity to take the SAT will get access to early registration for the August, September, and October administrations. Registration for all others will open in May. In addition, schools that were scheduled to take the April SAT will be offered an additional test date in the fall. ACT Test Details Meanwhile, the June and July ACT test dates remain scheduled. ACT has indicated that they will be offering late summer/early fall dates to make up for April’s cancelation. If they cancel June or July, there will be an even greater need for these make-up dates. At-Home Testing Both ACT and the College Board have announced that should schools not re-open in the fall, they will offer an at-home testing option. We'll provide more information on these updates as they become available. Key Takeaway Students in the class of 2021 can best prepare for college entrance exams--and develop essential college readiness skills--by continuing their academic progress. The most important factor in building college readiness is continuous time spent on academic work at the right level of rigor. Despite current delays and pauses, let’s maintain academic progress and not lose sight of our collective goal: consistent academic growth. Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-04-15T09:23:00+00:00April 15, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Important SAT Updates from the College Board
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