The ACT is a standardized test colleges use to determine a student’s readiness for post-secondary coursework.
The ACT doesn’t measure intelligence; rather, it assesses a student’s knowledge of high school-level skills in math, data analysis, reading and language.
Students must register online or by mail to take the ACT. Registration currently costs $50.50, and students take the test at a nearby high school or community center on a Saturday morning.
The ACT testing organization offers the test about eight times a year. As such, parents and students often ask if there is any benefit to registering for a particular test date.
Our answer is: yes! While there is no way to predict the difficulty of a certain test date (test questions change each time, although the concepts tested remain the same), some test dates tend to work better for student’s schedules.
Here is our advice for students preparing for the ACT:
The Facts about ACT Preparation
Even though the ACT covers skills you’ve learned in high school, it’s not an easy test. The timing element is a big challenge. It includes skills from Algebra I and Geometry you may have forgotten if you’re currently taking Calculus. It tests over nuanced writing errors like redundancy, wordiness and unclear sentence structure.
Students who cram for the test – or skip studying entirely – are unlikely to earn their target scores. For reference, most private universities prefer composite scores at or above 30 – that’s about the 93rd percentile.
The best way to study for the ACT is incrementally. You can use class notes from previous courses to go over what you’ve learned bit by bit. You can also use a test preparation textbook or the ACT’s online materials. If you want to ensure your scores impresses college admissions counselors, you can enroll in a test prep course that meets once or twice a week.
Choose Your Test Date Wisely
Because of the time it takes to adequately study for the ACT, we recommend students prepare during the summer. With less homework and fewer extracurricular activities, ACT test prep becomes less of a burden. Usually, this means registering for the September test and studying in July and August.
Here are some other things to consider when choosing your ACT test date:
You’ve Got This!
With commitment and preparation, you can earn your best score on the ACT. Take time to carefully consider your schedule, and choose the test date that gives you plenty of time to prepare.
Not sure where to begin studying? Check out a test prep course like the one at iLearn Academy. Students meet twice weekly with expert instructors who guide them through a proven ACT curriculum. Students see an average six-point gain in their composite scores after 10 weeks.
Learn more our ACT prep courses here.
Many parents use summer learning programs as an enriching childcare option, but these programs also have concrete benefits for students’ academic achievement.
For years, experts have known that summer learning – or the lack thereof – is a important factor in learning and achievement gaps among students.
Would summer academics make a long-term difference for your child? Here’s what the research says:
What Is an Educational “Gap”?
Educators use terms like “learning gap” and “achievement gap” to analyze why different students have different levels of academic success in school and beyond.
A “learning gap” refers to the disparity between what a student is expected to know at a certain grade level and what he or she actually knows. An “achievement gap” is the difference in educational outcomes between two demographic groups, like high-income and low-income students.
Research shows that learning loss is one of the largest contributors to learning and achievement gaps. Learning loss occurs when students forget skills – or miss learning them entirely – because of long breaks from school. While illness, changing schools and family instability can lead to learning loss, the most common cause is actually summer vacation.
What Is Summer Learning Loss?
Summer vacation fuels learning loss because many students go two and a half months without engaging with school materials, books or academic programming.
Many researchers have attributed summer learning loss exclusively to family income. In many ways, this makes sense. Summer learning takes time and, often, money, and many low-income families simply don’t have the resources.
However, statistics now show there’s more to summer learning loss than family background. A recent NWEA study showed that while there are small differences in the amount of summer learning loss among different races and income groups, the variation in learning loss within each demographic is much greater. That means within each group, some students are being presented with opportunities for summer learning, while others are not.
In fact, students who participate in summer learning can actually make gains during the summer, the study found. This puts them at an advantage academically and socially.
Learning gaps and learning loss are no small issue. When students fail to master foundational math and reading skills, they tend to fall farther behind as they get older and coursework becomes more challenging. Teachers often cannot take time to reteach fundamentals, or they don’t have the skills to help students who are struggling.
Some policymakers have introduced initiatives that address the widespread problem of summer learning loss. In 2018, Oregon implemented the Summer Learning and Meals Act, hoping that by keeping libraries open during the summer, they would encourage families to spend time on academics during the summer.
How to Avoid Summer Learning Loss
Simple activities like reading to your children, visiting a historical landmark or practicing the multiplication tables can help abate summer learning loss.
However, the best solution to learning loss is a structured summer academic program. This takes pressure off parents to oversee their children’s summer “curriculum” and provides students with knowledgeable educators to identify their strengths and needs.
Whether it’s a daylong program that takes the place of childcare, or just a couple hours a week of skill-building, summer learning makes all the difference to your child’s success in school.
If your child needs to catch up, get ahead or maintain skills this summer, there is still time to register for iLearn Academy’s summer academic program, led by certified teachers. Two days a week is all it takes to combat summer learning loss this year!
For more information or to enroll, give us a call at 847-834-0791.
Fathers Day is a time to show appreciation for the men who raised us, but did you know the holiday was invented by a woman who had a special relationship with her dad?
Sonora Dodd lived in Spokane, Washington during the early 20th century. Her mother died in childbirth when Sonora was a teenager, so her father raised her and her five brothers on his own.
In 1909, Sonora sat in church as her pastor preached a sermon on the importance of Mother’s Day. Remembering her father’s dedication, she decided her town needed a day to honor fathers, as well.
This began a five-decade-long campaign to make Father’s Day a nationally recognized holiday. Although her first petition in favor of Father’s Day gained only two signatures, she spent years traveling the country raising support for the concept.
On the first-ever Father’s Day in Spokane, townspeople wore roses to honor their dads – a red flower if your father was still living, a white flower if he had passed away. As soon as 1916, Sonora’s efforts brought President Woodrow Wilson to Spokane to endorse Father’s Day and join in the town’s celebration.
However, it wasn’t until 1957 that Senator Margaret Chase Smith introduced a bill establishing Father’s Day as a federal holiday, insisting that to have a day honoring mothers but not fathers was insulting to both. Almost 10 years later, President Lyndon Johnson declared the third Sunday in June an annual Father’s Day celebration. Finally, in 1972, President Richard Nixon made the day an official federal holiday.
Today, Sonora Dodd’s gravestone reads, “Founder of Father’s Day,” recognizing her love for her father and her commitment to the holiday honoring men’s contributions to their families.
Father’s Day Today
This year, 76 percent of Americans plan to celebrate Father’s Day. We’ll spend a record $16 billion on presents and outings for our dads, with most gift-givers looking for something that is unique to their fathers’ interests or commemorative of a special shared experience.
Holidays are an excellent time to share statistics with your children and talk about concepts like percentages, demographics, surveys, and research. Here are some Father’s Day statistics to discuss as a family:
Fun with Fathers during the Summer
The summer months, when students are home from school, is a great chance for fathers to spend extra quality time with their children. That, combined with the huge importance of summer learning, is incentive to plan fun, educational outings for dads and kids.
Fatherhood.gov provides a helpful list of activities that promote learning during the summer while creating opportunities for dads and kids to make memories. Here’s what they suggest:
iLearn Academy wishes a happy Father’s Day to all the fathers in our lives. For more creative ideas on summer learning, check out our guide on how to make any family vacation educational.
Our children often think they know more than we do. When it comes to elementary school math, they might be correct.
As adults, calculators and Excel shortcuts make it easy to forget how to solve problems by multiplying fractions or calculating probability. If our children come home with questions about these concepts, we might be at a loss.
If you want to help your child strengthen his math skills but don’t have time to re-learn the skills you’ve forgotten, there’s an easy solution: drill basic math. By simply reciting the multiplication tables or practicing basic addition and subtraction, you’re preparing your child to excel in higher math courses.
The Case for Memorization
Among some educators, memorization has gotten a bad rap. In the past, teachers have overused memorization, at the expense of critical thought and analysis.
An overreliance on memorization can certainly be a disservice to students. However, avoiding memorization can rob students of the foundation they need to understand more complex concepts.
For example: A teacher might use colored marbles to illustrate the concept of multiplication. This is a great way to cater to multiple learning styles and ensure students understand where the multiplication tables come from. Nonetheless, if that teacher doesn’t require students to memorize the tables, they will struggle with every math problem they come across, as more challenging problems require multiple steps of multiplication or division.
Some educators argue that memorization and drilling are not developmentally appropriate for young elementary school children. I disagree – and the research backs me up. Much of the learning small children do involves “scaffolding” the facts they learn into their long-term memories. Their brains are primed to absorb and memorize information. The earlier they begin to recognize and repeat the multiplication tables, the less time they spend later counting on fingers and guessing at answers.
In my career as a Math Support Specialist, I worked with dozens of teachers and schools, helping them improve their math instruction and curricula. One of my initiatives was to incentivize math mastery by providing a pizza party for elementary students who memorized the multiplication facts. Not only did the students enjoy the challenge, their performances improved drastically.
Unfortunately, many teachers don’t have the classroom time to drill multiplication facts until each student has mastered them. Some students learn the tables right away; others take longer.
That’s where parents come in. Instead of head-scratching at the more challenging problems on your child’s homework, focus on building mastery of basic math skills, multiplication and division in particular. This is great use of your time together because it gives your student a leg up in the classroom. Best of all, working on memorization actually builds a better memory, which helps your child succeed in all school subjects.
At iLearn Academy, I consistently see the connection between multiplication mastery and a student’s overall math performance. Students who struggle in middle school math are often the ones who never memorized the multiplication tables. This slows them down so much that keeping pace in math class becomes difficult. Conversely, students who know the basic math facts by heart are empowered to learn new concepts.
Helping your child with her language arts homework? The equivalent would be memorizing parts of speech and labeling them within sentences. This easy exercise helps your student develop a strong understand of grammar, which makes for clearer, more effective writing down the road.
If your child is struggling with math, reading or writing, call 847-834-0791 and ask for Youngah Anderson. I’d be happy to help you find the tutor and learning plan that will boost your student’s grades and build his or her confidence.
My sincere gratitude,
Director, iLearn Academy