Making Academic Progress during COVID-19:
Letters from our Founder

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Lessons on Learning from 2020

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:

As students settle into their winter breaks, we’re reflecting on lessons learned from remote learning.

Remote Learning: Costs

As schools consider what changes to instruction the spring may bring, around half of American students leave for winter break following a remote fall. We’ve shared with you various estimates of what this shift in instruction has cost students academically. Most concerning are the thousands of students who haven’t returned to school at all this year. Students, parents, and teachers have reported disengagement and challenges in reaching students during instruction and outside of virtual class.

Personalized Learning: Opportunities

We know one thing to be true: students can learn, virtually and in person, even in these challenging circumstances. We’ve seen it in our work with students throughout 2020, and the research has shown what we know to be true: personalized, high-quality, frequent instruction can close even the most significant learning gaps. One-on-one instruction is “remarkably effective at helping students learn,” as studies have proven time and again.

We’re looking forward to the most productive and successful 2021 for our students, families, and colleagues. The Academic Approach Team would like to wish you and your loved ones Happy Holidays.

Be well,
Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

Key Learning Insights For Winter Break

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:

As many students finish their last week of school for this semester, we’re sharing lessons gleaned on important aspects of remote learning, highlighting two topics, in particular, for families to reflect on as they prepare for the break:

Relationships & Engagement

There are aspects of effective in-person instruction that are perhaps even more essential in remote instruction; high-quality relationships are key to academic growth for students regardless of format. These relationships, in combination with targeted, personalized instruction, are why tutoring is so effective in-person or online.

To help promote positive relationships and engagement, families can consider the following:

Are we asking teachers the right questions?

  • What specific skills does my child need to work on over break?
  • Are there additional assignments or apps my child should be working on to build skills?
  • Are there additional office hours or instructional opportunities my child can attend?

Is our student asking teachers the right questions?

  • Can I review my mistakes from the last assignment with you?
  • Can I talk with you briefly about how to prepare best for the next test?
  • Are there specific ways I can practice building my skills over break?

Student Data & Behaviors

As you assess this semester’s test results and student performance, consider: 

  • Are grades and test scores trending consistently or is there evidence of a downward trend?
  • Is our student attending class consistently and seriously?
  • Is our student working rigorously during school and completing homework after school?

Track closely early warning signs of underperformance in order to react, correct, and help students maintain academic progress and avoid learning loss, using the semester break as a time to reflect, adjust, and make improvements.

Be well,
Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

Announcing Academic Tutoring Packages

We’re excited to unveil our new Academic Tutoring Packages, a special discount offer for families. This is a limited time offer.*

Our friendly and highly-qualified team is ready to help you. You’ll get effective instruction that is personalized, engaging, and rigorous with high-level instructors to keep your student on track for long-term success.

 

Start the next semester strong!

 

*Terms & Conditions: This offer only applies to academic tutoring. It does not apply to any test prep programs. Payment is due in full upon confirmation of your tutor selection prior to the start of tutoring. Hourly rates vary based on tutor. Availability of a specific tutor is not guaranteed. This offer is available for a limited time and must be purchased prior to 02/19/2021 to qualify. The Academic Tutoring Package must be utilized prior to 6/30/2021. There are no refunds for tutoring hours that are not used prior to 6/30/2021.

How Is Academic Math Measuring Up?

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:

You’ll recall some of the grim forecasts from the spring about the impact of remote learning on student learning. NWEA forecasted that students would return to the classroom with less than 50% of the gains in math compared with a typical school year.

What does this mean? This means students who scored in the 50th percentile on the fall 2019 test in math would score between the 40th and 30th percentile in fall 2020.

Instead, NWEA has recently shared data from those students who were able to take fall 2020 testing that shows math performance down about half what was projected: a drop of 5 to 10 percentile points, putting those students between the 45th and 40th percentile.

However, with 25% of students—some of the most underserved students—not testing (because of lack of access and opportunity), these numbers do not capture the complete potential loss sustained.

We’re working with families and our school partners to offer academic support to help close gaps in learning—large or small—as we continue to help navigate this challenging school year and maintain academic progress. This Thursday we’ll release information about a new package we’ll be offering to promote academic success.

Be well,
Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

PSATs, Score Release, and Next Steps

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:

PSAT scores are scheduled for release on Monday, December 7th. Be on the lookout for those results for sophomores and juniors who tested in October.

In a year when data on academic progress is especially important, digging into these numbers can be helpful in shedding light on what important college readiness skills have been mastered and what skills still need attention and development.

We’re happy to provide complimentary analysis for those families who want the scores read, contextualized, and prioritized in terms of learning objectives. For those students who were not able to test, we’re happy to provide complimentary testing and analysis.

PSAT data—when read carefully and prioritized well—can help identify opportunities for success both on and beyond the test.

Be well,
Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

Final 2020 ACT And SAT Dates & Score Growth Trends

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:

Final 2020 Test Dates

As we close out 2020, many of our seniors complete their preparation for the SAT this weekend or ACT next weekend, their final opportunities to take the standardized tests to submit with college applications this year (for most students). As we all well know, our students have been confronted by test center closures and other disruptions in their college application process, and they may face additional challenges heading into these final test dates, with more closures on the horizon.

With many colleges offering this year’s students test-optional admissions, students have the choice to submit applications to most schools, even if they have not been able to test, so students should feel confident that admission officers will be looking at 2020 in context when reading applications.

Score Growth Trends

For our seniors who have been able to consistently engage in academic work, we find their testing data through summer and fall to be largely on-track, making 92% of the growth in math, and attaining approximately the same percentile growth, for example, as we saw from last year’s seniors across fall testing. This percentage may grow as more students—who were deferred—complete their testing.

These results provide some hope that consistent, targeted interventions in academic preparation for students can help them make up for interrupted academic experiences. We’ll continue to study the trends and identify the most effective interventions to help maintain academic progress in the months ahead.

Be well,
Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

Distance Learning Has Parents Feeling Distanced

Dear Academic Approach Families & Colleagues:

In a recent poll commissioned by The National Parents Union, we find parents expressing some mixed opinions: a great appreciation for the efforts of our schools but a desire for more direct communication.

Effort: Meeting & Exceeding

More than four-fifths of those surveyed say the education offered by their child’s school is good or excellent. Researchers conjecture that the high mark given by parents to schools is reflective—and rightfully so—of the herculean efforts school administrators and teachers are taking to keep students safe, keep themselves safe, and maintain academic progress under the most challenging of circumstances. The confidence rating seems to also be correlated with a growing confidence in the effectiveness of online learning, with 73 percent of parents reporting a willingness for their child to take some high school courses digitally.

Communication: Needs Improvement

However, parents want more communication: 39 percent of parents in distance learning and 37 percent in hybrid learning say they want more communication about their students’ academic progress.

Bridging the Distance

For parents who want more insight into their students’ academic progress, a few thoughts:

Leverage Parent-Teacher Conferences

Ask the right questions

  • What specific skills does my child need to work on?
  • Are there additional assignments or apps my child should be working on to build skills?
  • Are there additional office hours or instructional opportunities my child can attend?

Teach students to ask their teachers the right questions

  • Can I review my mistakes from the last assignment with you?
  • Can I talk with you briefly about how to prepare best for the next test?
  • Are there ways I can practice or engage to build my skills?

With distance learning changing traditional communications, we must focus more on advocacy and student self-advocacy than ever before.

We’ll be off next week for Thanksgiving. We hope you have a good holiday (though it may look quite different this year), and we are, as always, grateful to have the opportunity to work with you and your students!

Be well,
Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., Founder & CEO

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Every Student is Different

We know our students; each one is unique, and each one requires a different approach, especially during these unprecedented times. That is why our ACT, SAT, and Middle School test prep is customized to each student and school partner.

We improve your students’ standardized testing by tailoring our research-based, expert instruction and curriculum to your needs, and we can get started with you right away.

Our offices are now open, but in a limited capacity. We are still offering online tutoring and all practice tests will remain virtual.

Reach out to us at 773-348-8914 with any questions.