ACT Cancellations & Next Steps

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues: Unsurprisingly—but inexcusably late—ACT canceled about 2/3rds of their national testing sites for the June 13th test. There are 20 sites listed in Illinois that are still available (of 129), but this is a moving target. We’ve attached a list by states relevant to most of you, so you can review. What to do about the ACT on June 13th? In Chicagoland and New York, some centers are still listed. Our list is a cross reference of known test centers against those stated by ACT to have been closed. It does not necessarily mean that those listed as open still are or will remain open. We suspect the open list too will likely close. For our East Coast families and colleagues, most testing centers are closed in MA, NH, DC, and NY. Interestingly, in Wisconsin, a state that is now open, all testing centers except 1 have been closed. A note from ACT on these centers: "There were instances in which a test center had to reduce their capacity due to social distancing guidelines determined by the CDC or state or local officials and it caused some students to be displaced. ACT prioritized students in 12th grade, followed by students in 11th grade, and then looked at the order in which a student registered for the ACT test. This decision was not made lightly, and ACT apologizes for any inconvenience this may have caused." If your test center was canceled, ACT has a new FAQ page with important information about rescheduling, including these key points: Students should have received an email with details on rescheduling thru the ACT site. They are NOT automatically re-registered and must change their registration in the system. If students’ June test center was closed, they cannot change to another center for June. They will be charged for the new test date and then refunded in 3-5 business days. There won't be any standby testing for June. ACT has also removed any language about the June 20th makeup testing date. We’ll be reaching out to help you navigate next steps. The best course of action varies by student. As always, “tests are standardized; students are not.” Next Steps: July While no test date is guaranteed at this moment in time, if you are registered for July, the test is six weeks away. In that time, we anticipate states to further open and continue to plan for appropriate distancing. It makes sense to prepare. However, on our list of open Illinois-area test sites, you can see that there are very few July test centers available in the Illinois area with available seats, if you are not registered. Next Steps: September If you do not have a seat in July, the reality is that with so few test centers available for July, September presents schools and students the best possibility for safe large-scale testing events. Registration for September begins on July 14th. Controversy & Consequences As all this happens, College Board’s and ACT’s [...]

By |2020-05-29T20:26:00+00:00May 29, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on ACT Cancellations & Next Steps

AP Updates: Makeups, Results, and Continued Controversy

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:Makeup AP testing will begin next week, and with substantial backlash following the initial round of testing, we're watching eagerly to see how things go. This will be students’ last shot at AP testing for this school year--so any technical issues won't have the "makeup test" release valve that College Board relied on heavily in the first round for any students with issues.Round One LessonsCollege Board released detailed information on student engagement with the initial round of AP testing, including the number of students who began the exam, students who failed to complete the exam, and error rates for each test. Some have challenged this data already, wondering how College Board is distinguishing an "incomplete" from a true error, given the number of upload errors students reported on social media. Students were required to submit an application for a makeup exam by May 24 and will be notified by the end of this week if they qualified. College Board, meanwhile, is reporting this as a victory, claiming that more students attempted testing this year than is typical. More than 4.6 million students attempted an AP exam over ten days of testing: 93% of AP students. In typical years, College Board states that only around 91% of students complete exams.Class Action SuitSome students unable to submit, however, were not satisfied with the response. These students (joined by the FairTest organization) filed a lawsuit seeking both to force the College Board to score their exams and to provide "compensatory damages in an amount that exceeds $500 million" to "punish defendants" and "deter them from engaging in wrongful conduct in the future." The lawsuit claims that the unvalidated and untested exams were a means to maintain a revenue stream. College Board contends that their quick adjustment to provide the tests at home provided the opportunity to access college credit to millions of students--and that these students still have the opportunity to take a makeup test. It remains to be seen how these students in the suit will participate in makeup testing in the coming weeks.Timeline and ResultsAnother major shift with online testing is a new feature allowing AP teachers in high schools to view their students’ responses. Those are available to teachers beginning today (with makeup responses available on June 30th). Teachers can use these responses in grading for student courses. Scores will be available to students starting on July 15th.Again, lessons learned and new developments for a present and future of testing that must involve increasing digital options for college entrance exams.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-05-28T17:05:16+00:00May 28, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on AP Updates: Makeups, Results, and Continued Controversy

Brief Updates from ACT and the College Board: June, July, and After

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:I hope you had a restful long weekend. With canceled test dates in the spring, many students are eagerly awaiting their opportunity to take the ACT or SAT. As states begin to open up, ACT, College Board, and specific testing sites are all keeping a close eye on how to safely administer the tests.SAT UpdatesThe College Board has finally released information on SAT test registration for fall dates. They plan to open registration tomorrow evening, May 28th, prioritizing rising seniors who were unable to test in the spring. Students without a spring test score or who were registered for June will be able to register early for the August 29, September 26, and October 3 test dates; registration will open for all other students soon. College Board has provided more info here.ACT UpdatesACT is due this week to release updated information on the June 13th test. They have indicated that individual test sites will assess their ability to safely host a test site with state and local regulations around social distancing and with student health in mind. ACT will provide direct communication to registered students via email to their web account or a physical letter. They are also offering a makeup test date a week later--so we'll be watching to see how test sites address this challenge. Should a test site cancel the June test date, students will have their next at-bat on July 18 for the ACT. Students can register for that test until June 19.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-05-27T16:40:48+00:00May 27, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Brief Updates from ACT and the College Board: June, July, and After

Colleges this Fall: Open, Remote, Hybrid, or Uncertain

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:I recently heard from a wonderful student of mine who was admitted to Notre Dame. He’s fortunate on 2 levels: 1) he’s certain he’ll receive an excellent education this fall; and 2) he’s certain of how his school plans to educate him this fall.Notre Dame announced plans not only to bring students back to campus this fall but also to bring them back two weeks early on August 10th, forgoing their fall break and sending students home early ending the semester before Thanksgiving, thereby mitigating the impact of the projected second wave of coronavirus predicted to spread this fall. They are among the first colleges to announce a concrete plan for the fall. The California State system, on the other hand, is planning to move forward with online-only education for the fall semester, while the University of California system has yet to decide.Not all colleges and universities are planning with the same certainty. The Chronicle of Higher Education is curating a current list of schools and their plans to re-open: 67% planning to reopen; 6% planning for remote; 6% planning for hybrid; and 21% still waiting to decide. It’s a challenging time to make plans and prepare, without uniform guidelines and policies school to school. Most colleges have said they are creating contingency plans for a variety of options as things remain in flux.I hope to see—whether remote, in-person, or hybrid—a round of freshmen seminars this fall cleverly titled: “Contingency, Relativity, Uncertainty: Planning in the Age of COVID-19,” or maybe “Hybridity & Humanism: The Student Who Was Both There & Not There.” We’re hoping our students can eventually still find humor and healthy perspective amidst all this turbulence.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-05-21T11:39:00+00:00May 21, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Colleges this Fall: Open, Remote, Hybrid, or Uncertain

Legal Upshot of AP At-Home Testing

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:As expected, consequences follow from College Board’s AP exams issues last week. Students are participating in a class action lawsuit against the College Board. The Complaint According to the lawsuit, as many as 20% of students who attempted to test in the first 3 days of AP testing last week were unable to upload their answers. College Board has claimed that fewer than 1% had issues; it's not clear yet how either party reached those claims. In addition to uploading problems, some students were unable to log in or were timed out. The suit also raised equity issues, including concerns that low-income students might be unable to access a suitable location, device, or internet access to participate in the exams on the same footing as their higher-income peers. The College Board has faced many lawsuits in the past, including one filed in December 2019 regarding their policies on sales of student data. They plan to contest the AP testing lawsuit, as those students impacted last week are eligible to retest in June. General counsel for College Board described the lawsuit as "a PR stunt masquerading as a legal complaint."Lessons LearnedAs we move forward into an increasingly digital learning world, the cautionary tale of AP tells us the importance of planning for equity and access issues in advance of any major shifts in programming. Students strongly requested the administration of at-home AP tests, but College Board's updated protocols to allow emailed-in responses one week into exams suggests that not all concerns around delivery were addressed prior to the beginning of exams. Should at-home tests for ACT and SAT be necessary into the fall, it will be important that those issues are taken into account prior to testing.In addition, ACT and College Board will have to take responsibility for technological failure (such as issues with outdated browsers or internet connection) when administering high stakes tests at home. They may be able to incorporate some lessons from other tests that have gone online this spring (like high school and graduate school entrance exams), which are using proctoring software systems as well as staggered testing windows to address some of these obstacles. The situation is still unfolding and we will continue to update you.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-05-20T17:19:51+00:00May 20, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Legal Upshot of AP At-Home Testing

COVID Slide Research from ACT

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:One of the values of standardized testing is predictive data - years upon years of correlating test performance with grade-level performance in high school and college courses. In its May research and policy brief, ACT shares its student performance estimates based on this historical data and predicts the impact of school closures on ACT performance. Some key takeaways below:The Impact of In-School vs. Out-of-SchoolThe table below summarizes the research on typical per-month gains for students in-school versus out-of-school: What does it add up to? Typically, an ACT composite score increases by 1.96 points over a school year and decreases by 0.43 points over the summer--a net gain of 1.53 points per year. By shifting two months of classroom instruction to typical summer losses, the students would instead see a net gain of only 0.82 points per year. While this may seem to be a relatively small effect, this decrease may indicate a large effect on overall student achievement and college readiness, admissions, and scholarship eligibility across districts and states.Interventions ACT goes on to model a number of scenarios--including early starts to the school year and e-learning options offered by schools--and estimates their eventual impact on ACT growth. We're taking this data in combination with other research on "COVID slide" and learning loss to ensure that students working with our instructors don't lose ground at this time.This initiative is bolstered by ACT's research; they found that English and Math--two more skill-based subjects--tend to suffer most over the summer. English is typically the area where Academic Approach students see the most significant gains, and we're using the extra time we have now to dig further into math through targeted modules to ensure students stay on track. Moreover, we've seen the importance of continued academic support during summer months in our own research; last school year, our students testing in the fall saw the greatest growth from their diagnostic ACT test.We will keep you informed as further analysis of this data arises. Do let me know if you'd like more information about the new math modules. We are here to help.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-05-19T17:49:25+00:00May 19, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on COVID Slide Research from ACT

AP Testing: Take 2

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues: After the highly publicized issues with administering AP exams last week, College Board is rolling out a back-up plan for AP submissions this week. In response to the problems with outdated browsers and other uploading errors, the College Board has announced a contingency plan should students experience submission issues and that they will be refunding students that had technical difficulties should they decide not to retest. Back-up Plan: Email ProtocolStudents who experienced issues last week will still need to take a makeup test, but for this week, if students have submission issues, they will be able to email a unique email address. This new protocol will help students testing this week and going forward, should they encounter issues. It seems likely this new option is a direct result of advocacy by students, parents, and educators. Equity & AccessAn important story that has yet to be fully reported relates to access for low-income students. We know from our school partners that primarily low-income students are having access issues far more profound and pervasive than the relatively small percentage of tech issues that are being highly publicized.  Some partners are indicating far fewer than half of their students that planned to take AP tests are actually taking and submitting them.  This experience will need to be studied, reported, and accounted for in the weeks ahead. Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO 

By |2020-05-18T17:31:43+00:00May 18, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on AP Testing: Take 2

Student Voices on Adapting to a New Routine

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:We've reflected this week on some of the challenges students have encountered in the first broad rollout of remote, online testing with College Board's AP testing. We've also read with interest this great piece in the NYTimes on how students are adapting to remote learning. Some interesting thoughts from students quoted in the piece on challenges adapting to the new routine:I did not realize that I took my routine and school day for granted until now.I also find it very hard to find an ‘escape’ from school. Since it all takes place at my home, de-stressing has become more difficult because I feel like school is there with me the entire day.It’s easier for me to get distracted and be lazy with my work, so I’m starting to hate the daily mundanity of distance learning.Far more distractions — my pet and the availability of food all the time, to name a few — abound as I try to remain engaged in classes and complete assignments. For the most part I am on task, but some of the very same distractions I deal with in school, such as receiving texts from friends or my phone serving as a distraction in and of itself — seem much harder to resist at home.We're also hearing that students are feeling increased academic stress and need for rigorous instruction:As a junior, I have been very stressed about how the rest of the school year will pan out. Constant thoughts running through my head are, “When am I going to take the SAT? How harshly are AP exams going to be graded now? What are colleges going to do for admissions next year?” All of these questions are constant thoughts that most teenagers my age are thinking about right now.The work that we are being provided with now is only supplementary, which does not help students stay motivated to get their work completed. Teachers are doing the best they can but the ones who truly care about their students’ mental health and education are putting in extra time just to help.All these quotes reflect key elements in what we've shared with you in the past weeks on social-emotional learning, executive functioning, and learning loss; they are already realities for students. We're working to support our students in building routines and systems to create the space for learning while also providing rigorous, personalized academic content for our students.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-05-14T14:22:00+00:00May 14, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Student Voices on Adapting to a New Routine

The AP Online Experience: Troubles and Troubleshooting

Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:We’re hearing more stories from you of successes and challenges with this week’s rollout of Advanced Placement (AP) tests. In particular, students taking the AP Calculus AB and BC on May 12th reported issues with system lag and uploading. Some are attributing these troubles to College Board’s servers, while College Board attributes them largely to outdated browsers. We keep learning, especially lessons on tech troubleshooting and questions of appropriate student conduct.Tech Troubles & TroubleshootingThe College Board has provided a useful tech troubleshooting page here and continues to promote their 5-step preparation protocol. However, the greatest concern for those who struggled with uploading answers are whether or not they’ll be forced to retest, even when in some cases they have time-stamped photos of their completed work. Questions of Appropriate Student Conduct The College Board has given guidance on what is considered acceptable open-book test behavior. And they’ve been clear about their standards of cheating. Nevertheless, reports of cheating rise as both an AP-specific phenomenon and a general trend in online testing. Again, all these questions must and will lead to solutions eventually. Online testing has been here, is here, and will continue to be here on a larger scale going forward. This week's AP tests have the dubious honor of serving as a unique national spectacle that centralizes these concerns in one intense period of uncharted territory for our students. We encourage our students to remain flexible and resilient and to take the high road as they navigate this road toward higher ed.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-05-13T16:57:35+00:00May 13, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on The AP Online Experience: Troubles and Troubleshooting

AP rollout–and lessons learned

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:Advanced Placement (AP) exams continue their rollout in digital form. We continue to learn a lot, especially re: 1) online administration best practices; 2) questions concerning student conduct; and 3) the inexhaustible humor of adolescents, even under quarantine.Online administration best practicesStudents are reporting challenges with iPhone/iPad technology. College Board has provided some useful guidance to address that here and other day-of tips here. And be certain to arrive 30 minutes before scheduled tests. Student conduct Online search trends around yesterday’s US Government test (300,000 students tested) tell an interesting story of how students are using google searches under the College Board’s provision that “open notes” are allowed. Students posted a number of snapshots showing key content from the test appearing heavily on Google searches. See below for a few examples.The inexhaustible humor of adolescents, even under quarantine After the AP Government test, students took to Twitter to air their feelings and insights creatively, sarcastically, and irreverently. Twitter is their current way to grouse in the hallway after a major test, so we can’t begrudge them that. We're seeing many students respond on social media apps like Reddit and Discord as well. Students should be careful, though--College Board is carefully monitoring those sites to ensure students aren't engaging in any cheating or prohibited behaviors. Focusing on opportunitiesWith all these lessons learned, we continue to focus on the opportunities ahead: 1) helping students successfully navigate new protocols for testing; 2) encouraging students to maintain the highest standards of personal responsibility and accountability as they test; and 3) focusing on the value concepts and skills that students can be learning to bring them success both on and beyond the test. Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-05-12T17:00:19+00:00May 12, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on AP rollout–and lessons learned