Summer Reading 101: The Essential Guide

As summer approaches, critical reading will be essential for continued academic progress. The best way to grow as a reader is to read more challenging texts. We've put together this recommended reading list--separated by genre and level--to help students select rigorous, challenging texts to engage with at home.   DOWNLOAD THE GUIDE View Our Other Resources

By |2022-02-04T15:20:48+00:00June 16, 2020|Academic Approach, One-on-One Tutoring, School Programs|Comments Off on Summer Reading 101: The Essential Guide

Summer Learning in Math

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:With school e-learning ending and many long, warm days ahead with activities canceled, summer may feel more formless for students than it has in the past. The end of the school year doesn't necessarily mean the end of learning though. We've touched before on the importance of engagement in learning while out of school. Research has shown that summer learning can be incredibly effective (matching the learning typically seen during the school year!), but only if students are engaged and attending. Students with low or inconsistent attendance in summer learning programs saw little or no impact. This week, we'll be focusing on the importance of academic enrichment over the summer. First, we'll share some thoughts on math--which, as we've discussed, tends to be the subject where students fall the furthest behind while out of school.Resources for Learning at HomeWe've seen many great resources online for students working to improve their math skills.Youtube channel Numberphile was created by math lovers diving into their favorite topics. Most of the videos are accessible to high-school level students, though some go on to dive into higher-level math concepts. Their enthusiasm for the content will engage even the most math-phobic students.TedEd has lessons organized by content and grade level that include engaging videos on a variety of topics.WideOpenSchool is a great resource for accessing online learning in math over the summer. It's also organized by content and grade, and you can find a variety of engaging activities from all over the internet vetted for families.Opportunities for Learning with Academic ApproachWe're offering targeted programming to support students in identifying and filling gaps as they move into the next level of math in the fall. We'll work with students on the key college-readiness skills that they may have missed while out of school, may have forgotten from last fall, or might encounter early next school year. As always, our curriculum and instruction are tied to the skills most predictive of college success in math.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-06-16T09:47:12+00:00June 16, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Summer Learning in Math

The Academic Approach to Test Optional

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:Over the week we’ve defined test optional, reviewed specific policies, and featured some key perspectives on the subject. Today, we’ll articulate our position. We believe: Students benefit from standardized tests by using results to identify learning opportunities to master academic skills, skills that help students succeed both on and beyond the tests—in high school, in college, and in their careers.Standardized tests help students distinguish themselves in the admissions process. A strong standardized test score is important because most schools are not test blind (an important distinction from test optional).High-quality tests create gravitational pull towards higher achievement; a feature of higher performing education systems is a rigorous, common assessment. Such tests offer important reference points against GPAs that vary from school to school, provide rigorous standards to measure teaching against, drive skills-based instruction, and motivate students to learn.High-quality tests serve positive instructional ends: they shed light on mastery of college-readiness skills, help students identify important gaps in skills and understanding of material, and afford instructors insights to better individualize their curriculum to the needs of their students. However, we support efforts to improve the content on these tests.For these instructional reasons, high-stakes tests should trend more in the direction of formative assessments. These tests, designed to measure student growth while students are still actively learning the material, are aligned more clearly with grade-level curriculum, and more directly drive student learning through ongoing feedback and reassessment. High-stakes tests like the ACT or SAT should be combined with GPA for college admissions. A holistic application review is essential, rather than considering ACT or SAT in isolation. Ultimately, the scores need to be considered in context with other admissions standards, especially given the inequities in our current educational landscape.Providing access to the SAT and ACT for all students does allow more students to access higher education. Ultimately, however, we must address the reasons why scores correlate so strongly with income by addressing inequities throughout our K-12 education system that lead to gaps in performance on these tests. For those who lack opportunity or access to standardized tests, it is positive that test optional affords them the opportunity for a holistic review. Please reach out to us if you'd like to engage in further conversation. Education, learning, and discourse are the foundations of Academic Approach, and we are here to help.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-06-11T17:12:09+00:00June 11, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on The Academic Approach to Test Optional

Test Optional: The Impact on Students

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:As we continue to dive into test-optional policies, we wanted to examine not only how these policies impact colleges, as we did yesterday, but also how they impact students. Proponents argue that making test score submission optional will allow more students access to colleges and universities. We examine that hypothesis today.Pros Those arguing for test-optional policies don’t suggest eliminating the tests altogether. Indeed, many college admissions officers have spoken about the important role scores play in decision making, and they have demonstrated usefulness in predicting student success at many colleges, especially as grade inflation (and adjusted grading policies as a result of COVID-19) may make high school GPA a less-reliable indicator. Instead, they argue that scores should be used holistically—and that colleges should stop publishing test score ranges for their admitted classes. They suggest that this policy will reduce anxiety for students, allow them to more freely submit applications, and allow colleges to admit students whose academic profiles are a good fit for their school (but whose test scores may hurt their application and the school’s rankings).Cons Conversely, analysis has shown that students who did not submit test scores to test-optional colleges were slightly less likely to be admitted to colleges. They also had slightly lower GPAs than students who submitted test scores. It’s possible that reducing the transparency provided by test scores, as suggested by test-optional advocates, may make it more challenging for students to know what schools are a “good fit” for them and ultimately lead to increased numbers of applications, increased rejections, and increased anxiety for already-stressed high school juniors and seniors.We have updated our test-optional information page as your centralized resource to reference and refer others to when thinking through the subject. Tomorrow, we’ll share our position as Academic Approach on the subject of test optional.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-06-10T17:27:29+00:00June 10, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Test Optional: The Impact on Students

Test Optional: Impact on Admissions

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:We continue our focus on the subject of test-optional colleges and universities. In today’s message, we’ll identify some arguments for and some against the policy.A Primary Goal Increasing diversity on college campuses is a primary goal of test-optional policies. Advocates argue that de-emphasizing the role of test scores and instead considering only or primarily high school class rank and GPA as the measures of academic readiness will allow greater numbers of qualified minority, low-income, first generation, and other students to apply.Opponents Opponents argue that schools use test-optional policies merely to increase applications from students they likely won’t admit (and thus increase the perceived selectivity of the school). Research has shown that (over the last 30 years at 180 selective liberal arts colleges in the United States) schools that implemented test-optional policies enrolled a lower proportion of underrepresented minorities and Pell grant recipients than did test-requiring institutions. The adoption of a test-optional policy did not decrease the diversity gap on these campuses. At these institutions, the adoption of test-optional policies succeeded in increasing colleges’ perceived selectivity—the average SAT scores for enrolled students increased along with the volume of applications. Though they accepted a similar number of students, the increase in applicants led to a lower percent of applicants being admitted, which in turn, inflated the perceived selectivity.Advocates However,  other research disagrees. A smaller study incorporating data from 28 colleges and universities with test-optional policies found that those schools saw the same increase in number of applications, but also saw gains in the numbers of Black and Latino students applying and admitted. The underrepresented minority students were also more likely not to submit test scores. Across all students that did not submit scores, typically first-year grades were slightly lower, but graduation rates were similar to students who did submit scores.Ultimately, the research is still inconclusive on the success of test-optional policies in promoting campus diversity. In the time frame since test-optional policies first emerged, most liberal arts colleges have been getting more diverse generally and have implemented a number of new initiatives to increase campus diversity. This makes it difficult to assess whether test-optional policies impacted increases in diversity on campuses.In the end Within each study cited here, colleges and universities saw mixed results in adopting the policy, and the lack of true “control groups” in these studies means it’s very difficult to track with fidelity the effect of the policy—and whether or not removing test scores from the conversation limits useful information for colleges making admissions decisions.We will continue to post this information on our website, so you can have a centralized resource to reference and refer others to when thinking through the subject. We’ll update this resource daily.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-06-09T16:48:26+00:00June 9, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Test Optional: Impact on Admissions

Test Optional: Understanding & Navigating

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues: This week our focus is the subject of test-optional colleges and universities. In today’s message, we’ll define test optional, explain why it is a necessary policy for Class of 2021, and review some specific policies of schools currently adopting test optional admissions policies for the first time. We will post all of this information here, so you can have a centralized resource to reference and refer others to when thinking through the subject. We’ll continue to update this resource. Test Optional Defined Test optional means students are not required to provide any standardized testing scores when applying to a college or university, though they are still accepted, reviewed, and considered as part of the application. Admissions officers will perform a holistic analysis of the students’ grades, rigor of the classes they’ve taken, and their other distinguishing accomplishments. The trend towards this holistic analysis—with standardized tests as an optional but not required part of the analysis—has been growing for years. It is important to note that a test-optional policy does not mean test blind; in other words, if students have standardized testing scores they want to share, those scores will be incorporated into the holistic analysis of the students' application. Why Test Optional for Class of 2021 Considering the experiences of thousands upon thousands of low-income and low-access students, medically compromised students, and students with learning accommodations that cannot be fairly met because of school closures, admissions committees must take a fair and flexible approach to review applications from the Class of 2021. It simply isn’t an even playing field for those students who want access to taking a standardized test; therefore, waiving test requirements is necessary. We expect in the weeks and months ahead to see many colleges and universities adopt a test-optional admissions policy for the Class of 2021. Specific Policies As you educate yourselves on specific colleges’ test-optional policies, it is interesting to review a couple of specific policies from schools adopting test optional for the first time this year. See the policy for Columbia in New York City. Note that the policy 1) is stated to apply necessarily only for 1 year; 2) applies to ACT, SAT, Subject Tests; and 3) encourages students who have scores to submit them as part of a holistic review. See the policy for Cornell University. Note that the policy 1) is stated to apply necessarily only for 1 year; 2) it goes into more detail about economic hardship precluding the student from testing; 3) it specifies which colleges within the university are taking a not-required versus optional position; and 4) it explains that in the admissions process students who don't submit test scores may need to submit other application documents to indicate evidence of excellent academic preparation. Key Takeaways Test optional does not necessarily mean test blind. If students can distinguish themselves by a test score, along with other essential academic criteria, then that score will be taken into consideration in a holistic evaluation. This [...]

By |2020-06-08T17:29:07+00:00June 8, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Test Optional: Understanding & Navigating

Understanding & Navigating Test-Optional Policies

The Basics Impact on Admissions Impact on Students Our Stance School-Specific Policies The Basics The impact of COVID-19 on education continues to be immense. With rapid school closures, a fast and sometimes rocky transition to e-learning, and even greater questions around access to education and resources, many colleges and universities have transitioned to being "test optional". What is "test optional"? Test optional means students are not required to provide any standardized testing scores when applying to a college or university, though they are still accepted, reviewed, and considered as part of the application. At test-optional schools, admissions officers will perform a holistic analysis of the students’ grades, rigor of the classes they’ve taken, and their other distinguishing accomplishments.  Test optional does not mean test blind. If students submit standardized testing scores as part of their application, those scores will be incorporated into the holistic analysis of the application and used to evaluate applicant fit. Some counselors have made the case that test scores are especially relevant now as grading policies and GPAs are being adjusted this spring and potentially this fall.  Policies shift for the Class of 2021. Many colleges have shifted to be test optional for the Class of 2021 in an effort to review applications in the most fair and flexible way. Considering the experiences of thousands upon thousands of low-income and low-access students, medically compromised students, and students with learning accommodations that cannot be fairly met because of school closures, testing access isn’t an even playing field. Each policy is different. Test-optional policies vary from school to school. Some schools actively encourage students to submit them, while others require alternative documents if not submitting a test score. Some programs within a university may have different policies than others at that same institution. It's important to research the revised policies at all schools of interest as their policies will likely differ. What is the goal? Increasing diversity on college campuses is a primary goal of test-optional policies. Advocates argue that de-emphasizing test scores and focusing primarily on high school class rank and GPA would allow great numbers of qualified minority, low-income, first generation, and other students to apply. Research behind this idea is inconclusive with both affirming and contradicting studies. The Impact on Admissions Multiple studies have been done to evaluate the impact of test-optional policies on college admissions through the lens of diversity, rankings, and student performance. The impact on diversity is uncertain. A study by the American Educational Research Association evaluated 180 selective liberal arts colleges in the US over the last 30 year period. Schools that implemented test-optional policies enrolled a lower proportion of underrepresented minorities than did test-requiring schools. At these schools, implementing test-optional policies did not decrease the diversity gap.Conversely, a smaller study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling gathered data from 28 colleges and universities that had test-optional policies. The found a similar increase in applicants, but also saw gains in the number of Black and Latino students applying and admitted. [...]

By |2020-06-08T16:55:04+00:00June 8, 2020|Academic Approach, News|Comments Off on Understanding & Navigating Test-Optional Policies

Resources as you Navigate Current Challenges

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues: It’s a time of crises and challenges affecting so many of our families and colleagues differently. One common need among them is information. As an education company, we strive always to serve you with information, as you navigate challenges, learn, and progress. We’ve gathered some of this information onto our site and are providing links below. Test Registration & Re-registration Insights We’ve collected insight and information here to help students navigate registering and re-registering for the ACT and SAT this summer and fall. We’ll be adding to this page as new information is released. E-Learning Resources for Families & Educators We’ve created a number of free resources, collected here: webinars and content for student, families, and educators to support navigating college admissions and e-learning. Education Resources on Promoting Racial Equity We’ve gathered resources here to support educators, families, and students provide essential context as we confront racial injustice in America. Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-06-03T10:52:00+00:00June 3, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Resources as you Navigate Current Challenges

Navigating Test Cancellations

Academic Approach Families and Colleagues: Thank you all for your responses to our note yesterday. We're continuing to build our hub of resources for families and educators to support education on racial justice and equity. We're eager to engage with our partners and community on how we can support our students and school partners, so please don't hesitate to reach out to us. We also heard your requests for more information on registration for summer and fall ACT and SAT. In an effort to increase equity--and likely as a result of the complaints about at-home AP testing--the College Board announced this afternoon that it will not offer at-home testing this fall as they cannot ensure that all students will have equal access to three hours of uninterrupted, video-quality internet for each student, which would be required for secure testing. This is likely the right way to go for fairness and equity. It also puts more pressure on many students who are having difficulty navigating test cancellations. College Board will also be offering an additional January test date for students to use in applications this year and are asking colleges to be flexible with this year's applications. Many students are having a challenging time getting anyone to take their calls at College Board or ACT, so we've compiled some information on re-registering: You still have to pay for the new test, but the registration fee for the rescheduled test is refunded to your card. This is certainly confusing. Some families waited too long and weren't able to get a spot at their preferred location. Look beyond your geographic comfort zone. If you are comfortable with traveling, the best option may be testing outside of your county or state. Look at private school testing sites first. They appear to have more relaxed rules regarding re-opening and seem to be the only testing centers that remained open for June. In WI, the counties are making the decisions and appear to be more apprehensive than other states about allowing school functions to occur. Confirm with ACT or College Board AND the school if you can. ACT's website, for example, states that some schools are still offering the test, but they are not. ACT's website had not been updated. We have also put detailed click paths for students doing online registration on our test updates page here. Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-06-02T10:41:00+00:00June 2, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Navigating Test Cancellations

Where We Stand & What We’re Doing

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:For months we’ve seen COVID-19 disproportionately impact Black communities and Black students. The recent protests and unrest have followed years of racial injustice, and are further impacting the health, wellness, and education of students in communities that are already at-risk. As an education company made up of individuals who care about diversity, equity, and racial justice, we feel that we can always be doing more to support students and communities.Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.We’re focused on 2 initiatives:Donations and in-kind services: We are financially supporting not-for-profit organizations in our communities, including My Block, My Hood, My City; A Better Chicago; and the Harlem Children's Zone. We’ve spent many years working in partnership with impactful organizations in our communities, but we can do more. If you are associated with organizations that are helping families and students in crisis right now, please contact the chair of our Corporate Responsibility Committee, Brad Kessler: brad.kessler@aapproachstg.wpengine.com. We would love to learn more and help.Education: We want to support extensive discourse on this topic that is as comprehensive as possible with our staff, families, and students. We’ve assembled a list of articles and resources for students and families to read that provide some context and depth of understanding. We’ve put a few links below, and you can find more on our website. We will continue to update this with valuable information. “I knew, even then, that whenever I nodded along in ignorance, I lost an opportunity, betrayed the wonder in me by privileging the appearance of knowing over the work of finding out.”-- Ta-Nehisi CoatesBe well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEOResource SamplingPodcast: Five Pandemic Parenting Lessons with Cindy Wang BrandtArticle: Talking to Kids About Racial ViolenceVideo: "Something Happened in Our Town" Interview with author Marianne Celano, Pd.D.Find more resources at https://www.academicapproach.com/supporting-education-in-racial-equity/

By |2020-06-01T20:42:04+00:00June 1, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Where We Stand & What We’re Doing
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