Author Archives: Mike Bergin

Teachers plant seeds of knowledge that last a lifetime. From all of our educators to all the rest, Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Assessment-oriented instruction, as I like to call test prep when I’m feeling particularly bombastic, usually follows utilitarian principles. Basically, if something works, keep doing it. Thanks to rich quantitative feedback loops, we can track in real time what allows either an individual student or an entire cohort to more quickly and accurately solve different types of problems. Couple the emphatic pragmatism of test prep with the fact that many practitioners have backgrounds in fields far outside of education and it’s no wonder that theoretical frameworks are rarely primary considerations in tutoring sessions. Nonetheless, educational professionals can learn a lot from educational theory and models, which is why I recently asked expert Erik Francis of Maverik Education to teach a group of test prep teachers about Depth of Knowledge levels.  As far as theoretical educational frameworks go, Depth of Knowledge certainly sounds rigorous. Cooked up by Dr. Norman Webb in 1997 to…

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Of all the test administrations of the year, the ones in June present the most problems. Many high schools have already flipped the CLOSED sign while others are facing finals and other culminating tests. Even worse, students have to contend with a host of other distractions: Playoffs and championships for spring sports Prom Exhaustion That summer feeling wafting through the classroom windows… Clearly, the odds of a student earning his or her best SAT or ACT scores in June appear unfavorable to say the least. No wonder we strongly recommend that high schoolers take the tests as early in junior year as makes sense based on preparation and extracurricular commitments. Yet, a case for the June SAT & ACT can and should be made. Three different groups of students benefit from blocking out the first two weekends of the month for testing: 1. Juniors who have already prepped but haven’t…

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Those of you who remember the old RIF commercials will probably chuckle at the reference, but the statement is as true today as it was back then: reading is fundamental. Strong reading and writing skills lie at the heart of the best grades, most impressive SAT & ACT scores, and most enduring professional success. Just because someone knows how to read doesn’t mean she reads well. Reading is a skill-based activity that improves with focused practice. That means that students should know how to read properly and then internalize the right strategies by reading challenging level-appropriate texts on a regular basis (HINT: National Geographic may be level-appropriate, but People magazine never is!) The benefits of exceptional reading skills are almost limitless, but include many obvious and highly desirable advantages: increased reading speed (which mean less time doing homework) improved comprehension (which means more knowledge as well as better grades and…

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While most standardized tests break section scores into smaller subscores, ACT aligns its flagship college entrance exam along Reporting Categories that serve the same general function of sorting content into discrete categories. College admissions officers show no interest whatsoever in student achievement in specific ACT Reporting Categories, but that doesn’t mean these categories have no value. On the contrary, the blueprint by which the test is designed tells us a great deal about the knowledge, skills, and strategies each section of the ACT rewards. For example, delving into the ACT Science Reporting Categories reveals a shocking truth about the test: its primary purpose is not to evaluate science knowledge. Instead, certain core skills are valued much more than discrete facts and figures. The three ACT Science Reporting Categories each focus on a specific competency area in the understanding and practice of scientific inquiry: Interpretation of Data The ACT Science Test…

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Everyone thinks they can accomplish more by doing more at once. Unfortunately, almost everyone is wrong. Multitasking has been proven time and time again to kill productivity. Basically, switching focus to even a mundane task can double your error rate and lower your measurable IQ. So next time you’re studying for that big test, turn off the music, computer, phone, etc. etc. But if you’ve been insisting all these years that you’re different, you may be right. Studies support the idea that some lucky souls may actually be supertaskers, capable of juggling parallel tasks effectively. According to the research described in On supertaskers and the neural basis of efficient multitasking, some brains manage cognitive load more efficiently than others: Multitasking is mentally taxing and, therefore, should recruit the prefrontal cortex to maintain task goals when coordinating attentional control and managing the cognitive load. To investigate this possibility, we used functional…

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