Announcement Regarding Fall Registration Dates & Refunds

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues: We’re spending this week offering updates on ACT & SAT, some of which are relevant to our Class of 2021 and some to 2022 and beyond. On August, 26, 2020, in a Facebook Live session with Grown & Flown, ACT’s CEO Janet Godwin explained the following regarding fall registration dates & refunds: Will ACT make more fall dates available to seniors? ACT… is setting up pop-up sites in hotels and conference centers in September and beyond in places where schools have closed testing centers is attempting to accommodate seniors better this fall; those seniors who want to test but have been unable to register for a test date should contact ACT directly, preferably by email; ACT is adding more phone agents in the next month to offer better customer service may also more test dates in December and January, should demand require Will refunds be issued to those whose tests were canceled? ACT… will provide options to families: refund or reschedule has processed 50,000 refund requests, but still have 20,000 waiting for refunds will bring on additional team members to get through backlog will (eventually) refund all requests for refund We’ll continue to share information as we acquire it. Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-08-31T18:00:00+00:00August 31, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Announcement Regarding Fall Registration Dates & Refunds

Two Academic Support Models Beneficial To Students

Dear Academic Approach Families and Colleagues:This week, we’ve shared with you some of the research and best practices that inform our 1-on-1 and Study Teams academic support models for this unprecedented school year. We wanted to share with you two academic models through which we’re seeing families engage in this work:Review model: our instructors provide targeted support and instruction on topics already taught in school, remotely or otherwise. In this model, we learn from students where they are struggling and provide supportive instruction in reviewing those specific areas.Preview model: our instructors provide direct instruction on upcoming content in class—as well as enrichment to stretch the level of rigor beyond what will be covered. In this model, we’re pushing the rigor to higher levels of high school and college readiness.Our work with students is perhaps more urgent than ever before, and we appreciate your feedback and thoughts on how to best support your students. We’ll continue to provide updates and feedback on academic and test preparation support for this school year.A note on SAT: Best of luck to all of our students testing Saturday. Remember to check on the status of your test site even up until the morning of the test.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-08-27T22:51:16+00:00August 27, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Two Academic Support Models Beneficial To Students

Student Engagement And Social Learning

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues: Yesterday, we shared some of the academic principles of our programming—how we are using our expertise in customizing learning experiences to set students up for success. Today, we’re discussing another important aspect of our Study Teams programming: providing engagement and social learning opportunities. Long before remote learning, we knew that engagement in school tends to decrease as students age, with only about half of middle school students and a third of high school students self-reporting high levels of engagement with school. Remote learning exacerbates this trend for many students while blurring the definition of what it means to be engaged in school while working from home. Our programming seeks to intentionally create a small community of learners. Students working in small groups see many benefits beyond just stronger academic achievement and deeper understanding of material: they are more motivated, have more positive attitudes towards the subject material, and develop skills in collaborating with others. Our instructors work intentionally in these small groups to cultivate these benefits. We’re prioritizing this critical social aspect of learning for students both virtually and in-person. Reach out to us to learn more about this work. On another note, ACT has started emailing families regarding the status of their registration for September test dates. You can find the current list of canceled sites here. They'll be sending emails on weekdays to notify students if there is a change in their registration status. Students who are affected can request a free change or refund through their ACT web account. (In the past, ACT's refund policy allowed for students who did not get a refund to be auto-registered for a subsequent test.) Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-08-26T18:00:00+00:00August 26, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Student Engagement And Social Learning

Personalized Feedback That Promotes Learning

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues: This week, we’re sharing the goals and best practices we’re incorporating into our academic work with students this fall. We know the best practices to remediate learning loss include additional instructional time from content experts in student-centered groupings. Why is this so effective? It provides students with the opportunity to truly dig into the content, get feedback from an expert on their understanding, and continuously grow in their learning. We know in even the best remote learning scenarios, teachers are hard-pressed to provide the personalized feedback and experiences that are so essential to student learning. Our instructors plan carefully for our academic support sessions (both One-on-One and in Study Teams), aligning instructional support with the syllabus and materials students are receiving from their schools. They then design rigorous content and questioning to supplement and assess student understanding, provide personalized feedback and prompting, and provide students with the opportunity to learn and grow. We know our students are facing new challenges this fall, and we’re working to support them in overcoming those challenges—so they’ll see success in their remote classrooms this year and maintain academic progress for college and career readiness. Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-08-25T17:50:00+00:00August 25, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Personalized Feedback That Promotes Learning

An Introduction To Small Group Instruction

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues: As we approach the August SAT next weekend, we know many of you have received notice about closed test sites; so far 46% of test centers have closed for Saturday's SAT. We'll continue to provide updates on SAT and ACT testing this fall. This week, we’re diving deeper into the research and best practices that will be driving our instruction with students as students head back into classrooms (virtual or otherwise) this fall. Both our own research and feedback from families along with broad investigations (this link connects to an instrumental study on education and economic disparities) have found a significant impact of academic tutoring in both one-on-one and small group settings. For older students (14 and older), academic tutoring is one of the only demonstrably effective methods of improving student reading performance. We take this research seriously as we consider our responsibility to support students, schools, and families in the new academic landscape they are encountering this fall. We’ve taken our instructional best practices and adapted to support the work students are receiving at school through our Study Teams programming, offering personalized learning to remediate gaps and incorporate rigorous, engaging work in a small-group setting. We’ll share more this week on the academic and social benefits of this work. Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-08-24T17:50:00+00:00August 24, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on An Introduction To Small Group Instruction

Standardized Test Administrations & The Operational Burden On Schools

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues: As we continue to work with you to navigate the uncertainty of fall test administrations of the ACT and the SAT, many questions about these tests—in particular, their accessibility—are being raised. While we focus principally on the instructional value of standardized tests, there’s no denying these issues, which reveal the operational burden the administration of these tests places on schools. The Operational Burden on Schools Schools are responsible for serving as test centers for either their own students or their own students and any other students who register. Administrative staff in the schools are responsible for organizing, planning, staffing, proctoring, ensuring compliant conditions, gathering, and mailing in all forms. One of the reasons for the recent breakdown in the planning, scheduling, and administration of the ACT and the SAT is this dependency, which has placed a massive burden on schools to consider – during a pandemic – how to balance priorities of access to testing for students along with student and staff safety. Effects on Accessibility Many high schools are attempting to provide opportunities students want to test, but conditions are changing fast, often leading to late-breaking site closures or reduced seats. We're also seeing schools offer new school day options for both SAT and ACT. Some schools have also opted to become "unlisted" test sites, offering national test days only to students enrolled at the school (while ACT scrambles to create more "pop-up" test sites to add seats this fall). Understanding the Root Causes & Navigating Ahead A thoughtful Chronicle of Higher Education article explores this particular issue with standardized testing: the operational dependency on schools for access to the test. This dependency in turn promotes inequities in access and demands resources from schools. This issue is at the root of some of the disorder and confusion we have seen, and we will continue to see, as we attempt to navigate the road ahead. We'll keep families up to date on trends and options for access to testing. We also recommend that families speak to their school administration about whether or not they will be offering a test for students. Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2021-09-10T15:19:24+00:00August 20, 2020|Academic Approach, Letter|Comments Off on Standardized Test Administrations & The Operational Burden On Schools

Standardized Tests Can Promote Rigor

Well before the current outbreak of COVID-19, skeptics questioned the value of standardized testing as a college admissions requirement. Some argue this pandemic, however, will be the final nail in the testing coffin. As this outlet has pointed out, the majority of colleges are now test optional or test blind, and headlines proclaim “the beginning of the end” for standardized tests or (put more simply) “Kill the SAT.” There is another side to this story, however, that should not be left out: standardized tests can  -- when used constructively and administered safely  -- drive higher standards in education and more rigorous, targeted instruction for students in essential college readiness skills. Too often, standardized tests are created as a single moment in students' lives: they take the test, they receive a score and they move on. Instead, we have found that college entrance exams can be used as powerful learning opportunities to help students master academic skills. These skills help students succeed both on and beyond the tests  -- in high school, in college and in their careers. The conversation about college readiness and quality of instruction should include a careful and intentional review of student performance on standardized tests. Indeed, we believe that standardized tests can be a valuable tool for educators to better prepare students for college-level work. With continued remote learning anticipated well into the 2020-21 school year, we predict a continued amplification effect to extended summer learning loss. The increased time out of the physical classroom has led to research predicting increased losses in foundational skills for students returning this fall, a phenomenon now commonly called the “COVID slide.” Current research predicts students may retain only 50 percent of the gains they made in math during the 2019-20 school year, which was abruptly cut short as the nation went into lockdown. In such a unique year, the value of standardized testing to assess year-over-year trends in student gains and losses may be a more valuable instrument to educators than ever. In its May research and policy brief, ACT shared its student performance estimates based on historical data and predicted the impact of remote learning on ACT performance. The table below summarizes the research on typical per-month gains for students in school versus out of school. Source: ACT Research & Policy Brief 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 (to reflect inconsistent approaches to remote learning in the spring), students would instead see a net gain of only 0.82 points per year. This seemingly small decrease in ACT scores can in fact indicate a large effect on overall student achievement and college readiness, admissions and scholarship eligibility across districts and states. With months of remote learning ahead, the deficit may grow. Beyond just serving as a measure of current achievement, high-quality tests create gravitational pull toward [...]

By |2021-09-10T15:20:37+00:00August 20, 2020|ACT, SAT|Comments Off on Standardized Tests Can Promote Rigor

ACT Apology And Pop-Up Test Sites

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:After many frustrations registering for fall ACT dates, ACT released an apology and small update last week. They attributed the issues and failures of their new site, MyACT, to extraordinarily high demand and acknowledged the continuing challenges of safely offering enough test seats this fall to meet student need. They are adding staff to their customer call centers moving forward.At this point, they are working to develop "pop-up" test sites in the areas hardest hit by test cancellations, which could add as many as 10,000 additional seats on the planned test dates this fall. They also promise better communication about canceled test sites. In addition, they've extended registration for the September test date to August 28th as they add sites and seats through MyACT. Students hoping to test then should continue to check on availability.We'll provide more updates and information on testing and college preparation this fall through the rest of the week!Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-08-17T20:39:00+00:00August 17, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on ACT Apology And Pop-Up Test Sites

Effective Instruction to Prevent Learning Loss

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:With many schools and school districts moving to remote learning, families and schools are focused on preventing learning loss through effective instructional support. We wanted to share with you some of the research that we rely on to develop effective models to support our students. This research highlights the importance of three elements in effectively addressing learning loss:Supplemental instructional time in addition to what is received during the school day led by...Content-strong teachers who are true experts with in-depth expertise, provided in...Student-centered groupings in order to address specific needs.This research, and our experience teaching since 2001, informs our best-practice design of our Study Teams to support students as they return to the classroom--virtual or otherwise--this fall.Be well,Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-08-13T17:04:44+00:00August 13, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Effective Instruction to Prevent Learning Loss

Guest Letter: Study Teams

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues: Today, I'd like to share a guest letter from Carla Pedersen, our Regional Director of One-on-One Tutoring: Since 2001, we have focused on Teaching Beyond the Test: raising our students’ test scores as well as their academic skills. The mission to help students master essential academic skills is more important than ever with continued school closures, the potential for increased learning loss, and the challenge of social isolation. To support our students in overcoming these challenges, we are offering Study Teams: three-student supplemental learning groups. With a group of three students within the same class, an Academic Approach instructor works to review important prior academic content that may have missed and preview essential advanced content students will need to master. Working in a Study Team helps support successful learning in a specific subject and also provides an additional social opportunity that students are craving right now. Our personalized one-on-one academic support is also of course available. We’d love to connect with you to share more about how we can support your student academically. Best, Carla and the Academic Approach Directing Team Be well, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

By |2020-08-12T09:53:00+00:00August 12, 2020|Letter|Comments Off on Guest Letter: Study Teams
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