ACT, Inc. released a news brief that will affect many of our students and push some to consider completing their ACT testing in June or July before these changes take effect in September. What are the changes? The end of self-paced timing and and a mandatory experimental section.
Eliminating Self-Paced Extended Time
The ACT is rolling back its policy of allowing students to self-pace their extended time testing administrations. Previously, students could apportion the extra time among the four sections as needed. Under the new policy, students will have 50% extra time per section, with a hard stop at the end of each section.
Here is the official announcement:
“Examinees approved for National Extended Time or for Timing Code 6 will have 50 percent extended time for each section of the ACT, with a hard stop after each section. Examinees will no longer have to self-pace through the four multiple-choice sections over the allotted five hours. All examinees in the test room will begin the same section at the same time and have the same amount of time to complete that section.”
This new policy is a major setback for students who are granted an extended timing accommodation. Allowing students to advance to the next section at their own speed has always been a significant benefit to students with attentional deficits. The old policy enabled students to complete the ACT at their own speed without having to wait to move on to the next section. Under the new policy, students who finish a particular section in less than the allotted time will have what amounts to a forced waiting period before starting the next section. This approach increases the attentional demands on students who are receiving an accommodation for ADHD.
Students with extra time are receiving an accommodation for a diagnosed disability. For many of these students, the new policy will make ACT extended time less valuable, and in some cases eliminate the value of the accommodation. We’ve always viewed to the extended timing accommodation on the SAT as a double edged-sword for students with attentional deficits; although the extra time is a benefit, it also forces students to sit and wait until they can move forward. Some students with SAT timing accommodations choose to take the test with standard timing to void these forced waiting periods. ACT extended timing will now also be a double-edged sword for students with ADHD and attentional issues.
This change goes into effect in September: students who require extended time on the ACT are advised to secure their accommodations for the June and July test while the current policy is still in place.
Mandatory Experimental Section
Starting in September the ACT will require all students to take a 20-minute experimental section that will not count towards their score. Here is the official announcement:
“We are expanding the Tryout program, which helps shape the future of the ACT. On National test dates, examinees testing under standard timing conditions, whether testing with or without writing, should expect to take a fifth test after Test 4. The fifth test is 20 minutes long and doesn’t impact the examinee’s ACT Composite score or subject test scores. Examinees testing with extended time will not take the fifth test.”
This is not great news for students. While this will allow the ACT. Inc to test and validate items for future assessments, it will have no immediate benefit to the students sitting for the test. In the prep industry, we were all excited when the SAT scrapped its experimental section with the 2016 redesign, as it decreased the time on a lengthy assessment. That experimental section, however, was indistinguishable from other sections. The ACT will not be able to fool students with this “fifth section.” Knowing the section doesn’t count, many students will blow it off or abstain completely- and who can blame them? If it doesn’t affect their scores, why should they invest time or energy in helping the ACT conduct research? Regardless, the ACT, Inc. will still be able to glean usable data, even if a large portion of students bubble in answers randomly or using a pattern; ACT’s psychometricians will be able to run pattern analysis on the student responses and remove skewed results.
Implications for essay takers
For the roughly 50% of students who take the ACT with the optional ACT essay, extending the test an additional 20 minutes will require greater mental endurance. Adding more time to the test simply increases the attentional challenge. For some students, this will be significant. As this change will not be implemented until September, those students who have yet to complete the essay section and intend to do so for their college applications should attempt it on the June or July test dates.
Throughout the years, my family of four has affectionately coined a phrase that is near and dear to our hearts: F-cubed, F to the third, or in long hand, Forced Family Fun. You know exactly what I mean when I spell it out: the tandem family bike ride at the beach, the Friday night family game night, the family Cupcake Wars competition. Most often, my F-cubed suggestions are greeted with a nervous laugh and a sideways glance between my kids and husband. One of the Garrett Family’s (alright, my) most favorite reiterations of Forced Family Fun is Book Club. It is usually a book that I have been carting around with me on my travels to visit schools and attend conferences which often returns back to Charlotte without a single dog-eared page. This is not because I lost interest in the book, its importance, or its relevance, but because I got wrapped up in the vortex of living in the moment and didn’t find the time to tackle the book.
Fast forward to Spring Break 2018: both my kids are in college and both have decided that they would like to spend it with me. Seriously?!?! Immediately, my wheels start turning about the fun we’ll have together and my thoughts quickly turn to the stack of books that are teetering on my bedside table. Bingo! Family Book Club: Spring Break Edition. I debated about which route I would go with this one, but it didn’t take long for me to hone in on what I knew would be “the” book. While I provide academic advisement for students and families, it often goes beyond the academics as finding a place where our children can thrive emotionally and socially is equally as important, and I might argue more so.
What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagan is a book that addresses the transition from high school to college and the hidden struggle that many young adults are dealing with, but often times can’t identify much less rectify. Although this story is about a college athlete, the emotions and challenges that she faces are the same for many college students everywhere. I will tell you that while I wanted to devour this book in one sitting, I found myself drifting off in thoughts about my own transition to college and most certainly my own children’s transitions to college which have had their fair share of bumps in the road. It has haunted me. I have cried a lot. Do I really know my kids? Would I have seen this coming?
Madison Holleran appears to have everything going her way-she is smart, popular, and has been recruited as an Ivy League scholar athlete to run for the University of Pennsylvania. She struggles with the transition to college and the feeling that she is expected to excel in all areas and be happy doing it, even if, in actuality, they are self imposed expectations. Madison ultimately takes her own life, leaving her family and friends blindsided and devastated. The author, an ESPN anchor, recounts Maddy’s time leading up to her death along with research regarding young adults, depression, anxiety, suicide, and the role of social media on their mental health.
As an adult, I have my own thoughts and opinions about this tragic outcome, but I know that it is the thoughts of our young people that matter most. To that end, the consensus from my young book club crew was this: “Although this book was more on the informative side than the story side, it brings up a lot of valid points regarding the transition to college and mental health. Specifically, it brings to light people saying that this ‘came out of nowhere,’ and upon further reflection you see that there were warning signs along the way. Most importantly, don’t take people’s comments or actions at face value- it makes us realize the need to acknowledge that many actions should not be dismissed without considering the deeper meaning or considering our peers’ motivations. It also made us consider the fact that people’s social media portrayal is often very different that how they see themselves internally. We need to be aware that most people are going through difficult times, even when it is not portrayed on their social media accounts.”
I can tell you that this book and the subject matter will stay with me forever, and unfortunately, I don’t have an immediate solution. However, what I can assure you is that this is something that I will continue to talk about and research while I work towards erasing the stigma around mental illness for these young adults. In the interim, I can educate students and parents about the resources that are available to help all of us through the transition to college: counseling and psychological services, learning resource support and support organizations for both students and parents.
As Kate Fagan eloquently stated, “But there is no one thing. There are rivers that merge and create a powerful current. And we can’t fully know why they all merged, right then, right there, around Maddy. Still, we can try to analyze each one, the way it bends and curves, what it into when it blends with another. We can do this, learn everything we can, how to talk to others about their pain or our own, in the hope that fewer people get caught is this same, fierce swirl.” One of the most effective ways to stop this swirl is to have open and honest communication with each other and with our children. We need to educate our children that life is not what people portray their lives to be on social media, that life is a series of peaks and valleys, and that we need to be aware of our own feelings and emotions as well as those of the people around us. One simple act of kindness could be a game changer for someone in your path.
Whatever it is, I hope you all find your own special version of Forced Family Fun this Spring Break. I would love to hear how you spend your time together or your thoughts on this book should you choose to read it. If you are interested in knowing what other books we have been reading regarding teen mental health and other topics, please click HERE.
Garrett Educational Consulting is pleased to announce a new addition to its college consulting services. We have put in place a system that streamlines the process to ensure that your student is on track throughout the application cycle. This proven system helps to reduce stress on both the student and parents and helps to answer questions you may not know you even have.
Additionally - as part of the system Garrett Educational Consulting is privy to information on application trends, updated essay trends, and more as part of the national research that comes along with this curriculum so that your student is always in the know about what is happening in the college application world. For example - the term "creative non-fiction" is a popular term that has been thrown around for writing college essays but the trends from admissions reps show that they actually may be looking for something else from your student.
At Garrett Educational Consulting we are always working to ensure that your student has the most relevant and up to date resources to ensure that they can submit the best application possible. Contact us today to find out more about the Garrett Ed difference.
From our ScoopCharlotte Article
Every Spring, the chatter around “IB” starts to ramp up, and, often times, there are more questions than answers as parents and students try to determine if the IB curriculum is the right path to take and navigate course registration. In an effort to provide some of these sought-after answers, we have compiled the following research about the elusive and challenging International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Scroll down for a handy infographic!
What is the IBDP?
The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, often referred to as “IB”, was founded in Switzerland in 1968. IB is currently offered in 3,460 schools across 143 countries worldwide, with 1,370 IB programs in the US alone. While some schools are full-intensity IB schools, others have programs that students can opt into, allowing them to take only one or two IB classes as an enhancement to traditional studies rather than the full diploma curriculum. It is important to ask how your school works specifically in regards to whether or nor the IB program can be opted into and, if so, which path your student wants to pursue.
The IB curriculum requires that students take an active role in their learning and education with increased collaboration amongst their classmates with an emphasis on critical thinking, group discussion, and creativity. Teachers, who often act as supervisors and mentors, teach students to think critically and help prepare them for college-level work.
IB or AP – What’s the Difference?
IB is considered an alternative to AP classes. While IB was developed in Switzerland as an internationally recognized diploma, the AP program was developed in the US with the intent to prepare students for college. AP is much more widespread than IB; in 2014, approximately 2 million students took AP exams while only around 135,000 took IB exams. However, IB is an elementary through high school program while AP is strictly high school only. IB can also be a school-wide program, unlike AP, which students can choose to opt into to whatever degree they want. Teaching methods and testing vary greatly as well; AP focuses on learning for the exam, in a way, whereas IB focuses on research, writing, and hands-on learning. The IB final exams are set up in a way to allow students to apply what they have learned throughout the course of the year in new scenarios in order to evaluate an individual’s ability to respond to new info in a constricted period of time. Some other benefits of APs are that grades may be weighted which helps boost a student’s GPA, which can also be true for IB classes, and that passing AP exam grades can be used for college credit. Many kids who take IB classes actually also take the coinciding AP exam(s) without actually taking the AP course, specifically to get college credit.
What Do Colleges Think?
Colleges don’t automatically assume either the AP program or IB program to be more challenging or more impressive on an application. College admissions departments are looking at whether or not you have taken rigorous courses at your current high school (“strength of schedule”) that demonstrate a wide range of skills and interests. IB isn’t widespread enough for a colleges to hold it against you if you do not take it; however, since the IB program is for a diploma, and AP is not, is still might be smart to pursue IB if you’re applying to highly selective colleges. Pursuing a diploma shows you are challenging yourself in all areas of study rather than a select few, while AP classes could easily just be taken in your strongest subjects, as the choice of which classes to take is up to you. If you choose the AP path, try taking a diverse range of classes that show to colleges you are challenging yourself and are a generally well-rounded student. Keep in mind though, you don’t have to take classes from exclusively one program or the other; take a mix of IB and AP classes if your school offers the option.
Is IB Right for Me?
It is important to know your (your child’s) learning style in order to determine whether IB is the right path. The program is highly academically challenging and time consuming, so consider extracurriculars and other previous engagements before committing to IB. In the classroom, there is less note-taking as the class is more discussion based rather than typical lecture style. The focus is more on group or individual projects, taking initiative, organization, public speaking, critical thinking, discussion, and peer critiquing. Students who like options and freedom when it comes to how to do their work and what topic to do it on might enjoy the IB program. Furthermore, IB discusses questions with a determination to find answers, no matter how controversial or politically charged the subject may be. A global approach and big questions are a constant; a large part of IB’s mission, after all, is to help students appreciate that “other people, with their differences, can also be right.” Since conversations may appear political or touch on points that counter a family’s belief system, open-minded students thrive, while those with set beliefs may struggle to get the most out of discussions.
IB requirements include expression through writing, community service, and an aim “to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.” The full IB diploma program is a two-year program that requires students to pass IB-level classes in six areas (language and literature, foreign language, individuals and societies, experimental sciences, math and computer science, and the arts) and complete a senior project which involves writing a 4,000 word essay on a topic chosen by each student.
Before making the decision as to whether IB is right for you, ask questions and be sure you fully understand your school’s program. Ask what kind of program your school offers (either full intensity or a program you can opt into), the possibility of GPA or testing requirements for entrance into the program, which foreign languages and electives are available, the need to pay for IB exams, and what to do if a student ends up having trouble acclimating to the IB program.
Pros & Cons: The Bottom Line
The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme takes care to always look at the broader picture. Students report that enjoy their classes more, teachers take sincere interest in students as individuals, and students prepare themselves thoroughly for college-level work and research. IB students emerge from the program as global citizens with extensive knowledge of what is going on in the world, how to think critically, and with a passion for inquiry and pursuit of truth through discussion.
At the same time, the program is very time consuming and leaves little space in one’s schedule for serious extracurriculars. Students do not receive typical lecture-style teaching that is so prominent in many colleges. IB can be costly as there is a fee associated with each exam taken and a larger cost to participate in the diploma program, and it doesn’t always boost a student’s GPA or provide college credit.
At the end of the day, what matters most is that whatever path you choose has led you to a love of learning which will prepare you for success in your college environment and beyond!
For more information on the IB programs available through CMS, click the following link:
From our ScoopCharlotte Article
Garrett Educational Consulting has some fun with alliteration and some tips for those of you with high school children who are thinking about (or should be thinking about!!) college this winter.
Contribute to a Club
This comment typically results in a giant eye roll from high schoolers, but hear us out. It is a small investment on time that could potentially reap great rewards. If you haven’t participated in a club thus far, now is the time to do some investigating and commit to participating in something new for the Spring 2018 semester. If you have been participating in a club, take it to the next level by raising your hand for a leadership position or simply diving deeper into the club. It is important to realize that any type of participation is important and meaningful if you make it that way-you don’t have to have a title next to your name. More importantly, it is worthwhile if it speaks to who you are. Who knows, you may discover a hidden talent or best friend along the way!
Ramp up the Rigor
Now’s the time: show colleges you can handle tough academic work. Colleges are looking to see that you are challenging yourself – and doing well – in tough classes. Your counselor will send a document called the school profile along with your transcript – this is a document that shows colleges the context of your academic performance, so they can tell how many honors and AP classes are available to you. If you’re deciding how many AP classes you should take, think about it this way: if you can get straight As in all of your AP classes – DO IT. If your grade in one or two classes might slip to a B, that’s ok. However, don’t feel the need to take EVERY AP class that you can, especially if it will impact your ability to succeed in them. If taking a heavy load of rigorous classes will bring all or most of your grades down, then maybe scale back by one or two.
Talk to a Teacher
For some students this comes so easily (maybe too easily), while for others it feels like the greatest form of torture. Often times, it’s hard to take the first leap, but each time you do it gets easier. Reach out and get to know your teachers. They’ll be providing your letters of recommendation – and you’d be surprised to know that most of what they will evaluate is not directly related to your grades. They’ll tell colleges about your personality, your determination, the quality of your class participation, and how you’re respected by your peers. Colleges rely on teacher recommendations to learn more about the kind of student and classmate you could be on their campus.
Strategize for Summer
While summer may seem like it will never come, it will be here before you know it. Summer is a great time to catch your breath after a busy school year and gear up for the next, but maximize your time during the summer to take advantage of the things that you do not have the time or opportunity to do during the school year. People often ask, “What do colleges WANT me to do during the summer?” The answer is that there is no one answer-they want you to do whatever it is that speaks to who you are. Whether it is community service, a paying job, an internship, summer school, travel abroad, or family adventures, it is beneficial to spend some time planning ahead to ensure that your time away from school is well-balanced. For rising juniors and seniors, the summer can also be an ideal time to focus on standardized test prep given the newly added July test date for the ACT and August test date for the SAT.
Regardless of your current grade level in high school, it is beneficial to gather information on different colleges along the way. The more information you have, the more you are able to articulate what it is you want, or don’t want, for your college experience. Although this might seem overwhelming at first, ease your way in by investigating college websites and gathering information through college fairs and visits from colleges to your school. The most efficient way to learn about college fairs and college visits to your school is through your school’s college counseling office and/or Naviance portal. However, don’t be afraid to plan your own adventure too. We are so fortunate that we have many amazing colleges in and around Charlotte, so sign up for a tour and information session and hit the road!
The common app has announced that the essay prompts will remain the same as last application period for 2018-2018 applications. Interested in getting a jump start on applications? You can find the prompts HERE.
Garrett Educational Consulting comprehensive clients receive support with Common App essays as well as supplemental essays for individual schools. Interested in learning more about our services? Contact us today!
Sometimes I think the word teenager should be classified with those other, unspeakable (at least in polite company) 4 letter words. I don't say this because of the actual child - my teenage son is one of the biggest joys in my life. Of course there is the moodiness, snappiness, questionable decision making, etc., but the majority of my time is spent marveling at the personality, intelligence, unique problem solving, and wit (and the wit is my FAVORITE) of this man child as he heads towards adulthood.
No, the "four letter word" classification comes from all of the pressure I feel to make the right decision in every instance so that I don't ruin my first born. My younger son has definitely benefited from the trial and error my husband and I have engaged in as we have navigated the un-charted waters of teenagers. The sleepless nights, the worry, the stress of hoping that you did everything that you could to make sure your child is ok can be overwhelming at time. And then there are the factors that are completely out of your control - the people in the outside world who aren't always fair or nice and who just don't like your child as much as you think they should (we have learned to accept that people don't always like us but it is just not possible someone doesn't love our little one right). In fact, I think it would be interesting to see the statistics of wine purchases in this country as it relates to the age of those people's children 😏🥂.
We sent my oldest to the school that I went to as a child - I knew it, I was comfortable with the environment, I felt I could navigate the system and that would result in the best outcome for my child. The thing about time - it tends to change things. The school that I went to is there in name, however, the world our children live in is so much different than what I grew up in and as a result the school is vastly different from what I experienced. I am not saying that different is good or bad. It is just different and that means that I made assumptions about what I was sending my child into and I didn't ask questions. I proved the old adage, "You know what happens when you assume...."
As I look at my teenager, I wonder what I could have done better and what advice I could give to my younger self and all of those with young teenagers looking towards high school. I think that the best advice I could give is to keep an open mind. Explore all of your options. Even if you think private school, parochial school, public school, boarding school isn't for you - do your research. Learn about each of your options and listen for the information that really hits home with you as to an environment that is going to work best for your child. You have watched your child navigate school thus far, you know their strengths and weaknesses - there is a place for all of them, however, you have to be willing to listen out for the school that is speaking to you and your child to find the best fit.
My son's school is K-12 and I really didn't consider another option for him as we went through his 8th grade year. I NEVER considered boarding school and now looking back I wish I had at least looked at what boarding school was all about. I NEVER considered our public school, however, researching public school would have informed me about their classes and programming to be able to evaluate the opportunities my child has. At the end of the day, I don't know that I would have made a different decision, however, I could have alleviated some of that "what if" stress and worrying knowing that I made a truly informed decision.
“Don’t tell my parents that you went to boarding school.” This was the one rule I gave my now husband before he met my parents for the first time. Growing up in Georgia, the only people that I knew that “went” to boarding school where those who really got “sent,” and it was usually because the school and/or parents felt that a change in scenery would be beneficial for all parties. Clearly, there was a much wider audience than that who considered the option of boarding school back then, and there most certainly is now! What still remains true, however, is the mystery around boarding school and what exactly takes place once there. To pull back the curtain a bit on it all, we reached out to one of our favorite boarding school graduates to get his perspective on: A Day in the Life of a Boarding School Student.
6:45 AM- My alarm goes off and I quickly jump out of bed to brush my teeth and throw on some clothes to head to breakfast.
7:00 AM- Along with four of my friends, I enter the dining hall. Breakfast is an essential part of my daily routine, and as far as I am aware, I am the only person to never skip breakfast throughout the entirety of my boarding school career. As a result of my frequency, I developed a relationship with chef Ben, who made my favorite omelet every morning. Following breakfast, I go back to my room to get ready for the school day.
8:00 AM- Four times a week the school community comes together for chapel. While my school is an Episcopal school, the services cater to a variety of religious beliefs. A normal chapel service includes a reading, a prayer, a hymn, and a speech from someone who is usually a member of the senior class or faculty.
8:30 AM- Students move to their respective classrooms for first period and gather around the Harkness table for intense discussion on the topic of the day. I especially enjoyed humanities conversations around the oval table, as they encourage all of the students to participate since there is no hiding in the back of the classroom. My classes ranged from 4 to 16 students, but were usually around 12 students, which allowed the teacher to connect with each student individually.
11:45 AM- I join in the mass exodus from the school buildings toward the dining hall. We had a few different lunch options, but the most popular was certainly at the main dining hall. I usually made a panini and joined some of my friends for conversation ranging every possible topic imaginable.
12:30 PM- I quickly stop by my dorm room to swap out my books before returning to the academic quad for my afternoon classes.
3:30 PM- Following classes, I hustle to the athletic facility to get ready for sports practice. I played football and lacrosse, but there are a wide array of different sports and levels of competitiveness that students can pick from. When not playing a sport during the Winter, I loved being able to go to the Hockey rink on game day to support my friends as they took on teams from other schools in the greater Boston area. Sports provided me a great avenue to meet students from across the world in a setting outside of the classroom.
6:15 PM- After practice, the boys’ locker room is full of students trying to shower and quickly change into coat and tie for seated meal, which happened twice a week. Seated meal randomly assigns students of all grade levels with a faculty member to share a meal together for three weeks. Seated meal serves as a great way for students to meet each other and faculty when they would not otherwise connect due to living in different dorms, not being in the same class, or playing on the same sports teams.
7:30 PM- I bring my backpack down to the study room in my dorm in order to start working on my homework for the night. While my school did not have a regimented study time at night (although most do), it was generally expected that students would be working by 7:30. Most students choose to do their homework at their desks in their room, but others like to go to the library or meet as small groups in open classrooms. One of the best parts about boarding school is that the teachers are readily available, as they live on campus and usually spend the evening hours in a dorm at least once a week. This allows students to go and see them if they are in need of a little bit of help on their homework, or if they have questions when studying for an upcoming test.
9:30 PM- I walk down to the common room of my dorm to tell the advisor on duty that I am in for the night, signifying that I will be in the dorm until breakfast the next day. During check-in time the common room can be a very social place for students talking to the teacher and each other about the happenings of the world and telling stories from their past. Once I finish my homework, I head down to one of my friend’s rooms to watch TV or play video games for a little prior to heading to bed.
11:30PM- I get in bed ready to do it all again tomorrow.