Monday, January 12, 2015

Common Core and the SAT

Today I saw my first high school junior who had completed Common Core High School Math I, II, and III.  His mother had called me for SAT preparation because his math PSAT scores were disappointing.  A glance at his score report revealed the problem:  He either omitted or missed two thirds of the geometry problems.  Uh oh. Here's a pretty good student with pretty good teachers who is the victim of a curriculum change that has left him unprepared for his college entrance exams.
(You can read my prior comments on geometry and the Common Core here and here.)

Current sophomores may benefit from the redesigned SAT in 2016 since the College Board has indirectly hinted that geometry will be given a lot less emphasis on the new test.  Current juniors who were strong enough in math to have finished the Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II sequence by the end of sophomore year should also be fine.  However for this one year, we have a group of juniors with a fairly serious problem when it comes to gaining admission to even moderately selective colleges.

I think I will need to offer a geometry course for students to take this spring and summer.  An Introduction to SAT and ACT Geometry.  I'll have to work out a curriculum, but I'm thinking a total of 7 - 10 hours.  I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

I'll say it again: Top SAT scores begin in the sandbox!

I've written about this topic before here:  Top SAT scores begin in the Sandbox.  However, it bears repeating:  When I work with high school students who are studying for their college entrance exams, I sometimes see evidence of what I have come to refer to as a Sandbox Deficit.  Children who don't spend enough time in unstructured play fail to develop the foundation for basic math, reading and science.  To compensate, they memorize steps, algorithms and strategies, but that only takes them so far.

Unfortunately, academics are getting pushed to earlier and earlier ages.  The good news is that more people are waking up to the problem.  Spread the news!  Share the studies!  And make time for children to play!

The most recent article I have run across regarding this subject can be found here:

And here is what Matt Walsh had to say about the same headline referred to in the above article:

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Official SAT Study Guide for the redesigned SAT is available for preorder

The Official Study Guide for the redesigned SAT will be released this summer.  I just pre-ordered a copy and was informed that it should be delivered the first week of July.  If you plan to take the redesigned SAT starting in March of 2016, then you can pre-order your copy here:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A gift idea for your freshman or sophomore

If you have come to this site for information about the ACT Winter Workout, click here.

About 10 years ago, someone did a study to see what teens wanted to read.  One surprising result was that the size and shape of the book matters!  The next time you are in the nearest big-box bookstore, check out the teen section.  You will see some of the same titles that are on the shelves in other sections, but in different formats.  Teens like books that are smaller – particularly volumes that can be slipped into the rear pocket of a pair of jeans. Books exactly like these:

Fall River Press has introduced a set of books that have elicited actual “ooh’s” from teens I have lent them to.  The first set of volumes was focused on the Founding Documents and other historically significant writing:  Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the writings and speeches of Abraham Lincoln, and The Constitution among them.  Recently they have added volumes of classical literature:  A Christmas Carol, Pride and Prejudice, and a copy of the Psalms.  These beautiful little books look like they are bound in leather and are the perfect size to tuck into the back pocket of your skinniest jeans. 

The historical set will be perfect for that junior or senior year APUSH class (AP US History for the uninitiated) and will serve your student well while practicing for the new SAT which will be introduced in March of 2016.  Besides, don’t we each need our very own copy of the US Constitution?

To order through Amazon:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Announcing a new series of ACT Prep Classes!

From December 29 to January 2 I will hold an ACT Winter Workout for students in the Raleigh, NC area.  These small classes are appropriate for juniors who will be taking the ACT in the spring and for seniors who have been deferred or waitlisted and who would like to improve their test scores to improve their chances of acceptance.  The classes are broken down into morning and afternoon sessions and you may sign up for either or both. Students who are enrolled in both sessions may bring a sack lunch to eat during the hour break.

Morning sessions will run from 10 am to 12 noon and will primarily cover the Reading section with some timing advice for the Science section. 

Afternoon sessions will run from 1 pm to 2:30 pm and will cover the Math and English sections.

Students should have (and should bring) a copy of The Real ACT Prep Guide.  There is a link below to order it from Amazon.  Students in the afternoon sessions should bring their calculators.

The morning sessions are $200, and the afternoon sessions are $150.  Sign up for both for $325.  Visitors to Holly Days at Sanderson High School on December 6 may find $50-off coupons on their windshields when they exit!

Space is limited to 7 students per session, so sign up soon. Students will be enrolled on a first-come, first-served basis. You can contact me here:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Study Materials Review: Dr. John Chung's SAT II Math 2

I have a new favorite Math 2 SAT subject test practice book!  Dr. John Chung's version doesn't have much in the way of review information, but the practice tests are quite good.  He does a good job capturing the "flavor" of the SAT II Math 2 questions.  AND there are a whopping 12 practice tests!

That said, the book is not perfect.  So far I have taken tests 1, 8 and 12.  My past experience with practice books is that the first test is often good, but that the tests deteriorate from there.  Test 8 was still pretty good, but it did require me to use the Law of Cosines three times, which seems excessive.  Test 12 is not useable as a practice test because a printing error caused half of the math symbols to appear as little rectangles.  I was still able to decipher most of the questions, but it throws off the timing for a practice test.  This test could only be used as a source of problems, and then only by someone who knows enough to deduce what the symbols should be.  A reviewer on Amazon complained that there was not a list of errata available.  I may make one for my students.  If I do, I'll share.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"Recruiting to reject"

I was reading a blog post earlier today when I came across a new phrase:  "recruiting to reject."  It refers to a practice whereby students who have a snowball's chance in the proverbial hot spot's chance of getting into a college are encouraged to apply anyway.  The college then (predictably for those of us "in the know") rejects the student.  By rejecting these students, the schools admit rate goes down and they look more competitive than they would otherwise.  This, in turn, raises the school's ranking in various lists.  I've seen this going on a various local schools, but I never had a nice phrase to refer to it by until now.

Colleges use various methods of encouraging potential rejects to apply, and I was witness to some of them on a recent visit to a local high school.  I was there to talk to the career counselor.  She wasn't in, but I happened into a room in which an admissions officer from a local public university - I won't say which one because they are both equally guilty, but if you'll note my location you'll see which two I've narrowed it down to - was meeting with a group of prospective applicants.  Among the statements she made:

"We look at your whole application."
"We really look for people who have made A's and B's, but we admit people with bad grades every year.  It really depends on your story."  (Followed, of course, by an anecdote of a kid who failed six courses, but got admitted anyway.)
"Yes, we consider your test scores, but you are more than just your score."

I had to bite my tongue.  What I really wanted to do was jump in and say, "Yes, they will admit you with substandard grades or test scores.  IF you are 6 and half feet tall and have a terrific 3-point shot. Or IF you are a Hispanic Buddhist who will be the first in her family to go to college. Or IF your family has donated money to the school in excess of seven figures."

If you want to see if you are likely to get into a school, go to a website like Cappex. It's free, but you have to sign up.  They have admission trend scattergrams that plot on a grid all of the students signed up with them who applied to a particular school according to their GPA's and test scores.

Here is a sample:

See where the blue and green dots are?  Notice those stray blue and green dots that represent students with low test scores and/or low GPA's?  Those are the basket-players, the kids of big donors, etc.  They are NOT the applicants who are generally described as "a good kid."  As in, "You know, he's just a good kid."  If nothing about you is VERY unusual (in a good way) then you are not destined to be one of the stray dots.  Consider whether to apply accordingly.