MasteryPrep Professional Development Programs Empower Teachers with Resources, Tools and Strategies to Help Students Boost Test Scores

Empowerment – when Metro Nashville Public School teachers completed MasteryPrep’s “Decoding the ACT Professional Development” program this past summer, they were ready to use their newfound knowledge to seize opportunities to boost students’ ACT® test scores.

“The biggest takeaways were all our teachers had a better understanding of how the ACT is scored, what content it takes to master the test, how students can become better test takers, and how they could complement their classroom curriculum and incorporate lessons to make learning more relatable in preparing for the ACT.”

Meri Kock, MNPS ACT Coordinator

Kock leads the implementation of MNPS’ ACT strategic plan throughout the district, which partners with MasteryPrep through several resources, including Decoding the ACT, ACT Mastery, and TruScore ACT Testing & Analysis. The district has 25 high schools and 120 MNPS teachers helping close to 5,000 students with ACT prep work throughout the year. “Improving ACT scores will provide our students with more post-secondary and scholarship opportunities,” Kock said. “This is a K-12 effort, connecting elementary and middle schools to ACT performance, as well as focused support in high schools.”

‘Allies and Partners Working Together’

Schoolwide success on the ACT or SAT starts with supporting educators. School districts can implement MasteryPrep’s Decoding the ACT or Decoding the SAT Professional Development programs virtually or in-person through the MasteryPrep Ready Platform, or as a stand-alone resource, to help all teachers become instant ACT or SAT experts. In this practical workshop, a high-energy MasteryPrep instructor shares with teachers innovative strategies and micro-practices for improving student time management, test-taking skills, and content mastery. Each PD attendee receives Decoding the ACT/SAT: The Unofficial, Comprehensive Teacher’s Guide, an encyclopedic reference to every aspect of the test and how to help students master it, and subject-specific agendas for ELA, Math and Science teachers. There are half-day and full-day sessions available for each subject.

“MasteryPrep and each school we serve become allies: working together to improve the lives of students through increased opportunity,” said Zola-Kai Pollard, MasteryPrep Lead Trainer/Facilitator for MasteryPrep’s professional development courses, including for MNPS. “Teachers leave the program feeling empowered due to the design of our Professional Development: the resources provided are easily integrated for the teachers and just as easily digestible for the students. The goal is clear: to aid in getting their students to achieve their goal score via the mastery of the time, test and content of the ACT.”

MasteryPrep PD presenters review what topics are covered the most frequently by standardized tests, how to implement that content into their lesson plans, how effective pacing methods can be, and what strategies can help students be more efficient. One strategy Pollard enjoys in a PD course is Plugging in Backwards. “I love showing teachers this strategy because it leans on something that all students do quite often on the ACT Math – guessing and checking. However, most students do this blindly, which impacts their pacing, and in the Math section, even one second can be impactful to getting the question correct. This strategy teaches them not to change their patterns, which can be tough to break, but to use the ACT’s pattern of ascending choices to their advantage,” Pollard said. “That’s just one of my favorite Math strategies; I have a plethora of strategies I love to present, and at least one always produces that Eureka moment that changes the way a teacher helps their students moving forward. All of the strategies aim to have educators encourage their students to think more logically. Instead of blindly guessing, we teach students to at least eliminate some choices, making a seemingly impossible to approach question, now possible.”

Professional Development Metro Nashville Public Schools

Professional Development programs are typically offered during the summer months of May-August before the fall semester, or in January before the spring semester. At MNPS, Kock offers opportunities in June and July – refresher trainings for teachers familiar with the MasteryPrep resources, ones for new teachers learning how to use MasteryPrep in their classrooms, and ones to train school administrators on helping them understand the district’s partnership with MasteryPrep.

“Our teachers leave the summer training super-enthused, impressed, and excited about the resources they gain and the energy of Zola’s engagement and knowledge of the test,” Kock said.

Year-Round Process

The journey to improve test scores is a year-round process, Kock said. During the school year, every high school in the district receives a report to complete, known as MEASURE (Mission, Element, Analyze, Stakeholders-Unite, Results, Educate (adapted from Stone,C. & Dahir, C. 2005 School Counselor Accountability: A MEASURE of student success. Pearson Education, Inc.).

Professional Development Nashville schools

The report collects data such as the latest schoolwide ACT performance numbers and a list of month-by-month activities around preparing for the ACT. Kock also asks schools for a description of how MasteryPrep resources are used, such as books/eBooks availability to juniors, use of curricula, and availability of MasteryPrep materials and resources to parents). Schools also have an annual accountability goal of how many students will achieve a composite score of 21 or higher. Kock e-mails an ACT weekly newsletter to high schools and works with administrators to collect feedback on the use of the ACT Mastery platform. “Our goal is constant communication and accountability; we want to know what our schools are doing, what measures they are succeeding in, and what best practices we can promote across the district,” Kock said.

MNPS educators value that the MasteryPrep curricula is fully adaptable to any academic environment. “They like how the TruScore practice testing identifies the weaknesses that students need to work on, and then how the lessons can center in on turning those weaknesses into strengths,” Kock said. “They also enjoy the reinforcement of academic skills that cannot only make an impact on the students’ ACT scores, but also help them be successful overall in the classroom.”

About MasteryPrep: Founded in 2012, Baton Rouge-based MasteryPrep provides mastery-based college readiness services and resources, such as for the ACT and SAT, to more than 2,000 schools and districts nationwide. In addition, MasteryPrep has helped more than 1 million low-income students prepare for the ACT and SAT at no cost to the student. Nationally, MasteryPrep is the preferred ACT and SAT prep provider of the Council for Opportunity in Education, expanding college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the Pacific Islands, and Puerto Rico. MasteryPrep is ranked among the Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing Companies”; featured by “Entrepreneur 360”; and selected among the “Growth Leaders” by Louisiana Economic Development for two years in a row.

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