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Saturday, February 1, 2014

February 1, 2014

2014-15 Course Selections

Power School Portal  Opens This Week
The initial stage of the 2014-15 course selection process has commenced.  Students are encouraged to select courses through the Power School portal when it opens this coming week. 

This first step in the process allows EOSHS to pour the foundation for the eventual construction of the 2014-15 master schedule.  Note that students will have several opportunities to make changes on their list of selections in the months ahead.  You should also note that counselors will discuss course selections and confirm choices during their individual meetings with students and their parents/guardians.

Keep in mind, too, that four-year plans of study for various post secondary options are available in Naviance.  Click on the "Courses" tab for the plans as well as to access the full list of course descriptions in the curriculum.

Mailing Senior Transcripts

 (Mid-Year School Reports)
Seniors applying to colleges know that their first semester grades are typically required by college admissions offices.  Mid-year school reports that show first semester grades only will be mailed electronically to colleges when these grades become permanent after a final audit.  This should take place next week.


What Is Course Planner?

Students (and parents) can access "Course Planner" (mentioned above) by logging in to their accounts and clicking on the "Courses" tab in the menu bar. From there, four-year plans of study may be reviewed simply by clicking on course plans. Several plans are available and each is based upon the kind of schools - defined by competitiveness (how difficult it is to be accepted - the lower the percentage of students accepted, the more competitive it is) - that a student may wish to pursue. By clicking on any one of the plans, you will see the types of courses available to choose from that will comprise a four-year plan of study compatible with the kinds of competitive schools for that particular category. For example, a student interested in attending a highly competitive school would click on that plan and see that the vast majority of courses from which to choose would be at the "A" level. What is not taken into consideration are the grades that a student earns in these courses. Rather, the strength of the four-year plan is based upon the challenges posed by one's course selections.

A design flaw that Naviance has not yet corrected relates to the schools of interest that are listed below the "meter" that measures strength of schedule. A plan that may be appropriate for admission to ECSU may not be sufficient for acceptance to UConn, even though Naviance is indicating otherwise. For more accurate feedback, students should speak with their counselors. Still, Course Planner may be very useful in the course selection process when taking into consideration post secondary aspirations.

What's a Transcript and How Do You Interpret It?

With the first semester having just concluded, this serves as an opportune time to explain the differences between quarter grades and final (transcript) grades as well making the distinction between semester courses and year-long courses. 

Let's begin with what a transcript is not - it's not a report card. Whereas a report card "reports" grades at designated points in the school year, a transcript lists final grades issued at the end of semester and year-long courses - grades that are permanent.

 Below is a very brief video made to help you "see" what a final transcript looks like and how you can make sense of it. Know beforehand that the video is a collection of snapshots depicting the various parts of a real transcript, with descriptive labels attached to each slide. It's not award-winning footage. Hopefully, though, it gives you a sense of what a transcript is and how to interpret it.  It also provides an explanation of how quarter grades factor into final grades issued on the transcript.  Stop it along the way if you need to view a part more closely. Contact your counselor if you have additional questions.
The Difference Between ACA GPA and TOT GPA

If you're wondering what ACA GPA and TOT GPA mean and if there's a difference between the two, then know there is.

ACA GPA represents the weighted grade point average a student earns on the basis of grades earned in courses at the various levels (A, B, G). This academic (ACA) GPA is the one seen on transcripts and used with the bar graphs appearing on the school profile.

TOT GPA is used strictly for honor roll designation and is based upon a traditional 4-point scale. So, an "A" is worth 4 points regardless of the course level. An A- and an A+, by the way, are both worth 4 points as well - there is no differentiation with a + or - in the grade. So, an "A" is an "A+ is an "A-".


Is Testing Fair?


If you've been paying even scant attention lately to state and national news about educational changes in the pipeline, then you've likely heard such phrases as "core standards" and "common assessments" and "competency-based" learning.  In a sound byte, momentum has formed to identify a common body of knowledge and common set of core skills that each student should be able to exhibit on a standardized test.  Well, the core standards have been identified.  The common assessments are being identified.  And competency-based learning seems to remain in search of its identity.  The rest is on hold while we wait for the political process to unfold through November.

Perhaps not stated explicitly, colleges have nevertheless been relying upon standardized tests (SAT, ACT) for years now to determine readiness for success in higher education.  In a sense, it has driven admission decisions for many applicants.  UConn, for example, has in recent years aggressively publicized its rise in mean SAT scores for its admitted students as the combined number on the Critical Reading and Math scores has risen well above the 1200 threshold.

Some are welcoming the educational changes that will essentially create a national curriculum and one that will measure student mastery with the use of common standard assessments.  Others, though, aren't so keen on the idea.  One organization that has for years argued against the standard exam is the The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, and its website provides a whole host of reasons why.

Several colleges and universities - mostly smaller schools - have chosen to become "test-optional" institutions, meaning that students are given the option of submitting their SAT/ACT scores.  On the surface, it may appear that these schools are making the claim that other measures are far more important to consider than some standardized test taken on some Saturday morning.  In fact, this may be the case since research indicates that students who choose not to submit scores perform just as well in the college classrooms as those students who do submit scores.  Of course, there are cynics who believe that there are other strategic reasons for implementing the "test-optional" policy. 

Either way, schools that implement this option give students who feel their test scores would diminish their chances for admission the choice to hold back their scores.  For those students who wish to have their scores considered, they go ahead and submit them.

To read one take on this, click on Rigors and Rewards for Going Test Optional.

One argument used to explain why the SAT and ACT are so widely used by institutions of higher education is that it provides a level playing field upon which to evaluate students.  After all, every student is taking the same test - no matter where they live and attend school.  While grades earned in courses - albeit at an assortment of schools - do matter, the test scores are typically used to "validate" earned grades.  It's comparing "apples to apples", as they say, while comparing grades across school districts may not always bear the same fruit.

Much more will follow as these issues play out in committees, schools, and politics. 
Interesting Articles
...have been posted above and to the right.  Each only takes a few minutes to read.

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