eNotes.com Has a New Look!

We’ve redesigned eNotes.com for a sleeker, more modern look that will also provide a better experience on mobile devices. Tablet worshipers study on!

Let us walk you through the new and improved eNotes…

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Changes Are Afoot for the SAT

Yesterday it was announced that the SAT would be revising its test for the second time in just over a decade. To help you prepare for the next version of this popular standardized test, find here an outline of the changes plus other important announcements from The College Board that will impact future college admissions.

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What will the new SAT look like?

The new SAT, to be released in 2016, will feature four significant changes:

  • The SAT essay, introduced in 2005, will become an optional segment of the exam
  • SAT scoring, also changed in 2005, will return from the 2400- to the 1600-point system
  • Points will no longer be deducted for incorrect answers (currently students lose 1/4 of a point for each wrong answer)
  • And lastly, “SAT vocabulary” will become a thing of the past, as complete-the-sentence sections of the exam are replaced by ones that test students’ critical reading of a passage.

Why make these changes?

One thought that struck me when I read over these changes was that the SAT is increasingly becoming more like the ACT. The criteria are familiar: no deduction of points for incorrect answers, no required essay, and a significant critical reading section are all key points of the ACT that many students over the past decade have recognized as advantages to taking it over the SAT. So much so that gone are the days that the SAT is the go-to test; when I was a high school junior, nobody ever mentioned the ACT, but when I became a test-prep tutor five years later it was the exam 90% of my students elected to take. Why? When they were evaluated at the start of our course, the overwhelming majority performed better on the ACT than the SAT. It gave them a step-up in achieving a higher ranking, and as students’ favor of the test increased, colleges’ willingness to accept it on equal terms with the SAT followed suit.

For whatever reason, be it an attempt to curry more favor (and cash) or a genuine recognition of a need to assess students more fairly, the SAT is moving towards a format more similar to the ACT.

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What do these changes mean for students?

When I tutored students for the SAT, a significant focus of our preparation was on strategy. To perform well, one has to form a plan of attack, making a practical decision from the outset on how many questions would need to be answered to achieve the desired score. That’s because every wrong answer a student might give could decrease his or her overall score, thanks to the quarter-point deduction for an incorrect choice. Except for the cases where students strove for a perfect score, it was more advantageous to leave x number of questions blank.

Now, however, the idea of “SAT strategy” will be tossed by the wayside. Is this good or bad? Perhaps we should simply say it assesses a different skill. The SAT Reasoning Test, to go by its full name, was designed to test a student’s ability to reason and evaluate. In reality, though, this has meant that Read the rest of this entry »


One Teacher’s Most Important Lesson: How to Save a Life

In a common core world where teaching is sometimes more concerned with evaluating pupils’ aptitudes for test-taking than with evaluating their well-being, one teacher has developed an ingenious method of tracking her children’s thoughts and feelings, and possibly saving lives in the process.

lonely child

On Glennon Doyle Merton’s “Momastery” blog, she writes of her son’s math teacher, an unnamed, unsung hero. What makes her so? One afternoon, Merton dropped by her son’s fifth-grade classroom for help on how to better guide him with his homework, and she and his teacher got to talking. After some time they moved on from methods of long division to philosophies of teaching, both agreeing that “subjects like math and reading are the least important things that are learned in a classroom,” that we owe it to students to instill in them kindness, compassion, and bravery above all. And that’s when this teacher shared a secret method with Merton.

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Joseph Brodsky’s Reading List for Essential Conversations

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Nobel Prize-winning poet, essayist, and professor Joseph Brodsky

In 1972, poet Joseph Brodsky angered government officials in his native Russia and was expelled from the country.  With the help of fellow poet W.H. Auden, Brodsky settled in the United States, found a position at Yale and taught classes at Mount Holyoke as well.  Later, he accepted professorships at both Cambridge and the University of Michigan.  (Not bad for an autodidact!)

Of the many opinions Brodsky espoused to his students was that they could not carry on intelligent conversations unless they had done fundamental reading in what he considered influential texts. He passed out a list of these works to everyone in his classes.

Monica Partridge, a former student at Mount Holyoke recalls an early class meeting with Brodsky.  On the Brodsky Reading Group blog, Partridge wrote that

“Shortly after the class began, he passed out a handwritten list of books that he said every person should have read in order to have a basic conversation.  At the time I was thinking, ‘Conversation about what?’ I knew I’d never be able to have a conversation with him, because I never thought I’d ever get through the list. Now that I’ve had a little living, I understand what he was talking about. Intelligent conversation is good. In fact, maybe we all need a little more.”

Here are the books or works on that list. I’m proud to say that unless the conversation turns to “Icelandic Sagas” I could pretty well hold my own at a Brodsky cocktail party…

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Libraries and Kids: The Only True Magic

where-the-wild-things-are-680uw True Story:  I remember getting my library card more vividly than I recall getting my driver’s license.  My best memories of childhood were going to the library with my mom and checking out armfuls of books, which she would read to me for hours on end.  At two, I am told, I would stand on tiptoe at the librarian’s desk and request  favorites or authors (I didn’t know why the lady laughed at me.  I guess most toddlers weren’t as particular.) I would rather go to the library than the movies, or the park, or anywhere else.  Still true. The libraries I recall were nothing fancy.  Maybe some bulletin boards heralding an upcoming holiday or new books perched half-open, standing on top of shelves. Of course in 197…(cough, cough), there were not nearly as many ways for a child to be entertained.  The television had four channels (as God intended):  ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS.  Cartoons were from 7am to 10am, period. No LOL cats, no Youtube…. I like to scare my son with these tidbits. Today, libraries are competing to keep your child reading and finding some interesting ways to do so, by engaging the imagination.  Here are a few of my favorite new spaces, and some words from others who continue to love libraries:

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Spain’s Playoffice, a child-centric design firm, created the “reading net” in an attempt to making reading more fun for kids. The “reading net” stretches across the length of a library room, and kids can play on it in between chapters.

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