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By: Ken McCandless
A call for help.
One of my most memorable teaching experiences came from working with a 7th grade girl, Laura. Her mom called me one Sunday morning to inquire about essay writing help for her daughter. Of all the inquiries that I have received in the past for writing, her tone seemed more concerned.
It was Laura's first session. She had been attending a prestigious school was struggling greatly with reading and writing. After our first conversation, I understood exactly why her writing was poor.
I asked, “Hi, Laura. What did you do today at school?”
She responded, “Well...” “Like…” “But…” “and then…”
I could tell right away that her speech had no structure and was all over the place. It was almost like her ideas were trapped in her mind.
I decided to change her learning strategy. Instead of writing, we began with speaking exercises. We spent our session formatting conversations about her day in the most basic, minimal, yet effective sentences.
I asked, “Laura, how was your day?”
She Responded, “Well, like...”
I stopped her, “Let's try again. How was your day?”
Her response, “My day was great. I woke up at 7 then went to school then Tegan and me turned in...”
I stopped her once more, “Start over.”
She replied, “My day was great. I woke up at 7 and went to school. My friend Tegan and I turned in our math project.”
Our speaking exercises were working. In a short amount of time, forming basic sentences turned into developing eloquent sentences with complex grammar. She was becoming a more expressive and confident speaker. She was now ready to write.
Laura’s much improved speaking ability immediately translated into improved writing. She was able to gather her thoughts more efficiently, creating more meaningful content. I also noticed that her grammar and organization had drastically improved. She was blossoming into an exceptional writer.
Our learning methods enabled Laura to discover her natural speaking and writing abilities that she never knew she had.
With the right methods, any student can discover his or her natural ability to excel at any subject.
What makes you succeed? Come join us and find out!
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Your ultimate goal...
Every year, thousands of students will apply for admission to the private school of their dreams. As the process begins, each student must decide whether to take the ISEE, SSAT, or both.
What are the differences? Similarities?
The difference between the ISEE and SSAT is similar to that of the SAT and ACT. Here are a few similarities to note:
Here are some differences to note:
Which one is right for me?
Even though you have the potential to score high on either test, the formats of the ISEE and SSAT do provide different test taking experiences.
The Hillview Prep Difference.
Whether you are a literal or abstract thinker, stronger or weaker at math, or have any other academic strengths or weaknesses, your overall goal is to be the most well rounded test taker possible. Are you a literal thinker? Let's learn to become more abstract and a better decision maker. Are you an abstract thinker? Let's improve your detail. Learning these skills will prove valuable not only for the ISEE and SSAT, but for any area of academia.
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Learning the “tricks”… a common misconception
I recently came across a new SAT Prep company uses the differences between the new and old SAT to market its services. They outline how they’ve “discovered that the old ways of preparing for the SAT simply will not work for the new test”, and that students must choose a program that teaches “skills” for the New SAT.
“Tricks” and “Skills” for a test: Missing the big picture of standardized testing.
Tricks and skills for the New SAT are none other than keywords used to paint the SAT as a “specialized” test. The old SAT and new SAT are not specialized tests, they are STANDARDIZED tests, so why are these companies marketing specialized skills? Sounds like a marketing scheme, right?
What test prep is supposed to be.
The purpose of these standardized tests is to analyze a student’s comprehension speed, classification abilities, logic, decision making abilities, and mental endurance across various academic disciplines. When prepared correctly, a student should be able to perform well on any standardized test at his or her level.
More than just SAT Prep...
When asked about Hillview Prep’s SAT prep program, the first point that I emphasize is our mission to enable our students to take control of their academic abilities in order to become more efficient learners, thinkers, and test takers. What does that mean?
The Hillview Prep difference: Learn to take control of your academic abilities.
Every student has his or her unique academic abilities. Rather than learning “tricks” or “skills” for the new SAT, our students learn strategies and methods that complement their natural learning styles. These unique methods organically develop and nurture faster comprehension and more efficient problem solving across reading comprehension, math, and writing, inherently enabling them to take a proactive approach to the SAT, or any test.
By: Ken McCandless
Founder, Hillview Prep
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Common Core, a bad first impression.
I remember an experience when a student came to me for math help. She was in 7th grade and was performing well in her pre-algebra class. Her mother had told me that even though she was scoring well, she had absolutely no interest in math and didn’t seem to fully understand the concepts. She was afraid that her daughter would underperform on the upcoming High School Placement Test (HSPT) and ultimately fall behind in 8th grade and high school. As I started working with this girl I realized what the problem was: Her foundation in math was very poor. However she was taught in her earlier grades did not offer her the conceptual stability to properly approach more complex math.
The importance of early learning.
Academic development at an early age substantially influences how a student will perform in later stages. It’s like walking up a stair-master and missing a step that will not be there going forward, causing every step ahead of you to be that much harder. Pretty discouraging, right? This applies to all disciplines of academics, whether it’s reading, writing, grammar, math etc.
Lack of foundation: a byproduct of frustrated learning.
I noticed her frustration with multi-step algebra problems and realized that those fundamental, foundational skills were not developed correctly, leading her to resort to inefficient methods such as mental math. She was having a hard time understanding the purpose of a variable and the concept of an equation among other elementary concepts such as multiplying positive with negative numbers. How could this girl be getting an A in her math class?
A discouraging past= lost confidence.
After consulting with her mom, I found the underlying problem: She has been taught math under Common Core Standards. After speaking more with this girl, it made perfect sense. She could not recall when, how, or why she learned specific foundational concepts, even from the year before. The reality was that she was never really a bad math learner, just a unique one. She was not given the opportunity to take interest or learn the way that best suited her.
Discovering a solution.
I looked through her math syllabus and was disturbed to see how concepts were being taught out of sequence and had little emphasis. I decided that the best way to help her was to break math down to the foundational basics. We focused on strengthening her understanding and execution of elementary operations using real world examples to apply context and understanding of how, when, and why operations work the way they do. Because she is an abstract thinker and visual learner, using hands on and visual methods helped her to comprehend and process the concepts more efficiently. More importantly, her retention translated to increased confidence and proficiency.
Common Core: Is it a developmentally irresponsible approach?
After months of building, she was able to solve multi-step equations and word problems in a meaningful and methodical way. Her newfound confidence renewed her approach to math, enabling her to comprehend and learn in a more strategic and efficient manner. I was proud to see how far she had come. Common Core had failed her throughout her earlier education and could have robbed her of her potential; it was a watered-down, overly technical yet underemphasized method of teaching. It was a system that in theory was designed to fit a wide parameter of students, but in actuality never fully fits one.
By: Ken McCandless
Founder, CEO of Hillview Prep
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admissions exams useful, but are concerned that these exams have become disconnected from the work of high school classrooms.” After viewing these changes, it’s apparent that the New SAT has reformed to look very similar to its rival test, the ACT. Here is a chart outlining the similarities.