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!
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.
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
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
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.
The old SAT: Falling behind to the ACT.
According to Fortune Magazine, “To fulfill commitments to college readiness and to meet the requirements of the 2001 No Child Left Behind act, which requires high schools to test students in math, reading, and science at least once during their secondary education, states adopted the ACT as an achievement exam.” With more and more colleges becoming test optional, the SAT has been losing considerable marketshare to the ACT.
Student’s experiences according to College Board and Kaplan. Disclaimer: These surveys are controlled!
After the first New SAT was administered in March, College Board and Kaplan both took surveys of students who took the New SAT, unfortunately, neither organization published the results of the entire survey.
According to the College Board's survey of 8,089 students ,
These surveys conducted by College Board and Kaplan do not provide enough data to make a fair comparison against its predecessor. In fact, because the surveys were controlled, it leads me to believe that the results are fairly ambiguous and subjective.
Don’t compare the New SAT to the old SAT, compare it to the ACT.
It’s clear that New SAT was changed to better compete with the ACT, so why don’t we discover how student’s compare the New SAT and the ACT? Just like any car company that reforms a model, we want to the how it compares to its competition, not its predecessor.
One piece of advice that I always give incoming high school freshman is that time flies! One day you’re entering school as a freshman, the think you know you’ll be a junior thinking about college.
Never stop planning.
Planning for the future starts the day you step on your high school campus. Which classes should I take? Which skills do I need to improve to be successful in school? Should I start writing/updating my resume? When do I take the PSAT/SAT/ACT/SATII/AP etc? There are steps we can take every month of our high school career to position ourselves to meet our highest goals after high school.
What goals do we have for this summer?
It’s that time of the season. The end of school year is rapidly approaching and we must start planning for summer.
Not just a summer camp, but a summer opportunity.
Summer is a time for us to improve ourselves, whether it be athletically, socially, or academically. One way to best understand what we want to improve is by asking ourselves what we want from the year ahead. Are we looking to make the varsity team? Are we applying to high school or college? Are we developing an interest of ours? Do we want to serve our community?
Will the plethora of options out there, we do not have to limit ourselves to just one. Let make the most of our summer and manage our time accordingly.
Flexibility meets quality: The Hillview Prep difference.
At Hillview Prep, our summer programs are “modular”. What does “modular” mean exactly? It means that your program is designed to fit your schedule! Whether you have vacations planned, another summer camp, or just a less intense summer schedule, learning with us can be as flexible as you need. Whether you are looking for an SAT, HSPT, ISEE, SSAT, Math, or admissions planning summer camp, we are here to help!
Curious to learn more? Check out our summer classes at Hillview Summer Classes!
The pen and paper: An SOS story
What ever happened to learning with the classic pen and paper? The tactile experience of writing words? The cursive style? We live in a world where iPads and laptops are becoming more and more prominent in the classroom. While good productivity tools, using these machines have come with a price.
Why spell? We have auto-correct, right?
Typing, auto-correct, file-storage; computers and tablets have become the forefront of writing productivity and has revolutionized how students learn, but what's the catch? One common trend that I have noticed is the downward spiral of students' ability to spell.
Students cannot spell anymore! Should that be a surprise? Simply put, no. While auto-correct offers the luxury of instant editing, it also robs us of the necessity to practice proper spelling and word structure.
Bad handwriting and loss of detail, a modern tragedy.
I still remember the days when my second grade teacher made my whole class practice writing in cursive every morning. We would practice on wide-ruled paper and would take up two lines per sentence. Though this was a tedious process, I can appreciate the art of cursive and technical aspects of handwriting. Subconsciously, we were also learning to become organized note takers.
Organized handwriting: More than just for writing.
Organized hand writing may not be as crucial anymore because we have computers to organize our writing for us, but the reality is we need organized handwriting for other aspects of academia such as math. I notice every year that more and more students are resorting to mental math. When solving multi-step word problems, their notes are messy and severely disorganized. This leads to frivolous errors and for many students, frustration.
The Microsoft Surface; the answer?
At Hillview Prep, we are constantly finding new ways to make every instruction/learning process more efficient and effective. After trying several writing devices, an iPad and stylus, Wacom pen pads etc., I came across what I believe to be the most well-rounded and revolutionary product for education yet, the Microsoft Surface. I've tried the iPad Pro, which has an excellent writing experience, but has the limited multitasking abilities of iOS.
Integrating modern technology and productivity with classic writing.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Apple products, but I haven’t seen a more capable device that provides all the necessities and productivity features of a computer with an almost perfect emulation of pen on paper note taking than the Surface.
The Surface Pen and OneNote, the modern pen and paper.
The Surface Pen feels and functions like an actual pen, with the proper pressure sensitivity, friction, and input quality. Microsoft’s OneNote software provides the writer with a virtual notepad with an abundance of options. OneNote allows you to select between a blank, lined, or graph paper with various sizes. We are able to input attachments including pictures taken from its camera and copy and paste our work. Our work is always saved as it is simultaneously synced to the cloud and we have instant access to our notes with the press of a button on Surface Pen.
Saving the art of writing.
I notice that the Surface draws and holds the attention of all my students. Growing up in a world filled with technology, they view writing with a pen and virtual paper as something new and refreshing (who would have thought writing with our hands would feel like a new experience??). Students are able to practice their handwriting and fundamentals of word structure, something that has been all but lost.
Timing: 52 questions in 30 min.
Pacing for HSPT quantitative is a little faster than the math section, but also shorter. Other than comparisons, HSPT quantitative generally consists of single-step equations to 2-3 step comprehension problems.
Math vs. Quantitative...what's the difference?
Concepts on the quantitative section includes:
Unlike math, quantitative is more predictable, meaning we can have a more strategic approach in solving. We must understand that comparisons are going to take longer to solve and that number manipulation and series reasoning require pure strategy and logic. Most importantly, quantitative requires a high level of detail. Because of the fast pace and logic based nature of this section, we are more prone to committing minor errors.
64 Questions in 45 minutes. The longest section...
HSPT Math is the longest section. It requires that you maintain discipline while maintaining an efficient, detailed pace. Questions may range from one-step equations to multi-step word problems. Therefore, we must be strategic.
Taking Control of our Knowledge:
HSPT math tests us on concepts that we've started learning since grade school. How can we possibly remember everything? Our success on HSPT math relies on our ability to classify. Let's find the right strategies that will allow you to shape your knowledge and natural abilities into a fluid, efficient, and detailed math solving process. Our goal is to be versatile between the different problem types, understanding when our pacing must shift, and using the necessary steps of detail in order to reduce minor error.
The hardest part of any word problems is translating English into Math. A lot of students struggle with this issue. If you have good reading comprehension skills, you should have no problem. If you don't, we recommend you contact us to improve your reading comprehension skills.
Call us at (408) 868-9808 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
You will find word problems using fractions, decimals, percentages, and even algebra and geometry. How do you translate English into math?
When you read a problem, you can often translate it word for word from English statements into mathematical statements. At other times, you will have to look for a key word in the problem that provides hints at the mathematical operation to be performed. Below is an example.
Equals: key words--is, are, has
Hopefully, you see the pattern here. There are key words for ADDITION, SUBTRACTION, MULTIPLICATION and DIVISION. We will be happy to coach you how to use them effectively for your test. Just let us know.
Below are some concepts on the HSPT math section that you might find helpful.
HSPT math concepts:
Timing: 60 questions in 16 minutes. This section is quick…really quick.
My vocabulary isn’t very good…so what?!
Here are the 5 concepts being tested on the HSPT:
Why are they grouped differently? Synonyms and antonyms require us to understand word meanings while verbal classification, analogies, and logic require us to understand context. With context, we are able to implement specific strategies (such as keyword strategies etc.) in order to answer the problem in the most efficient and detailed way.
Let's not focus on memorizing endless vocabulary lists...let's strategize! Understanding vocabulary isn't about knowing the precise meaning of a word...it's about putting yourself in the best position to get the correct answer. Verbal skills is also a test of efficient and quick decision making. The best way to build your vocabulary is by using your current knowledge of words to create context for new words. Want to learn how? Contact us and we will be happy to help!