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Students Don’t Read and Don’t Know Where to Start

Students Don’t Read and Don’t Know Where to Start

“The problem of our age is the proper administration of wealth, that the ties of brotherhood may still bind the rich and the poor in harmonious relationship. The conditions of human life have not only been changed but revolutionized, within the past few hundred years. In former years there was little difference between the dwelling, dress, food, and environment of the chief and those of his retainers….the contrast between the palace of the millionaire and the cottage of the laborer with us to-day measures the change which has come with civilization. This change, however, is not to be deplored, but welcomed as highly beneficial.”

Say, hypothetically, your student was faced with the above passage from Andrew Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth, and was asked not only to identify “the main point about the disadvantages of the modern economic system,” but also to “provide the best evidence” to backup their answer. Would they be able to?

You might be thinking that the thought exercise above is unfair given that you don’t have the answer choices in front of you.  But the fact of the matter is that any passage written in 1889 is going to be intimidating. Even the strongest readers are going to have to slow down, use context clues to interpret outdated language, and approach each sentence deliberately. Some students might even use their knowledge of Andrew Carnegie and the industrial era from history class to better navigate the passage. Ultimately, some students are going to finish the passage with a good understanding of Carnegie’s view point and strong sense of the passage’s purpose. But a lot of students aren’t.

You might be thinking, well, what if my student struggles with reading. How can they develop their abilities so that they are able to attack a passage like Carnegie’s? It’s no secret among test prep companies that the reading section is the most difficult section to budge because it tests a more holistic skill set. However, parents tend to have mismatched expectations when it comes to test prep for the reading section. Improvements on the reading section don’t come in a reliably linear fashion, which is more common for the other concept-based sections.  This fact entails a frustrating reality for avoidant readers: they will have to work tirelessly to improve their score or may fail to improve entirely. After all, even the best test prep tutors can’t make up for a decade of neglecting to read challenging texts.

A closer look at the school system reveals why high school students stop reading independently. From a young age, there is a constant feedback loop in schools that reinforces students to identify themselves as either “bad” or “good” readers (think reading groups or reading aloud during class). By the time a student is in middle school, they might be assigned 10 books to read a year.  For a student who reads these books and nothing else, their reading skills will completely plateau. It’s a shame: studies show that only fifteen minutes a day of independent reading accelerates one’s reading growth; however, 54% of all students read less than fifteen minutes a day.  

In this day and age, technology also contributes to this aversion to reading. Teenagers are exposed to vastly different forms of entertainment in a matter of seconds. Why, if they already consider themselves to be bad readers, would they spend their free time thoroughly understanding a passage by Susan B. Anthony, for example?

With SmartyPrep, our fully gamified test prep app, students can still enjoy the stimulation of social technology while honing in on their reading skills. The “reading in context” game and the matching for high frequency words game help develop fundamental reading skills while also creating a venue for friendly competition among peers. Mastering the reading section isn’t about learning random reading tricks and gaming tactics, but about initiating a fundamental restructuring so that a student learns to be a master reader in their everyday life, not just a master of standardized tests.  

Case Study 5: The “Bad Test-Taker”

Case Study 5: The “Bad Test-Taker”

Executive Summary:

Anthony was a middle of the road Park student starting at an 1120 on his diagnostic SAT. He had great grades, but his performance on the SAT didn’t seem to match. Parents were struggling to come up with an explanation, but Streamline knew exactly what to do.

Challenges:

From the start, Anthony came in very nervous. He was freezing up and running out of time. On some problems, he felt like he had no idea how to get started. His confidence was draining away. Was the content the main challenge, or was it insecurity? If he was doing so well in school, where was all this coming from?

Situation:

Students exposed to Park’s unusual curriculum have pronounced strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the SAT. The humanities focus advances reading comprehension, but the lack of emphasis on certain math and grammar concepts can leave students up the creek. In addition, Park doesn’t ask it’s students to take many formal tests, and when they do, they aren’t timed in most cases. As a result, many are unaccustomed to managing the performance anxiety that comes with a standardized testing environment.

Streamline’s Intervention: 

From the start, the score breakdown told the whole story. Anthony’s reading score was much higher than his grammar score. His math was predictably mixed. He could tackle the hardest problems on concepts he had learned in school. His challenges were with the material he had never been exposed to. We saw enormous potential for growth. It wasn’t a mystery — Streamline has seen enough Park students to recognize the pattern right away.

Result:

Anthony shed the “bad test-taker” image and earned a 1360 on the SAT!

If you think your student could benefit from the same targeted approach, reach out to us today or sign your child up to take a free diagnostic.

Case Study 4: The Recruited Athlete

Case Study 4: The Recruited Athlete

Executive Summary:

Claire was a star lacrosse player at McDonogh. Her junior year, she was recruited at an Ivy League school — all she needed was a 29 on the ACTStreamline had the perfect one-on-one solution.

Challenges:

Claire’s practice schedule made it impossible to register for a prep class. She needed one-on-one, with flexible timing that kept her committed and focused. The family needed something they knew would work: starting at a 23, those 6 points weren’t going to keep her from a dream come true.

Situation:

Claire came in with the right attitude, readily adapting to the coach mentality. Her athlete’s mindset helped her focus on the tenable goals she was ready to reach. She wasn’t bogged down by a static conception of “smarts” — she attacked the test prep regimen looking to master the concepts that challenged her most.  

Streamline’s Intervention:

Streamline saw Claire had the potential to make quick gains. Her coaches needed her scores as soon as possible. We worked with her demanding schedule and found a rhythm that was manageable. We capitalized on her motivation and showed her how much she could hope to achieve.


Results:

Claire was successfully recruited by the Ivy League school of her dreams!

Case Study 3: The Prep Plateau

Case Study 3: The Prep Plateau

Executive Summary:

Teresa was a popular girl at Franklin High with a starting score of 21. She never thought of herself as an academic-type, but she needed a 27 for her dream school. Her tutor unearthed the academic plateau and insecurities that were preventing real growth.

Challenges:

Many students anticipate their development will be a linear progression: the more hours devoted to study and prep, the greater the results. After every session, you should be able to earn a higher score. Right? In reality, this isn’t the case. Real educational growth spikes and plateaus: after long periods of time without tangible progress, suddenly a strategy or concepts will lock into place, and you’ll see a tremendous breakthrough. These breakthroughs happen unpredictably, when you finally dig up the root of a misconception or misunderstanding. This requires patience and determination on the part of the student: you can’t be shy about voicing confusion. This was Teresa’s main stumbling block. In class, she was the never the person to raise her hand — she was afraid of being wrong.

Situation:

Teresa’s first official ACT was the exact same score as her diagnostic. She felt deflated. Could it be that tutoring just wasn’t working — or worse, that she really couldn’t manage the content? Teresa’s slow growth is typical of students with her starting score. She needed time to finally shore up those baseline skill sets to experience true growth on the ACT. Her tutor pushed her to keep at it, working to the end of the concept review phase before testing again. This time, her score went up to a 25.

Streamline’s Intervention:

In the one-on-one setting, Teresa couldn’t hide in the back of the classroom until someone else gave an answer. It was just her and her tutor. He didn’t let her off easy, either — he pushed her past frustration, demanding resolute decision making in the face of questions that challenged her most. Despite Teresa’s frustrations with her scores on practice tests, we saw qualitative improvement: with each test, she was getting closer and closer to finally getting the questions she was missing right. Her tutor knew was on the verge of breaking through one more academic plateau.


Results:

Teresa scored the 27 she was hoping for on her final ACT. She’s been accepted everywhere she applied!

Case Study 2: Bright Students Need Tutoring Too

Case Study 2: Bright Students Need Tutoring Too

Executive Summary:

Tim was a bright Mcdonogh student with a high starting score — 1420 walking in the door. His parents had signed him up to take a prep class with another local company. After months of tutoring with them, his score had managed to go down. Streamline turned things around.

Challenges:

In a large traditional classroom setting, teachers are obliged to “teach to the middle.” A test prep classroom faces the same constraints. Tim’s weaknesses weren’t the same as his peers: he needed the next level of instruction. In the meantime, his parents had lost their faith in the test prep process. “My kid is smart — he doesn’t need this much help.”

Situation:

What accounted for Tim’s drop in score? Streamline was able to answer this. There is a great variety of concepts that can appear on the SAT. In addition, each concept can be tested in different ways — some easy, some hard, and some in between. In short, every test is different. In order to consistently earn a high score, you need not only to know every concept, but be prepared for the most difficult ways it may be tested. Easy gains can be made by ensuring the student is baseline acquainted with all the concepts — but Tim was already there. He had everything the classroom could offer. What he needed was a tutor.

Streamline’s Intervention:

Streamline created for Tim a rigorous three month prep regime, truncated to fit the time remaining before test day. He had a demanding workload outside of sessions, but we needed that much legwork in order to identify his areas of real weakness. In order for us to be absolutely certain we were going to make a difference, we couldn’t leave anything up to chance. The tailored environment of one-on-one tutoring allowed us to deliver the content Tim really needed to maximize his score.

Results:

Tim’s final score was a 1560! He walked out of the room with confidence that he had given it his all.  

Case Study 1: Unearthing Latent Obstacles To A Student’s Test Prep Success

Case Study 1: Unearthing Latent Obstacles To A Student’s Test Prep Success

Executive Summary:

Miles’ profile was decisively average — a Gilman student with a GPA in the low 90s, starting PSAT score around 1250 without prepping for the test. He was your typical bright kid who wasn’t putting in as much effort as he could. At least, that’s what everyone thought. We noticed something deeper.

Challenges:

Miles’ IQ was in the 99th percentile; his processing speed was below 20th percentile. We wouldn’t find that out until we conducted a full battery of educational testing. It took a lot of work to get us there. The parents were resistant. “Isn’t extra time cheating? There’s nothing wrong with my kid!” Unfortunately, in the traditional classroom setting, a high IQ can mask certain learning differences. When a child is earning good grades and keeping up with the material, parents and teachers don’t always recognize red flags.

Situation:

Miles’ sessions with Streamline told a different story. Miles was constantly asking his tutor to slow down: he needed extremely tedious notes. The way information entered into his head was singular and occasionally jarring. He approached concepts in unique ways. He needed several moments to internalize his tutor’s instructions — but once he learned something, he never forgot it. What’s more, he complained he never had enough time in school to finish tests or assignments. It all clicked.

Streamline’s Intervention:

Once the results were in, it was clear what we needed to do. Miles’ tutor adjusted his teaching style to better suit his students needs. At the same time, we walked his parents through the process of applying for extra time. Finally, Miles was approved for extra time on both the SAT and ACT. At this point, we had come to know his strengths and weaknesses very well, and they all pointed to the ACT. We at Streamline Tutors pivoted to prepping for the test that showcased his talents and abilities.

Results:

Miles earned a perfect score on the ACT, and now attends a university within the top 15 of the nation!

If you suspect your child to be flying under the radar, or are interested in availing your child of the same quality education and level of advocacy as Miles had access to, contact us or sign up to take a free diagnostic exam today!