Category Archives: Academics

Clearly, 2020 has been a year of adjustments for students and teachers alike, but thankfully, technology and a little bit of creativity have gone a long way towards making it possible to tutor your children efficiently and effectively without losing that personal connection that one on one tutoring provides. When it was clear that the pandemic was going to keep me out of the office, I called my son who is a high school English teacher in Virginia and an admitted tech geek; his web site is appropriately titled teachernerd.com. I could see him smiling as he calmly walked me through my options. They ranged from simple and inexpensive to ridiculously complex and expensive. I chose an option that would make the most of what hardware I already had and only required a $100 purchase. I have Zoom loaded on my MacBook Pro. I recently upgraded my internet speed, so…

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Critics of standardized tests often paint those assessments as aloof from everyday exercises of knowledge and learning, conveniently ignoring the primacy of reading and written communication in most activities. That’s right: tests like the SAT and ACT evaluate the kind of reading and writing skills that matter in school, work, and life. Math, however, seems to be more of a disconnect; how often do you need trigonometry or geometric theorems in your non-scientific day-to-day? However, tests like the SAT and ACT do assess math skills and knowledge that matter beyond high school, from broad conceptual quantitative literacy to creative problem solving. One more oft-overlooked skill that carries into real life is modeling, the application of math skills to answer questions about real world situations. What are some common examples of modelling? How much does a shirt with a retail price of $40 cost during a 30%-off sale? How long will…

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I’ve been happily immersed in ACT Certified Educator training over the last week. This is a great program with terrific trainers. Jason Derby, for example, is a true educational triple-threat, teaching high school classes, ACE courses, and private test prep. No wonder so many of his insights resonated with my own experience of testing. For example, who could argue with this analogy? The ACT is like a rock wall: there are usually multiple ways to climb to the top. Jason hits the nail on the head here. Great climbing walls are designed to challenge a wide range of complementary skills and strategies along a spectrum of successful outcomes. Great tests do the same. Neither trial is necessarily designed to allow every competitor to attain the summit but still permits numerous paths to the highest levels of success. The comparison doesn’t end there. Solving a tough test question is a lot…

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Every time I see this e-card, I have to laugh. Most of our students would smile too, since we always call out “for all intensive purposes” as a classic word usage error. The grammarians at the College Board and ACT, Inc. have been known to torment kids with, among other things, eggcorns and malapropisms: An eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker’s dialect. The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original, but plausible in the same context, e.g. take it for granite instead of take it for granted. We create eggcorns all the time when we try to decode the lyrics to our favorite songs. A malapropism, on the other time, occurs when the substitution creates a nonsensical phrase. Classical malapropisms generally derive their comic effect from the fault of…

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Aeschylus, the renowned playwright of ancient Greece, is remembered as the father of tragedy. His works often visited themes such as disaster, downfall, and divine justice, which provided ample opportunity to connect suffering to learning: “Suffering brings experience.” “Wisdom comes through suffering.” “The reward of suffering is experience.” “Only through suffering do we learn.” “Nothing forces us to know what we do not want to know except pain.” Aeschylus was not the only philosopher to opine about how excruciating experience and knowledge can be to come by: “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” — Confucius “Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson “Don’t feel entitled to anything you didn’t sweat and struggle for.” — Marian Wright Edelman…

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The current paradigm of SAT and ACT testing in the state of New York generally sees high schoolers testing at high schools, with the vast majority of students engaged in Saturday testing. Students in many other states benefit from free school day administrations, but the SAT and/or ACT take the place of traditional state assessment tests in those states. While NYC has piloted the use of standardized admissions tests for assessment purposes, we do not seem to be anywhere close to replacing the Regents. This does not, however, eliminate the opportunity for a high school to administer the SAT or ACT in its own classrooms during the school day. In fact, both College Board and ACT have created paths that allow schools to serve as school day test centers for their own students. The question, of course, is, “Why bother?” Who exactly benefits from SAT and ACT school day testing?…

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