An open letter to students receiving standardized test scores

look out to the horizon; the world is full of possibilities

look out to the horizon; the world is full of possibilities

Previously, I published excerpts from a letter that a friend shared with me. She said that a principal sent it home to the students. Here is the link to that post

In recent feedback, I was told that the letter made its way to England, and had become a bit of a sensation. They wondered who the originator was. Another person commented that the letter had been ripped off from another source.
Well, guess what? The originator of the letter contacted me. She emailed me the letter that she had published in a local newspaper in Massachusetts. That newspaper is called

In her email to me, she said that she was thrilled that her letter had spread all the way to England. She added that she is sorry that there is still a need for such a reminder.She forwarded a copy of the letter to the editor that she wrote, and was published in the December 20-26, 1999 issue. Her name is Mary Ginley, and she was the 1998 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. With her constant belief in students, it is no wonder that she was named teacher of the year.

I add, at the beginning of another school year that not only do students need the reminder, but each of us need the reminder as well. If you would like to follow Mary’s blog, here is the link to it.

This link TeacherLetterAboutTestScores shows a copy of the actual letter from the newspaper. But in the event that you have trouble with that print size, I have transcribed the letter below.

I add, at the beginning of another school year that not only do students need the reminder, but each of us need the reminder as well. If you would like to follow Mary’s blog, here is the link to it.

“An open letter to students receiving MCAS scores

Dear Students,

You have received MCAS scores. Perhaps they were very good. Perhaps they were not.

Please remember strangers gave you these scores. And remember that there are many ways of being smart.

These strangers do not know that you can play the violin or dance or paint a picture. They do not know that you take care of your little brother after school, that your friends can count on you, that your laughter can brighten the dreariest days.

They do not know that you write poetry, wonder about black holes, and know exactly how much change you should get when you go to the market.

They do not know that you built a shed with your mom and dad, grew vegetables in a garden last summer. They never saw the social studies project you did last year. They do not know you are trustworthy, that you are kind, that you are thoughtful, that you care about what happens to old people.

They do not know you at all. But we who know you — your moms and dads, your grandparents and teachers, your neighbors and friends — love you and are proud of all you are.

The MCAS will tell you something but they will not tell you everything. Houw could they? The scorers don’t know you. And there are many ways of being smart.

Mary Ginley
1998 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year “


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Why do I have to take history and social studies?

Why do I have to take history/social studies? That is a mantra that many of my students repeat, over and over. Of course, I tell them that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. I tell them that I am counting on them to become an educated person, so that they know the context of things, and the warning signs. With all that has been happening around the world in the past few weeks, months, and years, that historical context has become even more important.

There is a video circulating around FaceBook that really drives that point home. Save this post on your computer so that as you make your way through world history courses, you can use the video to help you visualize what happened over time. It is all connected. It all has implications. Never forget that.


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When should you start preparing for finals? Map to success.

As you know, I am a tutor. I am already hounding my students to review, review, review. But this method can help all of us improve learning.

Final exams are still many weeks away. Students are immersed in the day-to-day routine of homework, quizzes, tests, projects, and papers. Yet, they should also be thinking about final exams. Why is that, you may ask? Here is the reason. If your usual modus operandi is to cram for a test, and then never look at that material again until you are cramming for finals, you are missing a GOLDEN opportunity. You see, in addition to doing your regular homework, there is something more that truly successful students do. What is that? They REVIEW. They review every day. Here is an example. Let’s say that in your English class, you have a vocabulary book. Every week you have a test on 25-35 words. You need to know the definition, part(s) of speech, synonyms, antonyms, and how to properly use it in a sentence. So you spend a couple of hours during the week cramming those definitions into your head. You create flashcards to help you remember them. Then you take the quiz. The next week the process resumes with a new list of words. At the end of the semester, you have a cumulative final on let’s say 18 weeks of vocabulary words. If we assume 30 words a week, that is 540 words. If you spend 30 minutes a day (and I really mean 7 days a week) reviewing words all semester long, there will be no last minute relearning. Studies have shown that regular review boosts retention.

You should really be reviewing every subject every day. This improves retention, learning, and improves your overall learning ability. Don’t just cram it for the test. Your brain can handle so much more than just a cram and dump methodology. The more you review, the more you will improve your review skills. You will find that you can eventually review as you walk down the hall at school, as you sit on the school bus, or any other place. You see, your brain needs hooks and methods to help it retain the information. Organize your material into bullet lists, time lines, or any other way that helps you retrieve the information. You can do this. Getting ready for final exams SHOULD be a walk in the park, if you begin reviewing NOW. Review cumulatively. Review from the beginning of the semester forward. If you haven’t started reviewing yet, start today. Get it all back in your head. You can DO this. You can BEAT your competition. Most of your classmates will NEVER try this method. Make your own luck

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Test Scores: Whats REALLY important?

A friend of a friend shared this with me today. I love this. My friend said: My daughter’s new elementary school principle sent this to all the students as they received their state standardized testing scores this week:

“We are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you– the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do. They do not know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture. They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day. They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play or participate in sports, wonder about the future, or that sometimes you take care of your little brother or sister after school. They do not know that you have traveled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story or that you really love spending time with special family members and friends. They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try, every day, to be your very best… the scores you get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything. There are many ways of being smart.”

My friend reported her daughter who did well on the test shrugged about her scores, but read the letter over and over and held it close to her heart announcing, “I really love this.”

UPDATE: Click here to read an update to this post and information from/about the original author of the letter about test scores:

Posted in College admissions, confidence | Tagged , | 10 Comments

SAT/ACT prep

A resource for a free SAT/ACT preparation class

My friend Katharine Trauger made me aware of a free SAT/ACT tool/preparation class. You pay a very small student fee, but that’s it. Of course there are other levels of instruction you can purchase, but most of my students will be thrilled with the free one. Here is the link

Thanks to Katharine, HSLDA, and eKnowledge. Please pass the information on if you know anyone who needs it!

Posted in education, tutoring, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Don’t have a sit down strike about the SAT for goodness sake!

It is fall, and students are beginning to really panic about college admissions tests, such as the SAT. Here are the tentative SAT dates:


  • October 2013 -Saturday, October 5, Sunday, October 6
  • November 2013 – Saturday, November 2, Sunday November 3
  • December 2013 – Saturday, December 7, Sunday, December 8
  • January 2014 – Saturday, January 25, Sunday, January 26
  • March 2014 – Saturday, March 8, Sunday, March 9
  • May 2014 – Saturday, May 3, Sunday, May 4
  • June 2014 – Saturday, June 7, Sunday, June 8

There are countless theories and options to help you prepare for the SAT. Let’s talk about the math section first. The content is largely from Algebra 1 and Geometry. Do you know your formulas? Do you know the theories? I will write more about that soon.

Stay tuned. Review. Practice your formulas. Grab some old test books with multiple choice math and grammar questions. I will get back to you on how to begin to “reason out” the answers.

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college fairs are coming

here is a link for some college fairs that may be coming to a city near you.

You never know when you will have the opportunity to find the school of your dreams!

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