Academic Approach on How to Keep Students Prepared for the Fall

Each fall, students return to their schools fresh off summer experiences and ready to learn. Teachers welcome the opportunity to build on the previous year’s achievements. However, research shows that students show up in the fall behind where they left in off in June. With the current challenges facing students and schools, this will likely be amplified this year. These losses tend to be especially pronounced in math and in the upper grades. Academic Approach is focused on how to keep our students academically prepared—both in maintaining knowledge for the fall and in building core academic skills necessary to keep them on track in high school and college. To address the rising concern of families and educators seeking to support their students academically, we have created new math enrichment packages and are offering our individual sessions of one-on-one tutoring at 25% off while schools remain closed. Current concerns and the challenge ahead Over an average summer, students lose as much as 25% of the previous school year’s learning. New research suggests this effect will likely be amplified this year, with students arriving in the fall with only 70% of their typical reading gains and less than 50% of their typical math learning gains. Students will leave this school year with a vastly different educational experience than they have in the past—and teachers are already concerned about how to address those learning gaps in the fall, when they will inherit a cohort of students who, in many ways, have not fully completed the grade before. What can families do? Analysis has shown that reading and math programming over the summer raised test scores and reduced the learning loss students experienced. This research showed that programs were most effective when incorporating high-quality instructional strategies, when students spent more time on task, and when students were engaged consistently throughout the summer. This can be our roadmap: with excellent instruction and engagement, students can stay academically on track even while out of school. What high-quality instructional moves can families make at home? The first is to identify the gaps: what were the skills and learning your student had not yet mastered this year that may be important in the future? By both assessing their progress so far and looking ahead to what they did not get to learn, you can develop a comprehensive assessment of what work is needed in the months ahead. How is Academic Approach addressing the challenge? We’re focused on how to keep our students academically prepared for the fall with the core academic skills necessary to keep them on track in high school and college. Our instructors are delivering engaging, personalized content to ensure that students won’t return to classrooms unprepared for the next year’s work, especially core math skills. We’re using our expertise in college readiness and skills-based teaching to support student academic progress and success in these challenging times. Originally Appeared on View Original Article

By |2022-02-04T15:12:21+00:00June 22, 2020|Academic Approach, Press|Comments Off on Academic Approach on How to Keep Students Prepared for the Fall

Academic Approach: Beginnings

Academic Approach: Beginnings I founded Academic Approach in Chicago in 2001, but the story begins in 1996 in New York City when I was earning a Ph.D. in English at Columbia University. While I was teaching freshmen in Columbia’s core curriculum—classes on logic, rhetoric, grammar, and strategies of essay composition—I was also working as a test-prep tutor, coaching NYC high school students preparing for the SAT and ACT. In doing both simultaneously, I realized that I was teaching the same underlying skills to both college freshmen and high school students... Gregg's Landing - September 2019View Complete Article

By |2019-09-30T10:47:00+00:00September 30, 2019|News, Press|Comments Off on Academic Approach: Beginnings

Better Magazine’s 2019 Faces of Chicago

Every spring, every year, high school juniors — like Shakespeare’s Hamlet — face an existential moment: to ACT or to SAT? That is the question. For 18 years, Matthew Pietrafetta, Ph.D., and his test prep team at Academic Approach have helped students answer this question. In fact, Matthew approaches this often-dreaded rite of passage as an exciting learning opportunity. In helping a student navigate the journey, Academic Approach counsels the family, customizes a personalized one-on-one tutoring program to raise both test scores and academic skills, and mentors the student to become a more confident, empowered test taker. With one-on-one tutoring offices in Winnetka, Highland Park, Lincolnshire, Clarendon Hills, and Lincoln Park, Academic Approach is engaged in Chicagoland’s local communities, providing personalized service. With a School Programs division serving thousands of public-school students, Academic Approach is also committed to promoting equity and access to high-impact test prep. Read the complete article:

By |2019-09-17T14:23:59+00:00September 17, 2019|News, Press|Comments Off on Better Magazine’s 2019 Faces of Chicago

Test Prep Strategies for Dyslexic Students – Making the academic leap from high school to higher education can be challenging for any student. For students with dyslexia, this transition can seem even more intimidating as it requires more time and preparation for them than it does for their peers. Dyslexic students process and comprehend language differently, less intuitively, and less efficiently than students without dyslexia. Therefore, there is a specific purpose for any instructor working with a student with dyslexia: to teach the student learning strategies that help process and comprehend language as accurately and as efficiently as possible.  Find the right tutor and know your student’s specific needs Finding the right tutor begins with understanding your child’s specific needs. Dyslexia is associated with a spectrum of language processing issues and those specific issues need to be identified as narrowly as possible. The student’s IEP (Individual Educational Program), 504 Plan, or reports from psychological educational testing may provide helpful information.  For example, many dyslexic students are easily confused by verbal explanations. They will not thrive in a lecture-driven format and cannot rely on auditory processing as their primary means of learning. For those students, the right tutor will provide learning through hands-on experience: observation, experimentation, and the use of methods and models that help the student visualize information and meaning. In addition, dyslexic students can be eligible for testing accommodations, because they require extended time to demonstrate what they know. Their dyslexia is a functional limitation on their ability to perform up to potential under time duress. This presents a great opportunity for high-quality instruction and deep learning. Tutors can work with these students on building skills and strategies to help them more fully understand and engage test material within the additional time they are granted, rather than merely teaching “tips and tricks” to answer some of the content quickly.  Work with the tutor to learn how to process and re-process reading passages  The ACT and SAT are, first and foremost, intensive reading tests. Students with dyslexia are challenged by complex reading passages and grammar, making tests like the ACT and SAT important opportunities to support and teach them. A tutor can help by teaching specific learning strategies:  Active reading: reading for main idea and author’s purpose by analyzing specific portions of expository essays Annotating: developing techniques to annotate different types of information and classify that information visually, e.g., underlining main idea sentences in introductions and conclusions and circling supporting details in the body paragraphs Summarizing the meaning of a passage or paragraph reductively in simple sentences or phrases written in their own words Let’s flesh these strategies out a bit more.  Picture a reading passage on the ACT or SAT. It can span 500-850 words in length, including  unfamiliar content, new vocabulary, and even scientific data. This presentation is daunting to anyone, but can seem overwhelming for someone who has difficulty navigating grade-level reading passages.  Students with dyslexia need to be coached through a process of transforming the unfamiliar into something more familiar, something they can process and make meaningful. They need to [...]

By |2017-05-24T15:22:40+00:00May 24, 2017|News, Press|Comments Off on Test Prep Strategies for Dyslexic Students –

Creative Ways to Keep Kids Engaged with Math During the Summer –

For Middle & Older Students Matthew Pietrafetta is the founder and CEO of test preparation company Academic Approach. In order to keep your child’s math skills sharp over the summer, Matthew encourages students to engage in the following activities. Find a Summer Job If your child is old enough, getting a job as a cashier or sales associate will expose them to math skills without them even realizing it. Even with computerized systems doing a lot of the work, the process of counting change mimics problem-solving techniques they have to execute when learning and practicing math. Try Math and Logic Puzzles While most kids only want to spend time outside during the summer, there is the occasional rainy day. Instead of playing video games, watching TV, or doing a mindless activity, they can practice their math skills with a variety of math and logic puzzles, many of which are available via free apps on phones or tablets. Transform Family Game Night into a Learning Opportunity On family game night, why not combine family fun and learning? Many board games, while fun for kids, also can help develop key math skills. For older students, try Fractions, Decimals, Percents Bingo to practice certain skills. Card games like Rummy or Blackjack have advanced strategies that utilize math skills appropriate for older students. Head to the Clearance Section Go on a shopping trip and head to the clearance section. Your child can practice percentages if you quiz them on what something would cost if it’s 20%, 50% or 80% off. Make it more challenging by adding a coupon into the equation. Read the original article:

By |2017-05-17T15:24:43+00:00May 17, 2017|Press|Comments Off on Creative Ways to Keep Kids Engaged with Math During the Summer –

How to Help Your Child Prepare for the SAT – Modern Homeschool Family

High school juniors across the country are preparing to take the SAT in the next few weeks. At this point, you may be wondering what you could possibly do to improve your score. How to Help Your Child Prepare for the SAT Here are some steps to follow in the next few weeks to make the most of the remaining time. 14 Days Out — Get a current snapshot of your skills If you haven’t already, take an SAT practice test. Your score and skills analysis will give you a clear starting point for planning. Organize a study plan with these steps: Identify your good areas that you want to make great. Every student has a strong suit; figure that out and optimize it.Identify the areas that need the greatest improvement, and, here’s the key: find the few highest-impact skills in those areas that will produce the biggest impact. Focus on those high-impact skills.Prepare a detailed study schedule that charts your expected personal growth over the next two weeks, including specific goals for your areas of focus. A well-trained tutor can help use the practice test data to focus your efforts so you can improve during the time that remains. 10 Days Out — Work on time management Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with some of the test construct and high-impact skills, you need to start to think about time management. How are you breaking up your time for the reading passages and questions? How much time are you spending on the easy and medium math questions versus the hard questions? These nuanced time-management decisions can have a big impact on performance. 7 Days Out — Take another practice test and assess progress At this point, take another practice test. Assess your growth in your scores and skills. What has grown? What hasn’t? Now, target the skills that need the most attention and focus there for the remaining days. 1 Day Out – Summarize & Review With the end in sight, it’s time to consolidate your lessons learned onto one sheet. What high-impact skills are most important for you? What grammar rules, math formulae, reading strategies are the most helpful? And what time management approaches optimize your performance best? Write these down for review and bring them along in the car ride on test day morning. And be confident! The key is that you have insight into your own personal performance and you know how to personalize your own test-taking approach to meet your specific needs. That’s the key to success. Read the original article:

By |2017-03-28T15:30:28+00:00March 28, 2017|News, Press|Comments Off on How to Help Your Child Prepare for the SAT – Modern Homeschool Family

What parents can do to help teens prepare for the SAT & ACT – ChicagoNow’s Between Us Parents Blog

Standardized tests take on a whole new meaning in high school, with the SAT and/or ACT being huge components in the college application process. With the SAT coming up on April 5, I talked with Matthew Pietrafetta of Academic Approach, a test preparation and tutoring company with locations in Chicago, New York, and Boston. He offered his expert advice on what parents can do to get teens ready for the SAT and ACT. His wisdom is applicable to both those taking the test next week and those who are still a few years off. Between Us Parents: In an ideal world, what does the parent role for a child preparing for the SAT look like to you? Matthew Pietrafetta: Parents play a tremendous role in trying to build purpose. Teenagers can get a little cynical and not see the purpose.  If purpose is built through compliance or authoritarian rule, there isn’t intrinsic motivation. Most successful students are intrinsically motivated. Those are character traits developed way before 16 and 17, so building purpose around learning and performance and having that be very positive is the principle role that the parent is involved in. Parents are involved in the psychology of our children and how they approach achievement. Parents need to be positive as they encourage their kids to be their best. For 20 years I've been meeting with families to go over practice test scores and have seen a lot of different tones set by parents. My favorite is when parents ask their kid, “What do you make of that?” It empowers the child and makes it a constructive conversation about the learning process and not just looking at the test as an anxiety-producing right of passage that's part of getting into a certain college. BUP: Speaking of anxiety, what can parents do to manage their high schooler’s stress level about standardized testing? MP: There are several basic things parents can do that have a big impact in keeping their kids stress level down. Don’t project yourself on your child. Parents may feel that they themselves were stressed out when they were taking the test, but don't put your anxiety on your kid.Know the process. You can take the test multiple times, and often schools will suppress the lower scores. Don’t approach test day like it’s doomsday if the process allows the child to take the test multiple times without penalty. It's important to know that a test taker can cancel their score if they had a horrible day, whether they were sick, had a bad break-up the night before, whatever. Parents need to know that to talk the student down a bit.Cultivate growth mindset. It’s age old stuff but it is so, so helpful when preparing for standardized tests, which are complex and covering a lot of material. A mistake is an opportunity to learn. The process is prolonged and requires deferring immediate gratification which is hard for kids, but most goals weren't achieved without a lot of hard work, and many take a long time. Teach kids that slow and steady wins the race, and [...]

By |2017-03-27T15:28:18+00:00March 27, 2017|News, Press|Comments Off on What parents can do to help teens prepare for the SAT & ACT – ChicagoNow’s Between Us Parents Blog

Always A Lesson: Matthew Pietrafetta, Founder of Academic Approach, joins host Gretchen Schultek to discuss the benefits of aligning high-impact test preparation with curriculum and instruction.

Matthew is the founder of Academic Approach, an organization that helps schools in underserved communities prepare students for the SAT and ACT, the tests they need to succeed on to gain admission to college. He’s also a former New York City teacher. He says “aligning high-impact test preparation with curriculum and instruction is not easy work, but it’s valuable and necessary. Often this work is approached as an “either-or:” either I focus on test prep or I focus on my curriculum.  If you can approach the challenge as a “both-and” instead, you can find some efficient, creative solutions: I can both teach my curriculum and integrate in skills-based test preparation that teaches my students the high-impact skills they need for success both in my class and on the test.  With the right assessment, reporting, and professional development system in place, we can achieve that all-important “both-and” in teaching and learning.” Quotables “Teach beyond the test” “With the proper mentorship, students can fail forward… a lesson in resilience” “The way [students] experience failure can be positive and productive or paralyzing” “If you do take a student centered view of teaching, you never are done because there’s always a new student and each student is different” Buzz Words Locus of control Growth mindset Grit Rigorous academic approach Self Conception Matthew’s Stamp of Approval Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins (“backwards design” and “teaching for transfer”)

By |2022-02-04T17:19:00+00:00March 6, 2017|News, Press|Comments Off on Always A Lesson: Matthew Pietrafetta, Founder of Academic Approach, joins host Gretchen Schultek to discuss the benefits of aligning high-impact test preparation with curriculum and instruction.

SAT vs. ACT: Standardized Test Expert Weighs In – (Winnetka)

WINNETKA, IL — The SAT has replaced the ACT as the state accountability exam in Illinois, and April 5 marks the first time all students in public high schools will take the state-mandated exam. For many students, the publicly subsidized test will be their only opportunity at a college entrance exam. However, some students will have to decide which is better for them and their own needs: the SAT or ACT. To help families sort through the choices, Patch spoke with Matthew Pietrafetta, founder and CEO of Academic Approach, a company that works with students and schools to improve skills and test scores. "It's a big shock to the system because Illinois has been aligned with the ACT since 2001," he said. "That's a big deal to shift that." Pietrafetta's company was involved in Michigan's recent transition to SAT testing and has a contract with Chicago Public Schools to help prepare students and teachers for the new assessment.Subscribe Even though all students will be sitting for the April 5 SAT exam, its result does not necessarily have to be submitted to admissions departments, he said. "When you're applying to college, you can just really focus in your application on highlighting the score that features you better," Pietrafetta said. But how do you do that? Ideally, through sample tests that let you figure out which test you score better and on which you feel more comfortable.  Students and families asking about the tests differences can contrast the two using the following table: Table showing differences between SAT and ACT (Courtesy Academic Approach)  "Students are not all the same, there is no average, so you could go to the same school and be getting the same GPA as the student sitting next to you, but that student may perform way better on one test or the other from you," Pietrafetta said. "It doesn't mean you're the same, because it's such a summative test. There's so much curriculum, grammar, reading, math, science, so it could really impact you differently. You could have different strengths and different areas of opportunity." Those students especially skilled at taking standardized tests may benefit from taking the ACT, SAT and PSAT.  But Pietrafetta has a warning for students who feel they can neglect the April 5 exam because they've already got the score they want: The scores from the state-mandated SAT will still be attached to students' final high school transcripts, even if some superintendents have elected not to attach them to transcripts until the spring of senior year after most college-bound students have already been admitted. So, April 5 SAT scores will be part of the permanent academic records of all Illinois public high school juniors. Read original article:

By |2017-03-01T15:36:58+00:00March 1, 2017|News, Press|Comments Off on SAT vs. ACT: Standardized Test Expert Weighs In – (Winnetka)
Go to Top