Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Yesterday, as I studied up on orthography and spelling instruction, I thought about all the new things I need to learn in making the transition from classroom teacher to instructional paraprofessional. The difference is greater than I anticipated. Working one to one or with a small group is all about individualization and spending time on the small parts that make up the whole, something that is very hard to do when faced with an entire classroom.

To tell the truth, I wasn't 100% sure what it meant to be a writing interventionist when I took this job. I thought it would be something like being a tutor, just helping students with specific pieces of writing. But I've discovered that it is really about helping students master the building blocks of good writing. For example, I'm studying up on orthography because I have a student who has real spelling issues that get in the way of effective communication. It's exciting for me to create a plan just for this student and be able to spend twenty minutes with her just on one skill, something I was never able to do as a classroom teacher.

As this year comes to a close, I look back and marvel at where I was this time last year, home with the kids and feeling anxious about becoming professionally irrelevant, and thinking about going back to work, but in a very abstract kind of way. And now here I am, with a job that is pretty much fits the picture of what I thought I'd want to do instead of returning to the classroom. As the year comes to a close, I continue to reflect on my transition and think about ways to grow into this new chapter of my professional life.

Happy holidays!

{Read more slices here!: http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/write-share-give-its-sol-time-15/}

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Yesterday, I sat down to write a model paragraph for my writing intervention students. I couldn't think of anything to write but then I remembered that Friday night, I had kind of an epiphany. It wasn't life-affirming or groundbreaking, and it was probably knowledge that already existed somewhere deep in the recesses of my cave-like mind. But I digress.

Me and the kids were driving home from Shabbat services. It was cold and dark, but as I approached the light at Main Street, Town Hall rose up in front of me, with a Christmas tree ablaze in colored lights on the front lawn. All up and down Main Street, the trees were wrapped in white fairy lights, throwing light onto an otherwise dark Main Street. Storefront windows were trimmed in lights, adding to the festive air.

Having been raised Jewish, our house was never decorated in holiday lights. I enjoyed the neighbors' spectacle instead. And I always wondered, why does everyone love the holiday lights so much? Why is it so important to the season? They're nice to look at, sure and they make everything feel festive but where did the tradition come from?

Sitting there at the stop light, looking at the lights of Main Streets, it suddenly dawned on me. Of course! Holiday lights bring warmth and life to a season that is dark and cold. We hunker down, we hibernate, we gather around the hearth (so to speak). What an uplifting sight to go out and see your town lit up in a festive spirit. Now it all makes sense, and like I said, it probably always made sense but I never really thought about the emotional significance of holiday lights. I love coming home in the dark and being welcomed by my little white bungalow, surrounded by a vast country darkness,  trimmed in white lights.

{See more Slices here: http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/write-share-give-its-sol-time-14/}

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A (Real) Teacher

I wasn't sure what I was going to write about today because, if I'm being honest, I haven't been writing true "slices." But today, I think I have a slice for you. 

I said something that I shouldn't have said. 

The big buzz around the English Department this week is the upcoming NCTE convention in Washington DC. I spied the program on a teacher's desk and as I was flipping through it, I offhandedly remarked "Oh, I used to go every year when I was a real teacher." 

As the words left my mouth, I knew I wasn't being fair--to myself or to other instructional paraprofessionals. I mean, what is a "real" teacher? It's more than just degrees and certifications. Instructional paraprofessionals know their subject matter. They are skilled at helping kids turn the lightbulb on. They are tasked with the difficult challenge of working with kids who "don't get it." 

So, this is my lesson for today: own my professionalism. I am absolutely a "real" teacher. I have always been and always will be one. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On Both Sides Now

 It is parent-teacher conference season and I had my middle child's pre-K conference yesterday morning. It is incredibly inspiring and awesome to witness emerging literacy through the lens of both parent and teacher. Seeing my four year old's emerging print skills is delightful and a great source of pride. When I see her S with the extra curve on top, her E drawn as a small circle, her upside-down Ls and the capital A way over on the other side of the paper, I see the wheels turning in her brain, her understanding of print concepts right on target developmentally, her pride in being able to spell her name. It thrills me to no end and makes me excited for the whole new world that will open up to her when she starts Kindergarten next fall.
My eldest is in first grade, and I've already seen how her writing has evolved from the end of last school year to now. She has mastered fine motor control over her handwriting, moving from large, awkwardly-printed letters to small, neatly-spaced letters in her words. She has mastered her sight words and take risks with more sophisticated vocabulary. I went to a publishing party in her class, and got to hear her read aloud a book she wrote about her summer vacation on the Cape, the story infused with humor and keen details.
For any parent, especially a parent that is also a teacher, witnessing this evolving and emerging literacy is incredible. It all seems to happen so naturally, when you're not watching, and belies the incredibly hard work of learning kids do, and the amazing job their teachers do.
From a book my daughter wrote in Kindergarten

{To read more SOLs, see the comments on this post}

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again.

Yup, back in the saddle again. When I left teaching in 2008, I was ready for a break from the classroom and to concentrate on my growing family. I still felt a pull to education and teaching, so I started my little tutoring business, and wondered what my teaching career would look like down the line.
I envisioned myself working closely with students and teachers in some capacity, maybe as a coach. Last year, I decided it was time to get my Connecticut teaching license, in order to be able to take advantage of any opportunities that might come my way.
One of those opportunities was a position in a neighboring town as a writing paraprofessional. I wasn't 100% sure what such a role would entail but I had a good idea, plus it was only 20 hours a week. I knew I had to try, so I just went for it.
Getting the call to come in for an interview was a thrill, and getting hired the same day was even more of a thrill. I gave myself a week to get my affairs in order, figure out childcare and get my head in the game.
And here I am, about a month into my new job, and really loving it. I'm experiencing a level of autonomy and independence I never had as a classroom teacher, and I spend a good chunk of my day doing what I love best-- developing materials, coming up with lesson ideas, working with individual and small groups of students, and talking to teachers about how to help kids become confident writers.
It feels good to be here.

See the comments in this post for other SOL posts! 

Monday, October 20, 2014

National Day on Writing #WriteMyCommunity

Today is NCTE's 6th Annual National Day on Writing, and this year's theme is Community. I will return here throughout the day to update the page with links and ideas for writing about community. NCTE invites you to tweet links to your writing using #WriteMyCommunity. You can find me on Twitter at @nbcavillones (This post contains affiliate links.)

Need a place to start? Check out 10 Ways to Explore and Express What Makes Your Community Unique from The Learning Network at The New York Timeshttp://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/02/10-ways-to-explore-and-express-what-makes-your-community-unique/

From The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project: Creating a Sense of Community in the 6-8 Writing Workshop

  • Storytelling: Share vignettes from your own life, and encourage students to do the same. Do a collaborative re-telling of a shared experience
  • Read Aloud: Using texts that foster a sense of community, read aloud to your students to show them that their stories are literature, too. Some recommendations: Popularity by Adam Bagdasarian and Ezekiel Johnson by Walter Dean Myers. 
  • Share Artifacts: Invite students to bring in artifacts of their reading and writing lives and share the histories. 
  • Establish Values: Foster a sense of mutual respect and support by stressing its importance verbally and modeling positive behaviors. 
Some ideas for getting technical with the National Day on Writing, curated by +Kevin HodgsonCurated Collection of CLMOOC Tools

An idea from my own vault, that can be used with any grade! Unfurl a long sheet of art paper, either white or kraft and tape to the floor in the hallway (if you are allowed). Hand out crayons and colored pencils, and invite students to draw their neighborhood, depicting the local shops, parks, homes and other buildings they walk past everyday. Students that live on the same block may want to team up. Encourage students to add sidewalks, cars and people. Alternatively, if you are short on space, you can hang smaller sections on the walls around your room and group students by neighborhood/block. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Colleges Want YOU: Advice Round-Up for College Admissions

Source: http://glbtintherooms.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/OwnSelf.jpg

This advice from MIT Admissions applies to every student, not just those that have their sights set on MIT:
"Choose your activities because they really delight, intrigue and challenge you, not because you think they'll look impressive on your application. Go out of your way to find projects, activities and experiences that stimulate your creativity and leadership, that connect you with peers and adults who bring out your best, that please you so much you don't mind the work involved. Some students find room for many activities; others prefer to concentrate on just a few. Either way, the test for any extracurricular should be whether it makes you happy - whether it feels right for you."

Things admissions officers wish students knew before beginning the application process, including this nugget from an officer at Antioch:

"I wish more students applying to college understood just how important “right-fit” is. Do we want to see people who were successful in high school and had a bunch of extracurricular activates? Yes, absolutely. But you can make an even better case for admission by showing us that you are going to be able to be highly successful and benefit most from the uniqueness of our institution.
Do your research. Don’t only make the case that you’re great, make the case that you’re a great match great for us."

More advice from admissions officers. I like this one from Smith College:
“Admission officers talk about the importance of rigor in a student's high-school program. When students ask, should I take an AP course and get a lower grade or take a lower level course and get an A, the cliché answer is: Students should take the AP course and get an A. Not very helpful! What we should be talking about is appropriate rigor. That is, if the student can take the AP course and get an A or B, then that's appropriate. If the student will get a C or lower, then she should reconsider. Grades of Cs ‘pop’ on a transcript to selective colleges since we don't see them often. That doesn't mean that one C on a transcript will mean a student won't get into college. What is does mean is that students shouldn't over-challenge themselves.”

As someone who went from a 70 average in her freshman and sophomore years of high school to graduating with high honors, I wholeheartedly agree with this advice, found on the Forbes website

“If you believe your current GPA is not a good representation of how well you can really do, start improving now. It’s almost certainly not too late. Colleges will look closely at your junior year performance, and many will even take the first semester of your senior year into account. They’ll particularly pay attention to a trend of improvement. Don’t give up. Show them that you are a late bloomer and getting better with age. Even if you’ve only got one semester left to show colleges what you’re capable of doing, show them! Start now.”

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Review: The Perfect Score Project

Though I used to teach SAT prep for Kaplan, it was many, many moons ago. And of course, it was even longer ago that I actually TOOK the SAT. Have I ever told you that I took the test twice and got the same score both times? The second time, I went up in verbal and down in math! (This was back before the verbal was renamed Critical Reading.)   My memory is spotty but I am PRETTY SURE I did next to no test prep. I think I got some flash cards from someone I knew--maybe one of my sisters or a friend. The internet back then was not what it is now, so it is unlikely that I did any test prep on the College Board website. In any case, I went in there, took the test and passed muster. NYU took the best of my scores--the best math and the best verbal, and combined into one score. Thanks to Debbie's book, The Perfect Score Project: One Mother's Journey to Uncover the Secrets of the SAT I now know this is called superscoring.  Thanks to Debbie's book, I now know a lot of things that I didn't know before! The poor woman sat down for seven SAT exams, on a personal mission to help her son do his best on his own SAT exam. Actually, she had fun doing this so maybe I shouldn't feel so sorry for her! I actually kind of, sort of, wish I could take the SAT again, using the wisdom Debbie gleaned over the course of her project.
The book may be about the SAT but the story that unfolds is about one mother's struggle and triumph to hold her family together.  While stress is not an inherent part of SAT prep (at least, I don't think it is for everyone), in cases where there is a lot riding on SAT performance, relationships will be impacted.  Debbie was particularly obsessed with the test because she saw it as her son's best opportunity to pay for college. She felt sure that a high score would improve his chances of earning merit scholarships.  We, the reader, reap the benefits of her intensive experiment on locking down SAT success. Whether you are a tutor or a parent, this book is well worth reading--it is a font of information and knowledge that can be found across the internet and in every test prep center brought together into one humorous, uplifting volume.

Find Debbie at The Perfect Score Project. She is also on Twitter: https://twitter.com/debbiestier 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. This post contains affiliate links. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Book Review: Give Yourself a Brain Boost!

The idea that there are multiple forms of intelligence is not a new one, but students are not often encouraged to tap into these other forms, especially in environments where art and music are being shunted aside in favor of rote drills and testing. This book helps to fill that void. I recommend this to anyone who suffers from a lack of confidence in their own skills and abilities, or someone like me, who "cruised" through school. Sundem's tone is friendly and approachable, which keeps the book from feeling dry, an important factor in recommending this book to students. I do think this book would work better if it came in a workbook format with a spiral binding. 

{I received this book from Blogging For Books, in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.}

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Book Review: Tackling the Admissions Essay.

Having a private writing coach to hold your hand through the college application process is incredibly beneficial, but for a lot of students, it can be cost-prohibitive. There are a plethora of books out there on how to write the college admissions essay and some of them are good enough to be the second-best thing to having your own writing coach. Admissions Essay Boot Camp by Ashley Wellington is one of those books.

Wellington is the owner of Mint Tutors, and is a graduate of Princeton University and St. Andrew's University in Scotland. Her Ivy League training and her experience working for high-end tutoring services come together in this great book that packs a ton of useful information in a slim volume that is easy to read. 

As I always tell my students, the college essay is the thing that will make you stand out. Admissions counsellors read hundreds of essays from students that have nearly identical transcripts, so the essays themselves help admissions counsellors separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. All other things being equal, a strong essay can make or break an admissions decision. An good essay is even more important when your academic history is not stellar. I was not the strongest student, my SAT scores were respectable and I was not a high achiever by any means but  my essay was good enough to overcome those shortcomings and get me into my first choice school. (By the way, all this advice holds even if you aren't aiming for an elite college!) 

What students will find useful in this book: 
  1. Wellington describes general student archetypes, and identifies the challenges of each when it comes to the essay. It is important to remember that these are general descriptions. Many students will find overlap in which archetype best describes them, so don't be discouraged if you don't fit perfectly into one or the other. 
  2. A good writing coach will have a battery of questions for students to answer about themselves, to kick off the brainstorming process and the questions presented here will get students off to a good start. 
  3. Wellington offers a concrete example of a real student she tutored, and walks readers through the free write process, the outline and the draft. She also shares different types of essays that best fit the student archetypes described in the first chapter. The analysis of what makes each essay work (and not work) is particularly useful. 
{I recieved a copy of this book for review from Blogging For Books. All links are affiliate links.}

Friday, June 20, 2014

Be The Writer.

I kind of aspire to be a runner. I want to be a runner. The thing is, to be a runner, I have to run. And I do run. Sort of. Half-heartedly. Okay, quarter-heartedly. It's really not surprising that I suck at running and I don't really like to do it. But, I always feel great when I'm done and that makes me want to run some more. In fact, I ran today for the first time in awhile. It was easy at first, then my energy lagged and I wanted to stop but I pushed through, and fell into a rhythm. A slow one but rhythm all the same. 

Writing is the same way. If you want to be a writer, you have to be a writer. Just pick up a pen and put a word down on paper. Then another word, then another and before you know it, you'll have written something. It might be substantial. It might not be. It might be total crap, and that's okay.  Being a writer is the easy part. Being a good writer? That's harder. Producing writing that you're proud of is hard, too but like running, it gets easier and better with time. This, I promise you. 

Part of being a writer is being a reader.  It goes hand in hand. When you read, you pick up on different styles of writing, you absorb the rules of grammar, you get a sense of what makes a story well-written. For this same reason, I read running blogs and magazines. I'm inspired by other runners, I learn different tips for running.  Okay, I'm done with this extended metaphor....promise. 

Here's a tip I learned a long time ago: when you come across something in your reading that you really like, copy it word for word into a notebook. Use it as inspiration. Use it to train your writing muscles. The last thing I copied was Thoughts by Walt Whitman. It takes up two back-to-back pages in my journal. I was forced to focus on a word at a time, and to think about how each word was connected to the next and the one before it. It's a great exercise and I highly recommend it, especially during bouts of writer's block. 

Another tip: read poetry. Like no other genre of writing, poetry really gets at the heart of words and what they can do. The best poetry is stripped bare, simple yet evocative. Williams Carlos William's The Red Wheelbarrow is a classic example; so much imagery in just a few words.
so much depends 

a red wheel 

glazed with rain 

beside the white 

But really, just be the writer.  

{Affiliate Links Within}

Friday, May 16, 2014

Summer Learnin', Had Me a Blast.

{Is my title cheesy? Sorry! I've had the song stuck in my head ever since my husband sang a few lines of it last weekend.}

Here, in Connecticut, we have just a few weeks of school left. In your part of the country, school might be out for the summer already. Either way, the summer slide is our minds. I've already had an email from one client who wants to counteract the summer slide for her son, and I'm sure I'll get other emails.

First, let's be real. Summer homework is for the birds!  Any kid will agree with me and probably some parents, too. BUT the summer slide is a very real issue for certain kids. If a kid likes to read, and reads on his or her own, then there is probably not much to worry about. Going to the library a few times a week or downloading new books will be more than enough, along with getting outside and enjoying a little freedom.

The summer slide is the result of minds being left idle, so the solution is fairly simple, right? Keep the kids engaged, and their minds will follow suit.  Engagement is easier when it doesn't look or feel like work. I happen to have a kid, going into first grade, who loves to do workbooks, so I'll probably get her a workbook like this one because she enjoys it but we'll be doing plenty of other things too. There are a lot of ways to keep kids engaged and thinking over the summer.
Here are five ideas to try this summer:

  1. Letterboxing This is a scavenger hunt-style activity that reinforces navigational skills (math!), reading comprehension and nature hikes (science!). I took my almost-a-Kindergartener and my preschooler on a letterbox hike last summer and they got a real kick out of it. There are letterbox activities for all age and grade levels.  Click here to find letterboxing sites in your area: http://www.letterboxing.org/index.php 
  2. Correspondence If your child is going to sleep away camp, chances are, you'll be tucking a few postage-paid postcards into his or her suitcase, right? But every kid should write letters, camp or not. Some ideas: grandparents,  friends that have moved away, famous people, favorite authors. 
  3. Legos There is bound to be a rainy day or a super-hot day that keeps you indoors. A Lego kit like Lego Friends or Lego City is great because it involves following visual instructions (reading comprehension), sorting by color and size (math), problem-solving and imaginative play. 
  4. Children's Museums For younger kids, children's museums are great! They are designed for play and learning, across all subject areas. Find your area museum here: http://www.childrensmuseums.org
  5. Public Library My public library has a summer reading program and other events going on all summer, for kids. If you have a kid that thrives on rewards and incentives, a summer reading program might do the trick, to get him or her reading. 
For kids that are struggling, and are behind, some tutoring sessions over the summer will keep them on track for Fall but self-directed play and structured activities are just as valuable in the fight against the summer slide.  

{This post contains Amazon affiliate links.}

Friday, May 2, 2014

Different Brains for Different Folks

I had a meeting today with a potential client that made me think about brains. Specifically, I thought about how we already know so much about how the brain works, and about how "brain-based" is a huge buzzword in education circles. In theory, brain-based education is a really good idea because it capitalizes on what we know about how the brain works, and what the brain is capable of. In reality, though, brain-based pedagogy approaches the principles in a general way, that can be applied to all students regardless of how each individual brain works.

What got me on this train of thought was the potential client explaining an assignment that her son was required to do in his Social Studies class. The assignment was an annotated bibliography, and was to be submitted ahead of the actual paper he needed to write. He struggled with the assignment because he had not yet developed an argument or thesis, so he couldn't wrap his head around how each source could be used in the paper to support his eventual thesis. I have no doubt that some of his peers were able to do the assignment without a problem. Some people can organize their thoughts in the abstract, without really knowing what they are going to write about. Other people get overwhelmed by this roundabout way of getting the answer to a question, or developing an argument.

So what do you do, if you're the student that can't do the assignment in this way, if you need to do it differently to get it done? I say, break from the script. If you know yourself as a learner, and you know how your brain works, then find the best way for you to do the assignment. When I was a classroom teacher, executing lesson plans and assignments, I often did not think of the particular individual adjustments that I could make for a student until the issue came up, either because I noticed the student struggling or because the student came to me for help. Managing a class of 35 students, with varying degrees of skill in writing and reading, is a challenge. Developing individualized instruction for each of those 35 students is even harder. I would even say it's impossible.  And yeah, we teachers need a little help sometimes when it comes to figuring out exactly what each student needs in order to do her best!

The best thing a student can do for himself is to learn how his brain works, learn who he is as a learner and approach writing assignments from that perspective. So, if you need to hand in an annotated bibliography, for example, and you're feeling overwhelmed by the abstractness of the exercise, go ahead and develop your thesis first. Your thesis might change over the course of your research, and that's okay. Writers are constantly revising their own ideas, as they expand their knowledge and worldview. But at least, you'll have a place to start when you begin your annotated bibliography and that's all that matters--to be able to begin.

PS Here's a fun little brain test you can take: https://www.testmybrain.org

Sunday, April 20, 2014

My Writing Process {Repost}

I originally posted this on my personal blog, and I thought I'd share it here, to give readers some insight into how The Writing Tutor writes! 

I admit, I was surprised when Tamara, my IRL friend and superblogger, asked if I wanted to participate in this blog author tour.

"She thinks I'm a writer? She thinks I'm a writer! Am I a writer?" The pressure was heavy but fleeting, thankfully. 

In her post, Tamara writes about needing permission to call herself a writer, which, of course, she doesn't. But I do! Why am I the exception? Maybe because lately it seems like I do a lot of writing in my head and not actually on paper. There's definitely an element of fear and a lack of self-confidence at play here. This is a post about my writing process and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to answer the questions but I did! 

1. What am I working on?
I am working on a series of interviews featuring mothers with physical disabilities. It is taking me a looooong time but I hope to get it up on my blog in the next few months. But I am also working on being a braver writer. So far, I am not doing great but I'll get there. I know the rewards will be great when I do. 
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Do I have a genre?! I don't know. Is journaling and blogging a genre, like being a diarist or memoirist? I guess my work differs in that I'm very sensitive to how my writing will be perceived by the people I know and love in real life, and that holds me back a lot but hopefully, some of what I've written has substance and meaning. I have always been a writer of few words anyway, way back to high school when Dr. Benton gave me a pass on paper page minimums because I was able to say what I needed to say without hitting the required word count. No flowery language or hyperbole for me! 
3. Why do I write what I do?
I write because I can't hold it all in my head. Most of that stuff is in a notebook, not online. But the stuff that is online, I write and share it because I think people will like to read it, will find it useful, will be interested in it. I write what I do because sometimes thoughts are like demons. You have to let them out, so they won't control you. 
4. How does my writing process work?
When I have an actual assignment and topic to write about, I just sit at my computer and start typing whatever I'm ready to say about it, then I stop and do research as necessary. Sometimes, I have to write on paper and not just any paper. If I'm telling a story, I use my journal. But if I'm pulling information together, or doing a writing prompt, I use a notepad. Don't ask me why! A few months ago, I was tasked with the incredible honor of writing an obituary for a friend's mother and I had to write it on a notepad first. Nothing else would do! 

Sometimes I just start writing in my  head, then I realize that I should probably write it down, which is why I always have a notebook and pen in my bag--sometimes, I have to write at a red light and once, I pulled over!  The other day, I left my bag in the car when I went to a friend's house. I had to rip a page out of a spiral notebook sitting on her counter, when I thought a thought and needed to put it on paper before I lost it. So, head, then paper, then I decide if the thought is going anywhere, if it needs to be elaborated on, and if it needs to be shared. Then, I go from there. Usually, I have to be struck by inspiration. I'm a very undisciplined writer. I have no routine, no rhyme or reason to my writing sessions, which kind of describes my personality, now that I think about it... mmh. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sleep, Glorious Sleep!

When I was in high school, I pulled more than one all-nighter, writing papers but I also had to wake up at 5am to meet my school bus in time. I often made up the extra sleep by taking a nap on the bus--it was a 45 minute ride. Even back then, I had a suspicion that this early start time was not healthy.
So, I'm delighted to see this article about the movement towards later start times! I would add, however, that the quality of sleep matter as much as the hours of sleep, so put your devices away at bedtime. The glow from the screens, plus the mental activity required to process information from your phone or iPad will keep your brain wired and make it harder to wind down. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The New SAT

The Internet is abuzz with news that The College Board is rolling out an update to the SAT,  after overhauling the exam in 2005 by adding two sections and increasing the end of the point scale to 2400. The new new version will launch in 2016.

Here's a look at what's changing this time:

  • The print format remains but students in some locations will be able to take the exam on a computer. 
  • The exam will consist of three parts: Evidence-based reading and writing, math and the essay. 
  • 50 minutes will be added to the exam time, for the essay portion. 
  • The exam will return to the 400-1600 point scale. 
Those are the overarching changes to the exam. For more specific changes, head over to the source: https://www.collegeboard.org/delivering-opportunity/sat/redesign

The SAT has always been a controversial entity, and a change of this magnitude only fans the flames. The College Board's rationale for redesigning the exam is to make it more democratic, and for the exam to more realistically reflect what American high school students are learning.  The exam will look more like the ACT which is a less popular exam but has been gaining ground on the SAT in the past few years. (I took both exams in high schools! The ACT was definitely easier than the SAT but it also had more familiar content than the SAT.) 

The College Board also hopes that the redesign will give a leg up to low-income students who do not have the advantage of taking expensive prep classes. The test fee will also be waived for students who qualify, and Khan Academy will provide free test prep.

Sounds pretty good, right? But I'm inclined to agree with Randolf Arguelles, who argues in the Wall Street Journal that democratizing the exam will make it less effective as an admissions tool. In the United States, despite the widespread adoption of the Common Core, there is no national curriculum, there is no standard of grading, there is no uniform measurement tool across states. The SAT allows universities to compare "apples to apples," as Arguelles says in his article.  

The chief complaint about the SAT has been that it doesn't measure real world knowledge but what is "real world knowledge"? The concept is subjective and a matter of opinion. I believe success in college is predicted by three things: a sophisticated vocabulary, reading comprehension and study skills. The SAT covers all three of these things, which are useful across all disciplines, no matter what major you declare. This is not elitist. What is elitist, however, are expensive test prep programs that shut out low-income students, which reflects the "real world," as well--access is equal to advantage. This is why test prep is already made available for free or at low cost in low-income areas. 

In New York City, free test prep is offered by APEX: http://www.apex-ny.org/education_programs.php

In Fairfield County, some school districts offer low-cost test prep. Stratford, for example, offers a course for $105: http://www.stratfordk12.org/Content/SAT_Prep_Courses.asp

As a tutor, I am committed to offering affordable test prep, and general academic tutoring, and will work with a family's budget! 

Here are two more stories on the new SAT, plus one just for laughs!

Nancy Cavillones is a writing coach based in West Redding, Connecticut. She is available to coach students on application essays and AP English essays as well as general academic tutoring in ELA and Social Studies for grades 5-12. Coaching is available online and in person. Tutoring is only available in person. Contact her today for rates and availability. ctwritingtutor@gmail.com