Organizational Skills and Academic Achievement

Studies show there is a direct correlation between academic achievement and organization skills. Organization and planning ahead are actually learned skills. Therefore, for your child to become more organized, they must be taught how to plan and stay accountable.

Disorganization, according to the study, Teaching Exceptional Children, ERIC (Educational Resource Information Center), can contribute to lower grades and academic failure.

Caucasian smooth-skinned boy is calm and confident while smiling on  homework

Teaching Organization Skills to Promote Academic Achievement

“Organizational difficulties are major obstacles for many students with learning and behavior challenges. These students often neglect to separate notebooks into various subject areas, forget to bring necessary items to class, and stuff assignments randomly into their book bags and pockets. Students’ disorganization, including their inability to keep track of assignments and turn them in on time, can contribute to low grades and academic failure, particularly beginning in secondary school when teacher expectations are greater and supervision of students tends to be more limited than during the elementary years. Students with learning challenges may not acquire essential skills unless they are provided with systematic direct instruction; youth who fail to apply organizational skills may not have had the opportunity to acquire them through an explicit instructional approach. This oversight places struggling students at increased risk for unsatisfactory or failing grades and tends to heighten misperceptions of their academic performance in relation to that of their more successful peers. Can organizational skills instruction (OSI) help middle school students at risk behaviorally and academically? In this study, students who received training in self-monitoring of assignments were able to accurately monitor their academic performance and improved their grades in academic classes.

To this end, Academic Achievers has opened a new division:   Academic Coaching

Our Academic Coaches are Educational Therapists and educators with backgrounds in adolescent counseling and track records of improved academic success. For more information call: (310) 883-5810

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The New SAT is Gaining Ground for Test Takers

The new SAT made its appearance a year ago in March. Although all the data isn’t in yet, the new SAT seems to be gaining in appeal for many new test-takers.girl writing essay

In the past few years, more students took the ACT than the SAT because students seemed to be more comfortable with scope of the ACT, but now many students who are particularly adverse to graphs and science, are swinging back and preparing for the SAT. But there are many students who are more comfortable with the tried and true ACT. Which one for you?

Just like the ACT, the SAT has no penalty for guessing, the writing section is optional, and there are 4 choices of answers to each question. The SAT scores between 400-1600, and the ACT scores 1-36.

The SAT reading section is more analytical and requires the student to site evidence from the passage to support the answer. Questions are evidence and context-based in an effort to focus on real-world situations and multi-step problem-solving.
The ACT reading section questions are more straight forward. The pace is quicker and averages 52 seconds for each question.
The SAT math section requires a solid understanding of math fundamentals as one third of the math section is done without a calculator. It also tests linear equations, inequalities, functions, and graphs.
The ACT math is Pre-Algebra (20-25%), Elementary Algebra (15-20%), Intermediate Algebra (15-20%), Coordinate Geometry (15-20%), Plane Geometry (20-25%), and Trigonometry (5-10%)
The SAT questions increase in difficulty level as you move through that question type in a section.
The ACT questions are more random in difficulty.
The SAT essay asks for an analysis of the opinion of the author of the supplied essay.
The ACT essay wants the student to evaluate 3 perspectives and then offer their own complete with examples.

Which way to go? The ACT or the SAT?
Take a Diagnostic Assessment with us and let us help you decide.

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New SAT or ACT…It’s Time to Choose!

You’ve taken the PSAT, so now it’s time to gear up for the SAT…or the ACT.
No need to prep for both.  Virtually every college accepts both ACT and SAT equally and use the concordance tables to compare the score of one to the other. So all things being equal, it is to your advantage to choose the test that gives you your best advantage.
Since the SAT has been redesigned (to align with Common Core), there is now far less difference between the New SAT and the ACT.  There is no longer a penalty for guessing, and you have a choice of only 4 answers on both tests.  The grammar remains the same and the reading comprehension is very similar.  But there are still some differences:

The ACT has a science section.  Even though the ACT science section does not really require previous knowledge of science, it does test your ability to quickly but accurately interpret data.  In other words, the science section tests skills, not specific facts or topics.

The essays are different.  Both tests come with optional essays. The ACT essay asks you to come up with your own argument and support it – the New SAT essay asks you to evaluate an argument that someone else has already written for you. Neither is easier or harder – it’s just an issue of personal preference

The use of a calculator is limited in the New SAT.  The ACT lets you use a calculator on all its math problems, and all the answers are multiple choice. The New SAT has a “with calculator” section and some answers are fill-in. The “without calculator” problems do not require any difficult arithmetic, so it’s not that much of an issue. And just as before, if you are a strong math student, you will find the more in-depth math portion of the ACT will work to your benefit.

The ACT is fast.  It averages to about a problem a minute.  This is great if you like to make your choice and move on.  However, if you tend to mull over the questions and reach into your higher order thinking each time, you may run out of time on the ACT and might do better on the SAT.  Prep for the ACT is skewed more heavily toward time management than prep for the SAT.  The pace of the ACT vs. the SAT is probably its biggest difference.

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At KinderPrep, Kids get Ready for Kindergarten

by Sonali Kohli

LA Times Aug. 16, 2016

The summer school students plopped down on an orange mat and listened as teacher Elizabeth read aloud to them from a book. As she pointed out different animals, they took turns pinning the lion and polar bear pictures on a cork board.

They had already gone through parts of a book  — front cover, back cover, spine — as they sat outside on the grass in Santa Monica. People walked by with their dogs. One floated past on a hoverboard.

The children, ranging in age from 3½ to 5, were engaged in more serious pursuits. They were at KinderPrep, a weeklong boot camp designed to prepare them for the rigors of kindergarten.

Parents and at least one au pair had dropped the dozen children off at the Colorado Center, an airy office complex with its own park and private security. Among its tenants are Hulu, HBO and KinderPrep’s home, Academic Achievers, a private tutoring and admissions counseling company.

It’s now common for Westside parents to enroll their kids in these early tutoring programs. Some of the children in the group also had been signed up for separate one-on-one sessions that cost $120 to $200 an hour.

Such efforts can really help students, said Elizabeth, the director of KinderPrep and other early education programs at Academic Achievers.

“When they get into kindergarten,” she said, “there is no play. It’s like first grade.”

Parents vie for coveted kindergarten spots at elite private schools that charge upwards of $25,000 a year.

“It’s so competitive,” said Jenni Silberstein, as she watched her 5-year-old, Lily Joyner, settle into her writing exercise, mouth in a straight line, ready for the serious task ahead. “It’s more the private-school parents who do it,” Silberstein, a psychotherapist, said of the camp.

Lily will start kindergarten at Kenter Canyon Elementary, an L.A. Unified public school in Brentwood, but both of her older siblings attend private school — and Silberstein said Lily’s constantly asking to be taught how to read.

The camp day had started in the complex’s grassy park area, where the children opened their personal folders. Each contained family or personal photos, which parents had been asked to provide. Elizabeth had pasted each child’s photos in a notebook alongside space for the child to write.

For those who didn’t know how to write yet, the three instructors helped, using yellow highlighter to spell out what the campers wanted to say, and then showing them how to go over the letters’ lines in darker ink.

Then came circle time. The children left their bright green writing tables for the mat, where they sat surrounded by stuffed animals. Elizabeth led them through the months of the year, and when this prompted them to start shouting out their birthdays, she clapped rhythmically to get their attention. It worked. They quieted down. In unison, they clapped back the same sequence.

Next it was time to practice transitions by walking single file to the cafeteria. There, each instructor sat with four children in a booth to read a book about counting. One of the groups drew pictures of toys, bunk beds and other things that they could count at home. When this work was done, the children gathered their folders and walked back, single file, to the grass.

Packing up their things teaches them responsibility, while lining up and walking single file gets kids used to following instructions, Elizabeth said.

At snack time, the children could partake in organic fruit, gummies and aloe water provided by the program, though many brought their own food because of dietary restrictions. Fraley said she’s seen paté.

Even during snack and play time, Elizabeth and the other instructors observed their students and gently pushed them to think more deeply. Fraley said she looks at how many “communication loops” each student is able to complete — how many back-and-forth conversations they have.

“I take what they say and I add a couple more adjectives,” she said.

When one girl volunteered that she was going to San Diego soon, Fraley pointed up and then down as she asked, “Are you going north or south?”

When the kids painted rainbows, she asked Lily, “Have you ever seen a rainbow before?”

“Yes,” Lily replied.

“Where did you see it?”

“Don’t remember,” Lily said, busy concentrating on completing a perfect blue arc on her canvas.

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Skills Every 18 Year Old Needs

olivia1As parents, when our child encounters frustration or anxiety, our first instinct is to swoop in and solve the problem. This need to protect, however well intended, has created a generation of children without coping skills.

Let’s hear from an expert about how we should guide our children to thrive.

Former Stanford dean shares the 8 skills everyone should have by age 18

1. An 18-year-old must be able to talk to strangers

Faculty, deans, advisers, landlords, store clerks, human resource managers, coworkers, bank tellers, health care providers, bus drivers, mechanics — in the real world.
The crutch: We teach kids not to talk to strangers instead of teaching the more nuanced skill of how to discern the few bad strangers from the mostly good ones. Thus, kids end up not knowing how to approach strangers — respectfully and with eye contact — for the help, guidance, and direction they will need out in the world.

2. An 18-year-old must be able to find his way around

A campus, the town in which her summer internship is located, or the city where he is working or studying abroad.
The crutch: We drive or accompany our children everywhere, even when a bus, their bicycle, or their own feet could get them there; thus, kids don’t know the route for getting from here to there, how to cope with transportation options and snafus, when and how to fill the car with gas, or how to make and execute transportation plans.

3. An 18-year-old must be able to manage his assignments, workload, and deadlines

The crutch: We remind kids when their homework is due and when to do it — sometimes helping them do it, sometimes doing it for them; thus, kids don’t know how to prioritize tasks, manage workload, or meet deadlines, without regular reminders.

4. An 18-year-old must be able to contribute to the running of a household

The crutch: We don’t ask them to help much around the house because the checklisted childhood leaves little time in the day for anything aside from academic and extracurricular work; thus, kids don’t know how to look after their own needs, respect the needs of others, or do their fair share for the good of the whole.

5. An 18-year-old must be able to handle interpersonal problems

The crutch: We step in to solve misunderstandings and soothe hurt feelings for them; thus, kids don’t know how to cope with and resolve conflicts without our intervention.

6. An 18-year-old must be able to cope with ups and downs

Courses and workloads, college- level work, competition, tough teachers, bosses, and others.
The crutch: We step in when things get hard, finish the task, extend the deadline, and talk to the adults; thus, kids don’t know that in the normal course of life things won’t always go their way, and that they’ll be okay regardless.

7. An 18-year-old must be able to earn and manage money

The crutch: They don’t hold part-time jobs; they receive money from us for what ever they want or need; thus, kids don’t develop a sense of responsibility for completing job tasks, accountability to a boss who doesn’t inherently love them, or an appreciation for the cost of things and how to manage money.

8. An 18-year-old must be able to take risks

The crutch: We’ve laid out their entire path for them and have avoided all pitfalls or prevented all stumbles for them; thus, kids don’t develop the wise understanding that success comes only after trying and failing and trying again (a.k.a. “grit”) or the thick skin (a.k.a. “resilience”) that comes from coping when things have gone wrong.

Remember: our kids must be able to do all of these things without resorting to calling a parent on the phone. If they’re calling us to ask how, they do not have the life skill.

Originally appeared in the book “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” (Henry Holt & Co., 2015).

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Private Schools Road to Ivy Leagues

While it is true that fewer than 9% of applicants were accepted into an Ivy League school last year, some high schools sent over 46% of their students to an Ivy, Stanford or MIT.

According to CBS Market Watch, “The path to the Ivy League is most successfully traveled through exclusive private schools. Of the 100 U.S. high schools sending the highest percentage of students to Harvard, Yale and Princeton, 94 of them are private schools.

Counselors say the Ivy League draws heavily from top-notch private high schools because most of their students had to beat out their peers academically to gain admission at that level.” In other words, they already know your child is academically competitive.

Of course, the first hurdle to the Ivys or any top tier school is gaining admission to one of the highly competitive Los Angeles private schools. Since the gatekeeper to admission is often your child’s ISEE score, let us help your child do his or her best!

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Waiting for Private School Admissions


After months of researching, preparing, applying, testing, and interviewing, there is nothing left to do now but wait.

We want to give families some behind-the-scenes insight about what is going on as final decisions are being made. Despite this being crunch time for the admissions directors, several top ADs and experts took the time to talk with us about the admissions process.

Laurel Baker Tew, Director of Admissions at Viewpoint School, reminds us that “the student isn’t the only part of the admissions decision. The family as well has to fit into the school community.”

“I used to be in college admissions,” adds Tew, “and admissions to an independent school is very different from admissions to college. In college we’re looking to admit a student; in independent school, we are looking to admit a family.”

Independent schools agree that the family has to be supportive of the school and its philosophies. Viewpoint likes parents who take the time to do the research and can articulate what it is they are looking for in their families. “Make sure the school is a good fit before going in for the interview,” suggests Laurel Baker Tew. Be sure to have specific examples and questions that align with the mission and values of the school.

Dr. Amy Horton, a prominent clinical psychologist who works with many families from independent schools, cautions, “Don’t go into the school admission process holding back relevant information about your child. It’s not necessary for them to have that perfect ISEE score. Admissions directors are looking at the whole child.” Her advice is, “The best school fit for a child is where they will thrive and feel supported even on their worst day.”

Jeanette Woo Chitjian, Director of Enrollment Management at Marlborough School, reminds us of the reality of the numbers for seats available for every applicant. “There are approximately 3-4 applicants for every one spot in 7th grade, and 10-12 applicants for every spot in 9th grade.”

Jeannette is quick to add, “We are looking for different things in different grades. In 7th grade we are looking to put a class together. In 9th grade, we are looking to add to an established class.”

Of course, each situation would have a different need. When you are putting a class together you want to have students who will balance the group as a whole. Neither an entire group of introverts nor an entire group of extroverts would make for a well-rounded class. Jeanette Woo Chitjian puts it into perspective, “Remember, it isn’t just about what the student can contribute to the class, it is also about what the student will gain from the experience.”

Like other top schools, Marlborough wants to see the academic record (grades, ISEE, ERB scores) and also importantly, the comments from the teachers. “Our girls are much more than numbers to us. We take a great deal of time in reviewing each girl’s application. We encourage parents to send additional information about the child if they feel it will help us to make a more informed decision,” says Jeannette Woo Chijian.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but especially during the stressful waiting period, it is important to remember that regardless of where your child goes to school, they will still bloom.

To this point, Admissions Consultant Rob Stone had this to say: “One thing families can do during that terrible limbo of waiting for the decision is to embrace the premise that everything is going to be okay. The biggest trap is thinking that a child’s whole future hinges on getting into a certain school. The second-biggest trap is allowing the stakes of the admissions decision to create so much pressure in the home that it begins to trickle down to the child. The worst case scenario is that a child feels like a complete failure if they don’t get in.”

You have no control if the orchestra does or does not need a double-bass player at this time. You give it your best shot but you have no ultimate power over which candidate is accepted. Being a top contender is what matters most.

Stone adds, “It is about positivity and perspective. Getting into a school does not make, or break, the success of a kid.”

The application process is part of a bigger picture in the investment of your child’s education. The skills they develop during this preparation will serve them for a lifetime.

–Janis Adams

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