Further Updates from ACT

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:A few important updates from ACT:If you began the registration process when the system briefly opened on Monday, ACT will not be able to process your requests (such as confirmations or changes) until the system reopens on August 3rd.If you were able to take the July 18th test, scores will be available beginning August 5th. Most will be released August 5th-6th.Impacts on the college admission processWith all the change and obstacles our students are navigating, we wanted to share these survey results on the impact of COVID on the college admissions process. The survey found that 43% of rising seniors felt that their experiences this spring had affected their qualifications and applications for college, including the inability to participate in extracurriculars or educational programs, visit college campuses, or work to save for college. Students also were concerned about the impact on their grades.We will continue to share information and provide instructional support to do our best to help you maintain academic progress.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-30T17:18:34+00:00July 30, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Further Updates from ACT

Two Updates from ACT

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:We continue to focus on ACT updates, as they change dynamically and are most impactful.Two AnnouncementsIn ACT's most recent update, they announced that the new registration system, MyACT, will re-open again next Monday, August 3rd, at 10am CST. As a reminder, this is a new system, so students may need to migrate their previous account if they have one by creating an account on the new system that will then link to the old.ACT has also stated that they are working on an "accelerated fall registration experience" for rising seniors in the Class of 2021 who were impacted by previous cancellations and closures in order to help students test before college application and scholarship deadlines.Next StepsWe’ll maintain focus on both navigating the registration process and planning for academic success this year, and will be working with rising seniors in particular to identify which national (or school) testing dates will best support their plans and goals.For those of you who have not yet had a chance to take our brief survey on academic support needs. We want to learn how best to help.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-29T16:57:58+00:00July 29, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Two Updates from ACT

ACT Registration Next Steps

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:Many of you have shared your experiences with the challenges of ACT registration for fall testing. We understand, share these frustrations with these challenges, and hope to help in whatever ways we can. Some points of focus:RegistrationRegistration for 2020-2021 test dates was shut down yesterday afternoon after the system was overwhelmed, and is scheduled to re-open tomorrow at noon (or at least ACT will provide an update at that time).There are eight potential dates to take the ACT this fall, six of which will likely provide scores in advance of most early decision deadlines in November. Scores from the July ACT test should be returned this week (once the new ACT system is back up!), which will help determine need for re-testing this fall.The priority is to provide opportunities for rising seniors to test. Juniors who hoped to test early should consider testing in December and later to open up spaces for seniors. It is also possible that ACT will be working to limit these fall administrations to seniors only.Too Many TestersACT has had issues with test center closures for the June and July test dates. These closures (along with the wholesale cancellation of the April test date), mean there are many more students needing to test this fall than is typical. Along with the additional test dates, ACT is still seeking to add test sites. ACT may also prioritize registration for rising seniors and those whose tests were canceled in the spring and summer; we'll let you know if we hear more on this option.What's NextWe will continue to research and share registration information with you as we acquire it. We will also keep our focus on ensuring that students are maintaining academic progress and pushing themselves to advance into next year’s coursework. Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-28T16:35:13+00:00July 28, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on ACT Registration Next Steps

ACT Registration Open and Academic Warm-ups

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:After reviewing school re-opening plans, many of you submitted thoughtful requests and posed important questions about ways to support your students’ academic enrichment and skills-based test preparation with subject-specific academic supplements. If you have requests or questions, please fill out this brief survey, and we’ll respond.ACT Registration OpenACT launched their new registration system today, so students may have to migrate their account if they have created one in the past. Registration is available for any date through July of 2021. Some sites for September and October dates are already full, so we encourage you to sign up as soon as possible to ensure your date of choice.Academic Warm-ups: ReadingWith schools re-opening soon—whatever the model—it’s time for students to kick off the rust, warm up their academic skills, and prepare for the rigors of next year’s coursework. We’ll focus this week on some subject specific warm-ups. Today’s topic: Reading.Studies into reading have often found that students do not spend enough time actually reading texts–even in school. Students spend as little as 15 minutes per school day actually reading texts in the intermediate grades. Time spent reading both increases students’ comprehension skills and allows for the acquisition of new knowledge from the texts themselves. The new knowledge then provides students with a broader understanding of concepts that allows them to access more and more challenging texts.Recommended Reading EssentialsUltimately, 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. Though not comprehensive, this list can help students get started in selecting rigorous, challenging texts to engage with at home.Reading Skill BuilderWe offer targeted programming to support students with their summer reading as they hone their skills in preparation for fall coursework. We wrap a high-impact skill building supplement around a student’s upcoming reading to develop annotation and summarizing skills, essay composition strategies, and grammar skills for proofreading. As always, our curriculum and instruction are tied to the skills most predictive of college success in English and reading. Let us know if you'd like to set something up for your student.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-27T13:39:40+00:00July 27, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on ACT Registration Open and Academic Warm-ups

Re-Opening Plans: Key Questions & Your Needs

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:With schools and school districts releasing re-opening plans, we spent this week reviewing some of the emerging models and gathering some perspectives and questions. These plans have raised specific questions, and you’ve been articulating specific needs. A few key questions need considering:What level of independent learning will be required of students?Can students learn effectively if self-paced or entirely independent work is required?How does remote learning impact the student if it is live (synchronous), self-paced (asynchronous), or entirely independent?The direct instructional support for student learning would vary considerably .Your Needs Many of you have already reached out to design customized plans for individual or small groups of students. Please head here to answer our brief 3-question survey, and we’ll reach out to you to discuss how we can be of service in helping support your success in School Year 2020-21.Survey questions you'll see:  In what subjects do you think your student(s) need the most support from Academic Approach to ensure academic progress?  In what subjects do you think your student(s) need to be instructed with more rigor, so they are enriched, engaged, and challenged?Are there any other particular needs or questions you have? Take Survey Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-24T10:37:14+00:00July 24, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Re-Opening Plans: Key Questions & Your Needs

Re-opening Plans: Half-day, Half-year

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:With schools and school districts releasing re-opening plans this week, we are spending the week reviewing some of the emerging models. Today we’ll focus on half-day and half-year options.Half-day options In half-day model, K-8 will attend in person in the morning and 9-12 in the afternoon. The goal is to provide consistent in-person options for all students within the school or district regardless of grade level.Half-year options In the half-year model, which will principally be used by colleges and universities, two grade levels (e.g., freshmen and sophomores) attend fall semester, and then two grade levels (e.g., juniors and seniors) attend in the spring. With this model, under classmen could enjoy an onsite transition to the new school year, and upper classmen would be able to participate in essential in-person spring activities including graduation ceremonies.PerspectivesThe specific details of the model have significant consequences on instruction & learning. A few key questions to ask:How does remote learning impact the student if it’s live, self-paced, or entirely independent?The direct instructional support would vary considerably.How will courses that require hands-on instruction, like science labs, be conducted without in-person learning?How will assessments be delivered fairly and securely without in-person learning?How will colleges and universities support cocurricular activities and safety in student housing?Tomorrow, we’ll share some thoughts and a survey to gather your feedback and assess your needs.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-22T16:50:03+00:00July 22, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Re-opening Plans: Half-day, Half-year

Re-opening Plans: In-person Lower Grades; Remote Upper Grades

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:We are spending the week reviewing some of the emerging reopening models and gathering some of the perspectives we’ve learned from educators and parents regarding these models. Today, we’ll focus on the in-person lower grades, remote upper grades model.In-person Lower Grades In this model, prioritization is given to K-8 (sometimes K-10) students for in-person instruction. The premise is two-fold: 1) that younger students require more direct instruction to be successful in early learning; and 2) that a primary teacher can work with an elementary school cohort on multiple subjects. This allows younger grades to remain stationary, which minimizes hallway passing, decreases the number of students per teacher, and lowers the potential for viral spread.Remote Upper Grades In this model, high school students (either 9-12 or 11-12) are 100% remote. The premise is two-fold: 1) that high school students are more capable of independent learning; and 2) that in order to keep student population sizes down, schools will have to utilize more space for fewer students. In some buildings there simply isn’t enough space to accommodate socially distanced learning for all, so remote learning is unavoidable.Permutations This model varies by:K-8 or K-10 in person with either 9-11 remote or 11-12 remote, andwhether remote instruction is live (synchronous), self-paced (asynchronous), or entirely independent study In most models we’ve seen, prioritization for in-person instruction is given to students with diverse learning needs, English language learners, and students in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. Opt-out options are available for families who wish to stay 100% remote.Perspectives The specific details of this model have significant consequences on instruction and learning. A few key questions warrant consideration:How does remote learning impact the student if it's live, self-paced, or entirely independent?The direct instructional support would vary considerably.What level of independent learning will be required of high school students?High school students tend to show lower engagement than their lower-grade counterparts, so it will be essential to develop new means of engaging them in their learning if 100% remote.Can high school students learn effectively if self-paced or entirely independent work is required?How will non-CTE courses that require hands-on instruction, like science labs, be conducted without in-person learning?How will assessments be delivered fairly and securely without in-person learning? We’ll continue to discuss these models and various perspectives on them throughout the week.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-21T16:14:40+00:00July 21, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Re-opening Plans: In-person Lower Grades; Remote Upper Grades

ACT Test Cancellations & Re-Opening Plans: The 2-2-1 Hybrid

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues: A note on ACT Test Cancellations first before we launch into this week’s topic: School Re-opening Plans. ACT Test Cancellations We’ve heard from many of you inconvenienced by ACT July 18th test cancellations (which impacted approximately 1,400 students nationally), some of you who even went to test centers the day of the exam, only to find them closed. We sincerely regret that you and your students have had to endure this confusion and frustration, and we want to learn more and help. Please reach out to us to help you plan next steps for future ACT test dates, consider alternative planning for SAT testing, or discuss any other considerations and help you think it through. We want to be thought partners to you at this challenging time. School Re-opening Plans With schools and school districts releasing re-opening plans this week, we want to spend the week reviewing some of the emerging models and gathering some of the perspectives we’ve learned from educators and parents regarding these models. Today, we’ll focus on the 2-2-1 Hybrid. The 2-2-1 Hybrid In this model, students break into cohorts or pods – A and B – each with different schedules for in-person and remote days. For example, Cohort A comes to school for in-person instruction Monday, Tuesday but are remote Wednesday, Thursday. Cohort B is remote Monday, Tuesday but in-person Wednesday, Thursday. Both A and B are remote on Friday. Permutations This model varies by: days of the week students are remote or in person, and whether that remote instruction is live (synchronous), self-paced (asynchronous), or entirely independent study In most models we’ve seen, prioritization for in-person instruction is given to students with diverse learning needs (such as students with IEPs or English Language Learners) or to students participating in Career & Technical Education (CTE) programs; options are available for families who wish to opt-out of in-person instruction and remain 100% remote. Perspectives Advocates praise this model for offering all students access to some in-person while observing CDC guidelines on social distancing. Many argue the specific details of the model have significant consequences on instruction & learning. A few key questions need considering: How does remote learning impact the student if it is live, self-paced, or entirely independent? The direct instructional support for student learning would vary considerably depending upon each approach. With gaps in access to online learning and equity issues often exacerbated by synchronous (live) learning, many schools may be incorporating more self-directed or project-based learning this fall, which will come with new instructional and motivational challenges. Does the model produce schedule changes that in turn mean less instructional time? In some cases, class period length will be reduced to accommodate for longer passing period and other necessary changes. While 20 minutes less a day of instructional time may seem minimal, the cumulative impact over 170+ school days means more than 50 fewer learning hours. We’ll continue to discuss additional remote learning models and various perspectives on [...]

By |2020-07-20T10:13:00+00:00July 20, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on ACT Test Cancellations & Re-Opening Plans: The 2-2-1 Hybrid

New Temperature Checks For A New School Year

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:We’ve spent the week focused on the impact of strong teacher-student relationships on academic outcomes. As we prepare for next week’s topic on school re-opening plans, we are reflecting on how those teacher-student relationships will be maintained as remote learning will continue to be a part of of many schools’ and school districts’ reopening plans. Given what we’re learning about re-opening schools, we’ll need 3 kinds of temp checks for a new school year: physical, social-emotional, and academic.1. Physical Temp ChecksIt will be part of schools’ protocols and ours to admit students for learning only if they pass temperature checks among other health screening tools. But what about assessing other aspects of a student’s readiness to learn?2. Social-Emotional Temp ChecksReading a student’s body language or facial expression – common checks of a student’s readiness to learn, engagement, or social-emotional state – will not be as readily available to teachers through a mask, in a remote classroom, or in a hybrid, part in-person, part remote classroom. Teachers are currently developing techniques to capture this information, gathering digitally or through various creative assessments, to get a reliable read on students’ social-emotional readiness to learn. This essential aspect of the teacher-student relationship will require consistent research, strategy, and innovation to adapt effectively in this new school year.3. Academic Temp ChecksIn the end, how do we know – reliably – that learning is taking place? The role of assessment, especially digital, will play an increasingly important role in this year’s instructional model. What’s more, we cannot afford long stretches of time between summative assessments for checks on understanding. We'll need quick formative snapshots of learning in real time in order to prevent an already substantial COVID slide to open further into a yawning gap in learning. We’ll need quick temp checks on understanding, mastery of content taught that day, to ensure that we are maintaining academic progress. Many remote learning tools actually make these snapshots easier than ever to obtain; we've worked with our instructors to collect data and adjust instruction as intentionally as possible.While this work will be challenging, we are excited to be a part of this important work both with our students and our school partners to support a successful school year of physical, social-emotional, and academic health, development, and progress for our students.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-16T12:26:00+00:00July 16, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on New Temperature Checks For A New School Year

Instructional Strategies for Reciprocal Relationships

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:Yesterday, we introduced two relationship-building styles in the classroom, instrumental and reciprocal. Instrumental relationships focus more on behavior control, while reciprocal relationships incorporate shared problem solving and perspective-taking as a focus.Positive, holistic relationships help students become better critical thinkers, better self-advocates, and more engaged students and citizens. Indeed, studies have found that just engaging students in short conversations each day to get to know them better immediately resulted in more on-task classroom behavior.To build these relationships, we incorporate these strategies into our instruction:Promoting student choice and control: We teach strategies that focus on the process of learning, encourage change and growth, and provide specific feedback. Communicating high academic and behavioral expectations: This creates a sense of belonging in our sessions and classrooms and promotes academic behaviors.Providing positive, process-based feedback: Feedback about process rather than person leads to student growth from failure and resilience to challenges. Strong relationships treat mistakes as learning opportunities.Building familiarity and interest in the students' lives: We genuinely care about our students! This allows us to take their perspective and support their self-advocacy along with their learning.As a result of these relationships, we see students who enjoy engaging in the process of learning. They become stronger advocates for their own learning and growth in high school and college.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-07-15T16:04:42+00:00July 15, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Instructional Strategies for Reciprocal Relationships