Math in Mind

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues: After spending more and more time tutoring my own children in math—and talking to my students about maintaining their math progress—I have math in mind. Math Facts New research and projections show us the potential for learning loss in this time frame is significant--especially in math, where students may lose more than half the content they'd learned in the previous year. While our first priority is to support students’ physical and emotional needs, we need to provide the time and space to more effectively learn while at home this spring and summer. Soon, we will be offering new math enrichment modules from our expert instructors to support our students in retaining their math skills and better preparing to return to school in the fall. We're also offering free webinars and curriculum materials to schools on the e-learning best practices we've developed so that they can support their instructors in developing effective lessons. Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-04-14T09:37:00+00:00April 14, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Math in Mind

Growth Mindset, Covid Mindset

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues: I remember serving on District 39’s Community Review Committee (CRC) in 2014-5 when we developed a report on Cultivating Growth-Minded, Resilient Students. It was a great process, affording us the opportunity to gather research, survey parents, and interview experts. Among the many valuable recommendations was a campaign to educate students about growth-minded thinking throughout our schools. The 10 Growth Mindset Statements below made its way home and has since never left my children’s bulletin boards. Below that visual I’ve included another--“Who do I want to be during Covid-19?” I find it helpful in reflecting on what our children are currently experiencing through a “fixed mindset” vs. “growth mindset” lens. This visual will be added to bulletin boards today! I hope you find it useful. Growth Mindset Covid Mindset Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-04-13T09:29:00+00:00April 13, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Growth Mindset, Covid Mindset

Key Learnings from School Leaders

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:We've been inspired by the resilience and adaptability of our colleagues in education. Today, I want to share—among so many—the great insights on distance learning from two of our colleagues at The Glenbard Schools and Loyola Academy. Leaders at these schools, like many of their colleagues, are displaying great sensitivity to the experience and mindsets of their teachers, families, and students in order to maintain continuous academic progress.What's working well? What lessons have you learned from the transition?Principal Charlie Heintz: I am so proud of how our teachers pivoted and how our students responded to the new platform. It has been uplifting to see it in action. What I've learned is that students want to be with their peers. They like the online connection, and they also take their studies seriously. Finding the balance between maintaining personal connection and advancing course objectives is key. We implemented a day of "virtual office hours" where teachers were available to answer student questions. Without face-to-face contact, it’s important that we adopt a pace that allows all students to remain current with the material.Assistant Director Patrick McGill: Throughout this time I have been reminded that we have some of the best teachers in the world teaching at Glenbard. Their dedication and commitment to supporting their students and helping them learn during this time is inspirational. I am also so grateful to work with such a talented administrative staff at each of our schools who have worked tirelessly to support our students and teachers during this time. Without their hard work and talent, we would not be having the success we see today.What are you still working on improving, and what additional resources do you need?Principal Heintz: We initially believed that e-learning was for two weeks; we now know it is much longer. In our planning, we need to shift from a sprinter’s stride to a marathoner’s. We need to find the balance and recognize that “doing school” from home has challenges for our teachers and our students. Our teachers are also home schooling their own children, and many of our students are caring for their siblings.Assistant Director McGill: As in anything, we continue to find new challenges to overcome during this E-Learning period. We are fortunate to have the talent within our district to make these problems seem relatively small. However, one thing that continues to be on my mind is working to ensure our students are learning the essential skills in their classes to prepare them for their future. At some point this will all be over, and we want to ensure that our students are prepared to hit the ground running. There is much to be gained from learning how effective leaders cultivate academic mindsets in their communities—as well as display empathy for the experiences of their teachers and families. We believe their great work is transitive—from school leader to teacher to parent to student to our collective, ultimate goal: continuous academic progress.Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., [...]

By |2020-04-09T18:04:31+00:00April 9, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Key Learnings from School Leaders

Academic Mindsets

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:This week, we’ve discussed the role of social-emotional learning (SEL) in our academic programming: that it is critical for a student's mental health and that we have seen evidence that it is leading to better academic outcomes. Academic MindsetsHow, exactly, do students take their social-emotional skills and use them to promote their academic progress? The development of academic mindsets in students is key. These mindsets refer to students' beliefs about their own abilities in the academic world. Research showed that strong academic mindsets were linked closely with other SEL factors, including social skills, academic perseverance, and learning strategies. These factors then had a significant impact on students' GPAs. The research showed that stronger academic mindsets--that is, stronger beliefs in a student's own ability to learn and grow--led, concretely, to better academic growth.How do we help?We work with our students to ensure that we're not only teaching skills but also teaching students how to learn and how to believe in their own ability to learn. We'd recommend this resource for parents and this resource for educators from the Project for Education Research that Scales (PERTS) on developing mindsets in students, which we've seen have powerful impact in the classroom.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-04-08T17:56:35+00:00April 8, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Academic Mindsets

AP Exam Updates & Academic Preparation

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:The shift to at-home learning has brought many unexpected challenges and changes. College Board released substantial details late last week on the implementation of AP tests including the schedule for testing and more details about the structure of the tests themselves. We're diving into how academic preparation and social-emotional learning may relate to these testing updates.What are the major changes?Most AP exams will be given in timed testing sessions lasting 45 minutes (plus an additional 5 minutes for students to upload their responses). Students may choose to upload typed or handwritten responses to each question (most tests will include two), and students will get access to the testing system 30 minutes prior to the test to get set up. Unlike past AP tests, these tests will be open-book and open-note. They will be less focused on memorization or easily searchable content and instead focused on critical thinking and analysis tasks.AP teachers will actually get access to students' responses shortly after the testing window (by May 26) so they can see how their students performed. Teachers may also elect to use these exams for additional graded material in the classes. Allowing teachers to view student responses is also among many new security measures in place to prevent cheating.How can students prepare academically?We're working with our students to ensure they have not only a deep understanding of the content but also the critical thinking skills to be successful in this new format. Much of our curriculum for test preparation incorporates close reading, citing evidence, critical thinking, and drawing logical and relevant conclusions--all skills that will be essential for students to successfully complete these exams and be prepared for college level curriculum. In the absence or adjustment of grades for spring of junior year, these AP scores may be even more important in demonstrating student learning from this school year.How does social-emotional learning relate?Students will face many unexpected challenges in this new testing format--an unexpected environment, very tightly timed reading and writing tasks, higher-level thinking tasks, and limited opportunities to demonstrate knowledge. The self-awareness, self-management, and decision-making skills developed through strong social-emotional learning programming will be essential to student success on these tasks. Students preparing for these exams need not only to review the content--they also need to prepare for the rigors of the task and test itself. We're working with students to ensure they're prepared for all aspects of these assessments.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-04-07T17:51:24+00:00April 7, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on AP Exam Updates & Academic Preparation

What Does Attendance Mean?

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:What does it mean to "attend" school under a stay-at-home order? As a parent, for me, it has come to mean that I must sign my students in every morning in response to an attendance email from their schools. In addition, my students must submit certain assignments by the end of the day.But if we think of attendance not only as physical presence but also as engaged learning, then it becomes harder to assess. To attend school now in an engaged, motivated way does rest more heavily than ever on the student—and the student’s social-emotional learning skills.Social-emotional learning (SEL) programming in schools has been proven to improve social, learning, and mindset skills in students (Durlak, et al. 2011)—but can SEL programming help students academically while they are learning from home and support their intrinsic motivation? We believe so. SEL has two broad goals:SEL improves students’ skills in areas of self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship management, and responsible decision-making (Elias, et al. 2008).SEL fosters the ongoing development of those skills through the creation and maintenance of a safe, caring learning environment in the classroom and school.It's clear that these two goals are valuable on their own; students with these skills and environments are more successful in many ways. Importantly, though, development of these social-emotional skills can also create more engaged learners. The University of Chicago Consortium for School Research hypothesized that certain SEL factors efficiently contribute to key academic behaviors: attendance in class, doing homework, organizing materials, participating and studying for class, and other engagement in instructional activities (Farrington, et al. 2012). Students with stronger SEL skills, thus, are more likely to be "attending" school in an engaged manner while learning from home.We’ll be focused on sharing SEL engagement strategies with parents and educators this week.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-04-06T19:27:10+00:00April 6, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on What Does Attendance Mean?

We Heard You: Our E-Learning Resources

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:It's been wonderful hearing from so many of you over the past couple of weeks. We’ve been listening and have worked as a team to develop a library of brand new college-readiness and test preparation resources. We are now making this e-learning resource page available to you On this page, you'll find:E-Learning resources for educators and families on best practicesPresentations for families on choosing between the ACT and SATWorkshops for students preparing the ACT and SATSAT toolkits for teachers preparing their studentsFAQs, updates, and other helpful linksWe hope you find these resources useful in helping your families, colleagues, and students maintain academic progress while schools remain closed. Please reach out if we can support you in any additional ways.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO Explore Our Resources

By |2020-04-03T17:10:57+00:00April 3, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on We Heard You: Our E-Learning Resources

A Proactive Approach to E-Learning

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:I’m proud today to share some inspiring insights from Principal Charlie Heintz of Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL. Like many, he, his faculty, and their students and families have rapidly transitioned to e-learning, and his insights reveal a thoughtful, rational, and proactive approach. Adjusting to e-learning as effectively as possible is key for students to continue essential academic progress. Today, I'm sharing his thoughts about expectations for students and teachers. Next week, we'll follow up with more from him and other school leaders about early successes and lessons from these transitions.--------------------------------------What are the primary goals or objectives you have for students and teachers while schools are not in session?Our primary objective is to continue teaching and learning. The e-learning format presents many challenges. I have asked our teachers to balance content with connection. It’s important to remember that school is social, and students need a community to support them during these times.What are your expectations for teachers?Many of our teaching expectations haven’t changed. Teachers are being asked to follow the same learning targets and curricular outcomes of their courses. That said, we have amended our bell schedule, so teachers do not nearly have the same amount of time to cover material. We are asking teachers and department chairs to re-calibrate the content so it covers the most essential learnings of the course.What structures or routines are you providing for students? How are you communicating with them?We kept our usual schedule (six day, rotating cycle) but reduced the minutes in class period from 55 minutes to 30 minutes. Each e-learning day has six periods with ten minutes between periods. An e-learning school day runs from 10am to 2pm.Keeping the daily bell schedule has been well received. It provides students with a familiar rhythm. Additionally, we send out a morning message at 6am with announcements for the day and an afternoon message with our daily prayer. Our Student Activities Office provides contests and online events for continued engagement. Submissions and winners are posted on Instagram.Charlie HeintzPrincipal, Loyola AcademyP: well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-04-02T17:16:52+00:00April 2, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on A Proactive Approach to E-Learning

Continuity in Education

What We Know: Summer Learning Loss Each fall, students return to their schools fresh off summer experiences and ready to learn. Teachers welcome the opportunity to build on the previous year’s achievements. Analysis has shown, however, that students often show up in the fall behind where they left off in June. Over the summer, students lose as much as 25% of the previous school year’s learning, and the typical loss is equivalent to approximately one month of school. What’s more, this loss is even more extreme for lower-income students, who typically have access to fewer resources for learning during the summer. New research suggests this effect will likely be amplified by the early end of the school year this year (called the “COVID slide”), with students arriving in the fall with only 70% of their typical reading gains and less than 50% of their typical math learning gains. Even as new online learning options are rolled out, with students unexpectedly out of school—possibly through the remainder of the school year—many schools and families may be concerned about the increased loss of learning through this spring and summer. Current Concerns and the Challenge Ahead With little to no time to prepare, many schools are working to get effective, engaging content in front of students as quickly as possible. Without much preexisting infrastructure for online learning, the challenges inherent in this quick adjustment have been pronounced. Even as students begin to engage in tasks and work provided by schools, educators at the school, district, and state level have acknowledged that the experience isn’t the same as what students would have encountered in school. End of year assessments have been cancelled, and AP exams have been adjusted to only include content that had been taught through the end of February. With a typical summer leading to about a month of lost learning, the potential of three additional months out of school could lead to two months of lost learning—or more. It’s undeniable that students will leave this school year with a vastly different educational experience than they have in the past—and teachers are already concerned about how to address those learning gaps in the fall, when they will inherit a cohort of students who have not, in many ways, fully completed the grade before. What Students and Families Can Do Successful efforts to reduce summer learning loss provide a helpful roadmap for the academic challenges teachers and students are currently encountering. Research has shown that academic engagement over the summer effectively reduces summer learning loss. Analysis showed that summer reading and math programming raised test scores and reduced the learning loss students experienced over the summer. This research showed that programs were most effective when incorporating high-quality instructional strategies, and when students spent more time on task, and when students were engaged consistently throughout the summer. The same is likely true for the current time frame: with excellent instruction and engagement, students can stay academically on track even while out of school. What [...]

By |2020-04-01T18:39:00+00:00April 1, 2020|Academic Approach, Covid-19 Resources|Comments Off on Continuity in Education

Making the Best of a Disrupted School Year

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:We are happy to share with you some words of wisdom from a great colleague of ours, Dr. Lionel Allen. We started working with Dr. Allen almost a decade ago at Urban Prep Academies as we helped build out their 9th-11th grade ACT student assessment program and a professional development program for their faculty. Dr. Allen has ever since remained a colleague and a friend; he currently provides coaching to school leaders seeking to develop the impact of their schools on student achievement and college readiness:-----------------------------------------------With closures extended in Illinois and New York, it is quite possible that students will not return to brick and mortar schools this year. This means that much of the responsibility for maintaining academic progress this school year will fall on parents and families. Undoubtedly, many of you have established tight routines while other families are still searching for a rhythm. Regardless of your circumstances, please consider the following:Be grateful. Despite the stress and uncertainty, we all have something to be thankful for (our health, our support networks, provisions, etc.). Expressing gratitude at this moment can help ward off negativity and give us the strength to charge forward as we journey through uncharted territory.Establish a routine that works for you. Social media is abuzz with COVID-19 daily schedules. While these can be great resources for families, they may not work for you and your family. You may need to start your day later, shorten learning times, or incorporate more frequent breaks. What works for some families may not work for others, and that is OK.Set realistic expectations. This is not the time to be laser-like focused on outcomes. Do the best you can to follow the remote learning plans offered by your district, but give yourself permission to struggle and even fail. We are all adjusting to this new normal. Even if you are a trained educator, teaching your own children is a daunting task (this is why teachers send their children to school). Do not put undue pressure on yourself.Dr. Lionel Allen, Jr.Founder, ed Leaders MatterP: 312-860-9324E: Lionel@edLeadersMatter.comT: well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-04-01T17:19:22+00:00April 1, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Making the Best of a Disrupted School Year
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