Tag Archives: high school

Laptop, Tablet, or Desktop? Google Docs or Office 365? Which technology is best for high school and college?

What’s best for school, a laptop, tablet, or PC?

Heading back to school always feels like a fresh start. And like a new set of clothes, getting a new device just makes you feel good.

But for high school and college students, freshmen especially, the choice of technology can really impact academic performance. The wrong choice can make school difficult or, worse, become an excuse not to do well.

Into the start of the 2016-17 school year, I thought it’s time for an update from previous posts here on the topic. The technologies haven’t changed much, but there are more options — and most importantly, more affordable ones.


Here for previous posts on the best technology for school:
College bound: desktop, laptop or tablet? PC or Mac?
The Best Computers for College: desktop, laptop or tablet? PC or Mac pt 2


What has changed significantly, though, is the “cloud.” Continue reading

A Successful Assessment pt 3: how to take a test (or, reading instructions & not running out of time)

Test Prep help from the A+ ClubWhen a parent of a middle or high school teen worries that “my student doesn’t test” well, what’s missing is a combination of goal setting, preparation and execution.

As discussed in the previous posts on “Successful Assessments,” testing success consists of:

  • Identifying teacher/ test expectations (“no surprises”)
  • Preparing effectively (learning v. cramming)
  • Executing on test day (test taking strategies)

Test prep above all else

“Easy” tests are those students have or are effectively prepared for: if the student knows what to expect and prepares for it, the results will be strong.

That said, there are still a few things a student can do to better results on the test day.

A couple do-nots on test day include: Continue reading

A Successful Assessment pt 2: how to prepare for a test (or learning all along not just cramming)

Successful Test Prep from the A+ ClubParents concerned about their teen’s middle and high school exam and test prep might consider that studying isn’t just a matter of reviewing notes and study guides. Successful testing requires ongoing learning.

Here are some strategies for parents to empower their student’s exam prep and overall academic success.

In our series on  Successful Assessment: how to prepare for a test (or why doesn’t my child test well?), we are reviewing the essential parts of successful testing:

  1. No Surprises (identified teacher expectations)
  2. Student Prepared (successful learning)
  3. Student had time to finish (successful test execution)

This post regards student preparation. It’s one thing to know what will be on a test (see Part 1: Identifying Expectations) and also to understand it . But can you perform it yourself? Continue reading

Procrastinating in class: is classroom behavior a form of procrastination?

dreamstime_l_41815547_1150pxParents and teachers usually conceive of student procrastination as putting off homework or projects until the last minute.

It is.

We also tend to think of disruptive classroom behavior as “disobedience” or “acting out” over some issue, from disconnection or boredom to serious underlying troubles.  Which it is.

But those same processes of delay and avoidance over aversive tasks that are procrastination are also at work during class.

Student disruption as procrastination?

We have discussed on the Student Success Podcast and Blog how procrastination is an emotional response to task aversion.

When faced with an unpleasant task, the procrastinator chooses to defer that task for later in order to feel better now (relieve the stress of the aversive task).

Continue reading

What do grades measure, anyway? How to make sense of grades and student learning

Student-Performance_Process-flow-chart_noheaderParents! If schools were meant for learning, why do we have grades?

In other words, if learning were the goal, wouldn’t every student have to get an A+ before moving on to the next level?

If, when a student gets a D, and it indicates the student met 64% of expectations, is there learning going on at that school? Wouldn’t a 100% grade represent true learning?

As long as there are grades less than an A, the point of schools, then, is not learning.

Worse, not all grades are equal. Does an A in PE represent learning as much as an A in math? They both count the same towards your GPA and both are required. Clearly, learning is not the only thing being measured here.

Grades as thresholds of… of something

So, the student got a B- or a C+, or an F. What does that mean, anyway? The F might be a zero –no work was done at all, or maybe it was 59% and just shy of a D. That’s quite a leap, but that F is still an F.

Or, maybe that C+ was because, even though the student aced the tests, he didn’t do any homework and got nailed for it on the overall grade.

Ask my son, as that was his strategy for high school. He learned everything asked of him, but he only showed it on tests. He learned, but that’s not what school is about.

Well… It worked for him, as he’s a successful musician who dedicates himself to perfecting his craft and learning everything he possibly can about it.

What’s going on here is that grades measure lots of things, just not always – or even mostly – learning.

School is about process

A student like my son learned everything required of the test but skipped on the rest of the process required by the teachers.

Here are some of the things students get measured on that have nothing to do with the generic “Learning”  but everything to do with “grades” and doing what’s asked of them. Some of the things by which students are measured include:

  • showing up
  • writing name on papers
  • sitting down for long periods of time.
  • lifting one’s arm in the air before speaking
  • remembering locker combinations

Okay, so sometimes students are measured on figuring out math formulas or reading literature. But it seems to me that a student could get a much higher grade in high school doing all the other things than strict “learning” that my son did, by actually learning, and never proving it on tests.

School is about figuring out what’s expected and then getting it done, learning or not. My advice to parents, however, is not to get to worked up over a student’s ability to follow process. It doesn’t measure worth, it measures… process.

Of course we want our kids to get good grades, the best grades, and the best way to get there is to follow teacher and school processes. So let’s understand “studying” as not just learning but also following all the little steps that students are being graded upon in addition to “learning.”

See what inspires your child, encourage it, and then encourage her to engage in grade-accumulation as well as learning.

The Secret Life of a teacher gradebook

At the A+ Club, we often hear from parents and students that the student got a B-, or whatever, and can’t say why. The teacher didn’t explain it, the student doesn’t understand it, and the parent is helpless to figure out why.

I just had a conversation with a very bright student who was disappointed in a B+, as her goal was an A. She says that her grade dropped because of a single quiz — which is possible. I suspect, though, that there was something else that knocked her off, and it was very likely manipulated by the teacher. I’m guessing that as a brilliant thinker, quick learner, and full of impatience with process, that quiz grade was the excuse the teacher needed to reflect an overall B+ — smart, got it down but didn’t do everything I asked.

That’s a guess, but I know it happens all the time, especially as an excuse to lift grades — “Oh, well, he did all his homework, so I’ll just pass him even though he failed all his quizzes.”

I’m hearing disgust from all the high-minded teachers out there who believe that standards are standards and the grade book speaks for itself. I’m sorry, but that’s impossible. You will always, necessarily, judge kids holistically, no matter how hard you try to be objective.

Let’s say a student has an A in homework, which is 25% of the grade, an F on tests, which is another 20% of the grade and a D in quizzes (with corrections)  and an A+ in classwork, each 20% of the grade. That adds up to a 77%, or a C+. (Try it here: Mercer Univ Weighted Average Grade Calculator).

Now, the teacher also has a 15% “participation” grade, and whatever the teacher assigns here will decide that overall, final grade:

  • a C in participation will yield 76%, or a C
  • a B in participation will yield  78%, or a C+
  • an A+ in participation will yield an 80% or a B

Assuming there’s no real metric for “participation,” the teacher is justified in assigning this grade based upon pure observation, which will then impact the overall outcome of a C, C+ or a B.

Teachers can do the same by tweaking different grades, such as dropping the lowest grade in each category, or whatever.

From the grades profile we have created, this student is following teacher process, such as in doing homework, but is not learning what is required of the test. Many teachers would be sympathetic to the process and reward a high participation grade simply because the student ostensibly did what was asked, whether or not any learning was involved.

I’m not judging this process. I just want parents and students to be aware of it.

So what do your child’s grades actually measure?

Tests necessarily contain some learning measurement, whether or not it was taught or if it was an explicit part of the content (multiple choice measures reading and logic as much or more than content knowledge). So test scores are usually a primary indicator of your child’s learning. (It is not an indicator of a presence or absence of effective teaching!)

Other assessments such as research projects and essays yield measurable learning, although, like homework and participation grades, these are process-heavy assessments and do not necessarily reflect learning achievement (“mastery” the educators like to call it).

Look over the grade book, speak to the teacher, and discover what, really, is being measured. An A in homework does not mean learning is happening, especially in classes in which the teacher grades for compliance and not accuracy (check it off for having something written on the page — yes, this goes on every day).

Hopefully the various categories of student measurement align, such as B in Homework, B on classwork, and B on tests. I have to say that a part from A- students, that kind of overall consistency in grade results are rare.

Above all, insist upon strong feedback from your child’s teachers. Only the teacher can say what the teacher is measuring, and a good teacher will align grades with thoughtful feedback on actual student production.

Grades measure a lot of things. Make sure you and your child understand what, exactly, is going on with your child’s grades.

– Michael

Building up the house: in-school student oversight with Gabriella Carbone

Building up the house: in-school student oversight with Gabriella Carbone

Student Success Podcast No. 20, Sept 4, 2014 (recorded July 11, 2014)

Today’s Guest: Gabriella Carbone.

In this interview, Gabriella discusses her Academic Coaching work with high school student athletes during the 2013/14 school year. Focusing on athletes, Gabriella helped them track work, build executive function and interpersonal skills. She served as their counselor, mentor, advocate and friend. Continue reading

Procrastinating the steps: how to follow instructions when you just want to rush through it

Impatience with instructions is just procrastination in another form

In this case, the procrastination isn’t delay, it’s not wanting to put up with annoying instructions, details, and steps.

If,

Procrastination is harmful deferment of an aversive task
(translation: putting off something we don’t want to do and getting burned by it later)

then, if you’re skipping instructions in order to finish more quickly and it leads to a lower grade, you’re procrastinating. Continue reading

Why homework matters: top five (5) reasons you probably should do your homework

Sorry, but homework really does matter.

Annoying, yes. Boring, usually. Important for your academic success? Very much so.

See below for some important reasons why you probably should be doing your homework. Continue reading

Procrastinator Panic: is your brain rewarding putting it off?

time_watch_msclipartProcrastinators are motivated by deadlines.

Clarity and purpose, hard to find and easy to dismiss, now assemble at the last minute. Focus arrives, hard work ensues, and the job gets done.

That urgency at the last minute invigorates and inspires procrastinators. It’s almost exhilarating — and it is, because you’re getting the same brain-chemical reactions from “procrastinator’s panic” as you do from getting startled. Scientists call it ” CRF,” and it is a brain drug that is released at the panic of a deadline.

So what’s the problem? Well… every procrastinator knows it: you should have gotten that feeling of urgency a little sooner.  Sometimes “last minute” means by the deadline. All too often, it’s after the deadline passed and turned into a “drop dead deadline.”  But you got it done, so what’s the problem? Continue reading

No B.S. from J.P.: what makes a good teacher?

st-johns_brother-martinNo B.S. from J.P.: what makes a good teacher?

Student Success Podcast No. 8, Nov. 13, 2013

Today’s Guest: J.P. Cassagnol

Now that he’s about to graduate from college, JP discusses his experiences in K-12 and college and how it all fits together to make him the student and person he is. J.P. cuts through the B.S. with excellent critiques of his K-8 and 9th-12 Catholic education, and what worked, what didn’t and, most importantly, what makes a great teacher.  In J.P.’s case, those teachers are Brother Martin and Prof. Carlander, teachers who inspired, pushed, and turned JP into a real student with real learning.

An important challenge J.P. brings to education is his K-8 experience, which he found entirely lacking once he came upon Brother Martin’s 9th grade Honors English class. Are we underserving our K-8 children? And what of those kids who didn’t get into Brother Martin’s class?

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Guest Biography

J.P. Cassignol is a senior at Salisbury University, Eastern Shore, MD, with a concentration in History. J.P. Graduated from St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., and prior to that was enrolled in a Catholic school K-8 program. J.P. loves history and literature, and he works as a tutor in those and other subjects.

Topics Discussed

  • St. Johns College High School: what’s the “college” thing about?
  • JP was not prepared for 9th grade
    • his K-8 did not prepare him
    • never had written anything more than a few paragraphs
    •  9th grade: what do kids bring to it?
    • why are elementary schools all so different?
    • why should 9th grade be so much harder?
    • Elementary: seeking universal standards
    • JPs 9th grade was challenging
    • Big gap between elementary and high school
    • are we pushing kids hard enough in K-8?
    •  “Excellence Gap” study by Dr. Jonathan Plucker
  • J.P.’s school competitive?
    • Catholic school admissions: an incestual orgy? (lol)
  •  Public school kids more prepared?
    • depends on the demographic
    • are outcomes defined by zip codes?
    • Rte 50 / Univ Blvd: the dividing lines
    •  do charter schools drain talent?
    • lowest common denominator v. the cream of the crop
  • Was his high school worth the money? maybe not
    • Would rather have gone to college twice
    • But he did go there, it is who he is
    • What if he had gone to public school?
    • would have lost all the expereinces of a catholic school
  • Brother Martin: English teacher
    • heavy workload
    • read a book a week
    • not reading in class… taking turns lol
    • depth of analysis that he had never encountered
    • English class was no longer about structure, was about literature
    • then next year, teacher was back to reading out loud in class
  • so teachers matter?
    • should any teacher be able to teach anything?
    • JPs definition of a good teacher?  Hope Brother Martin is listenng to this
    • the difference between a teacher who knows everything but can’t teach and a teacher who may not know everything but can teach and lead you to where you need to go
    • why do some kids like certain teachers and others not?
    • kids look for easy teachers = business major etiquette
    • but they won’t remember those teachers
  • a good assignment is powerful
    • has assignments from high school that he still thinks about
  • Bromley’s best teacher: Prof Wright who threatened to fail him Senior year of college: 1st teacher who ever “kicked my ass”
  • Dr. Carlander at Salisbury: they’d get into for 3 hours .. he’d rip up his paper … they’d argue with each other.. inspiring!
    • always read the prof’s book!
    • knows his stuff: and “a real teacher”
    • Prof got JP to write a grant application: got it & went to a national conference >> all because of a real teacher
  • What make a good teacher:
    • learning is supposed to be rigorous
    • “no pressure no diamond”
    • teachers who earned respect, who mentor, who respect kids
    • unlike teachers who just put notes on the board
    • good teachers: challenge, drag, empower
    • learning is a fight! “I’m a 13 year old kid, what do I give a shit about Julius Caesar?”
    • You could see it in Brother Martin’s brow lines … but patient and caring … loved his students

Resources

Credits

Host: Michael L. Bromley
Original Music by Christopher Bromley (copyright 2011, 2013)
Background snoring: by Stella
Best Dogs Ever: by Puck & Stella

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Happy dogs with new beds!

 

 

 

 
Here for Puck & Stella slideshow

 

The A+ Club from School4Schools.com LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.