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Spring and Summer Professional Development Opportunities for ELA Teachers By Julie C. Lyons

ELA teacher resource

With all of the changes that the Common Core has ushered in, keeping up professionally has been extremely difficult for most teachers during the school year. However, many teachers use the summer months for professional reading, reflecting on past practices, and planning new and improved lessons and activities for the upcoming school year: with that in mind, take a moment to check out the opportunities that are available to ELA educators this summer:
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NJ ASK 2014: A Short Guide For Math Teachers by Julie C. Lyons

Math Teacher's Guide

Though the current iteration of the NJ ASK will not fully measure the Common Core State Standards in 2014, this “transitional” version of NJ ASK will be the bridge between the “old” assessment and the “next generation” PARCC assessment, which will be administered in the 2014-15 school year.
Last week, we looked at some of the changes between the 2013 and 2014 NJ ASK for English Language Arts – and while there are definite shifts and changes, the NJ Department of Education recognizes that these changes are of a more “subtle” nature (since many of the previously-tested skills will continue with the PARCC). Likewise, the 4th and 8th grade NJ ASK test for Science “will continue to measure the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards and therefore will not change in any significant way.” However, for Mathematics, “the CCSS shifts are significant because new content will appear [in each] grade level.
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Dealing with Stress and NJ ASK: Tips for Students and Teachers By Julie C. Lyons

NJ ASK Stress

In all walks of life, we are susceptible to pressure and stress – resulting in negative side effects that range from health complications, to constant worry, to a feeling of general anxiety or unhappiness. Students and teachers are no different, and as the NJ ASK quickly approaches, classroom stress begins to peak. Teachers worry about how their students will do and if they’ve adequately prepared their young test-takers, while students have their own set of worries about their ability to perform with proficiency and to endure the lengthy test sessions. The following tips will help you, as a teacher or student, to both manage stress and prepare for the NJ ASK – without sacrificing your health, mood, or well-being:

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Overview of the PARCC Speaking and Listening Assessments By Julie C. Lyons

Reading and Listening Assessment

With the upcoming PARCC implementation for the 2014-2015 school year, many teachers and administrators are familiarizing themselves with the new test format – while also making instructional changes as needed to align with the Common Core and better prepare their students for the assessment. And though there are differences between the NJ ASK and PARCC, there are some overarching commonalities between the two tests, such as: open-ended questions, reading passages, math problems in which students must show their work and explain their reasoning, etc. However, something that is new – and different – from previous assessments is a non-summative assessment that will contain both speaking and listening components.
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Making the Shift: Common Core Teacher Resources By Julie C. Lyons

Common Core Teacher's resource

New teacher evaluations. New state tests. New standards. The myriad educational changes may seem overwhelming at times, especially for teachers who are trying to juggle the typical demands of a classroom, all the while adjusting their instruction and practice to reflect the continual educational shifts. And although the extra time and effort needed to make these changes are unavoidable to a certain extent, there are resources available to help make the transition smoother. Consider using the following teacher resources, materials, and samples to help out with your lesson planning, instruction, and materials:
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Surviving Standardized Tests: Helping Students Make the Grade by Julie C. Lyons

Helping Students Make the Grade

Though this list is far from complete with every word a student may encounter, here’s a partial list of words that may put students in a better position when it comes to understanding the questions and directions on a standardized test:

• Analyze & Synthesize
• Compare & Contrast
• Describe
• Cite evidence
• Summarize & Retell Continue reading

Test Stress and Your Child: Ways to Reduce Anxiety and Position Your Child for Success By Julie C. Lyons

In this era of increased accountability for students, stress is a very real concern for our young test-takers. Text anxiety takes a toll on students, and sometimes this worry carries with it the potential to negatively impact their test performance as well. As a parent, you can help alleviate some of the anxiety by following these recommendations:
Ways to Reduce Anxiety and Position Your Child for Success
In the 2014-2015 school year, students across the country will be taking new standardized tests. Of the 45 states that will make this transition, students will either take the PARCC Assessment, or the SMARTER Balanced Asessment: both will be aligned with the Common Core Standards. Continue reading

Helping Your Child Succeed in a Climate of Educational Change – by Julie C. Lyons


With the introduction of the Common Core Standards, school districts across the country have had to adjust their curriculum, testing procedures, and teaching methodologies. With change comes uncertainty, and the stress of the unknown carries with it the potential to affect all involved parties… including students.

As a parent, you may sense the differences – especially if you have more than one child who has gone through the same school. You may have noticed that even with the same teacher, requirements and expectations may have shifted over the past few years in response to the Common Core. Though these changes, left unchecked, can create stress for teachers and students alike, there are ways that you, as a parent, can help your child navigate any potential challenges as she or he faces more rigorous assignments, expectations, and criteria… Continue reading

A Review of Sample Questions Released by PARCC: Implications for Mathematics – by Julie C. Lyons

Though the questions themselves may look similar to the questions teachers and students are familiar with on the current NJ ASK, the new PARCC assessment will introduce some novel formatting and response techniques that will increase the rigor of standardized testing.
PARCC Math sample question review
This week we will investigate sample questions for Mathematics to highlight the major differences between the NJ ASK and PARCC. Please note that while the questions below are based on sample questions for Grade 3, this discussion applies to all grade levels, as the test format, computer skills that students will need, and the philosophy in creating the questions are similar — regardless of grade level, mathematical content, or task complexity… Continue reading

A Review of Sample Questions Released by PARCC: Implications for English Language Arts/Literacy (Part III) – by Julie C. Lyons

Over the past two weeks, we’ve taken a deeper look at sample questions for two of the sections of the ELA PARCC Assessment: the Narrative Writing and Literary Analysis tasks. This week, we will investigate the differences and advances between the NJ ASK and PARCC with respect to the third section of the English Language Arts/Literacy assessment: the Research Simulation Task.
PARCC sample question review3
This portion of the test is designed to assess students’ college- and career-readiness skills – skills including “observation, deduction, and the proper use and evaluation of evidence… Continue reading