Friday, November 3, 2017

ACT

ACT and Other Standardized Test Preparation


I was afforded the opportunity to attend an ACT workshop last week and have some updated infomration to pass on regarding the ACT, ACT preparation, and alignment with College and Career Readiness Standards.

According to ACT, the percentage of students retaking college admissions test like the ACT is rising. Because of this, many colleges and universities are examining their process of score acceptance and how to summarize multiple scores with no prior guidance explained. A study performed by Harvard and ACT looked at the validity and reliability of different scoring approaches associated with multiple tries. The score reporting approaches they looked at were average of all scores, last score report, highest score report, and superscoring (highest in each subsection). More research is to follow to ensure that students who attend post-secondary institutions are prepared for the level of rigor expected. 

Due to the fact that differnt institutions have their own sets of acceptance criteria, most still require some sort of standardized test score. This is why we still offer the ACT at Father McGivney and why we ask that all students have a standardized test score before graduation.

ACT aligns their assessment with College Readiness Benchmarks which, if a student attains a certain benchmark score on the ACT, predicts tehy will have a 70% chance or higher of obtaining a 'C' in that particular subject in college. This is a predictor of ability with college level coursework. The current benchmark scores are as follows: English - 18, Mathmatics - 22, Reading - 22, Science - 23, ELA (English/Language Arts combined score) - 20, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math combined score) - 26. In addition to the ACT assessment, they also author the ASPIRE which helps to predict success in high school. ACT has said that currently "80% of 8th graders do not have the knowledge and skills to move on to high school" and the ASPIRE will give authentic and relevant information to support such.

For our current students, we do offer the ACT to our Junior class in February.  This assessment is given on our campus and registration is conducted by sending in a check to me, Mrs. Madura, after she sends an email to the entire Junior class students and parents. The cost of the assessment has not yet been communicated to me, but I will send that out when it does.

The most beneficial information from the seminar for you as students and parents was the announcement that ACT has partnered with Kaplan to provide affordable test preparation, ACT has their own Online Preparation, and finally there is an official ACT Prep Guide. These resources can be found on www.act.org. In addition, sample test questions can be found on www.act.org/theact.

The sophomores should be looking to sign up for an ACT before their Junior year. They can do this blind to see where their strengths and challenges are, then seek out targeted test preparation to help improve their knowledge and their scores. Juniors, you should plan on taking the ACT in February at McGivney. More information including costs will follow in a few weeks. Juniors, start thinking about college visits and plan some for the winter or spring, it is always best to visit in the middle of the week to actually get a feel of what the campus is like. 

As always, if you have questions please contact me.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Purpose

What Are You Planning To Do With Your Life


As many of you know, I am a big fan of music, so it was a very pleasant morning to walk in and hear "Let It Be" coming from the chapel piano. Being a psychologist, I listen to songs for their deeper meaning. All artists have some message they want to portray through their music and so, I listen and try to determine meaning from each and every song I hear. Being a School Counselor, I also use music inside as well as outside my classroom to help me understand teenagers today as well as the adversities they face and try to overcome, most often projected in their music.

Most recently I have become fond of a song by Judah and The Lion, "Suit and Jacket". When I thoroughly listened to this song and examined the lyrics, it helped me understand the students I am currently seeing in my office as well as the school in general. I was finding that with this year's seniors, there was a great apprehension when applying to college. When asked what careers they would like to pursue, they were also waivering a bit and so when I heard this song one day, it made me stop and think, is this what goes through their minds?

There are lines in the song referencing not wanting to get older, not wanting to conform, and not wanting to accept money and status if that is not their life's purpose. This song really made me think, are the children of today trying so hard to find a meaningful purpose that they are fearful of making a decision regarding the career they want to have, the major they want to study, and the university they want to attend?  Do they want to leave such a meaningful mark on society that they don't want to pin themselves to one place, career, time span. It really made me think.

If you have time, listen to the song, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AigOUsOEhSY, hopefully it too will give you better insight into the mind of high school students today and the plights they experience when trying to make the world a better place.

In addition, I came across an article and program for those struggling to figure out who they are and what career would be most satisfying for them. It is called the purpose challenge and has a series of activities directed toward students finding a path of personal satisfaction. The program can be found at http://purposechallenge.org/ and contains the activities for students as well as resources for parents.

All of us want the world to be a better place, we want to hold meaningful careers, support ourselves, and just be who God has crafted us to me. In the words of U2, "And if the darkness is to keep us apart, and if the daylight feels like it's a long way off, and if your glass heart should crack, and for a second you turn back, Oh no, be strong, Walk On, Walk On", there are greater things ahead. Welcome the journey.





Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Quarter

Well, here we are nearing the end of the first quarter for this school year.  It has been a quick nine weeks which will mirror the rest of the school year. This year as well as future years will fly by quicker than you can imagine.

For the Seniors, this time of year is full of promise. They are completing their college essays, requesting transcripts, contacting university representatives, and finalizing their college applications. Deadlines are approaching fast! December 1 is right around the corner and they are making sure all their t's are crossed and i's are dotted.

Juniors, this is your cue to start looking at university choices. Explore your options, visit college fairs, make arrangements for visiting college campuses and begin your discerning process for next year. It will all help when it comes down to application time for you next fall, yes I said NEXT FALL.

Sophomores, it is not too early to start your exploration.  Keep your grades up, seek out tutoring if needed, consult your teachers, whatever it takes to keep your GPA at the level you deem appropriate. Also, attend the college fair at SIUE on October 24. Yes, you can go and explore the different universitites who will be on their campus. Please go to the College Fair page on this blog for more infomration.

Freshmen, you are just beginning this journey. Know that these quarter grades do not go on your final transcript but are instead averaged with the second quarter for your semester grade which does go on your final transcript. You still have time to bring your grades up to where you want them, where they need to be to satisfy your personal goals. 

For all of you, know we as the teachers, tutors, and administration are here to help you and guide you on this journey.

Seniors, remember you have 6 weeks. Good Luck and God Speed!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Power of Sleep

 As some of you may know, I am not a morning person and I greatly value my sleep. I honestly can't function on less than 7 hours of sleep a night, so anytime articles or research cross my desk in regards to sleep, I read and try to apply those principles to my own sleep habits.

Most recently, I came across an article on teens and sleep. Although this article had minimal to do with my sleep habits, I read it to hopefully educate my students on the hazards of little sleep. This article, published by Scholastic Magazine, stated that a full school schedule paired with after-school activities is not entirely to blame for teenagers loss of sleep, instead the loss of sleep can be attributed to cell phone use.

If you look around, except during the school day, most teenagers always have their phone in their hand. Although most teens would not think this is a problem, it is. Researchers have found that there is a direct link between sleep and phone habits. Although it seems teens are busy with school and activities, their phones are providing more distractions. Take homework for example; your teen has started homework and a text comes through, the ding of the text causes them to stop working on homework for a brief moment to look at and possibly respond to a text. This small, but significant incident has now caused their minds to shift from the homework to the phone. It will now take a brief minute to focus back on their homework, only to have this happen over and over. This can elongate the time they spend doing homework as their minds have to transition back and forth. It takes a great deal of self control to ignore the notifications coming from the phone and instead focus on homework or even chores before the evening is over.

Even after they go to bed, most of them charge their phones on their nightstand, still disturbing their sleep. Every time the screen lights up with a notification, even if the phone is on silent, will cause a disturbance in melatonin, the hormone needed for sleep.

Sleep is essential for everyone, especially teens. It is when the developing brain continues to grow and lack of sleep can hinder educational progress and everyday mood. When you take a test and you can't come up with an answer, when you miss goals during your game, when you snap at your friends, these all can be attributed to a lack of sleep. If you disrupt sleep, you disrupt function everywhere.

How can you get more sleep?  Try to limit your phone use. Make phone time a reward and only check messages after you complete homework in a subject or after you complete an entire chore. At night, put your phone in the kitchen or the living room to charge, not on your nightstand or even in your room. The light from the phone surpresses the production of melatonin. Use your bedroom as a sanctuary for sleep, no television, no phone, just for sleep.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Counseling Intern Information and Suicide Prevention Month


Over the next few months, you may see a new face around Father McGivney working alongside Mrs Madura in the Student Services and Counseling office.  Ms. Catherine Stark is a graduate student at Missouri Baptist University majoring in School Counseling, and is completing her internship in the FMCHS Student Services and Counseling office.  Therefore, please know Ms. Stark may reach out at some point by either email or telephone regarding student success and development during her time here.

Each week, I plan to cover a coping strategy or topic to broaden awareness of what you/your child my be experiencing.  The topics will range from Study Skills, to Counseling and Coping Skills, and will hopefully be something to spark discussion with your parents/child(ren).

I write this on September 1, and those in the Mental Health field know that September is Suicide Prevention Month.  I have been provided resources from CHAD (Communities Health Adolescent Depression and Suicide) as well as the Illinois School Cousneling Association, in an effort to spotlight the awareness of mental health and risk management with regards to suicide.

According to the Coalition for Mental Health, up to 25 percent of adolescents beginning at age 14 will suffer depression, and only two-thirds will receive help. Sadly, of that total, 90 percent of all suicides are associated with mental illness, and could have been prevented.

Nationally, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for 11 to 18 year olds in the United States. -CDC, 2010

Over the past 15 years, the total suicide rate has increased 24% from 10.5 to 13 per 100,000 people and the suicide rate among males has remained approximately four times higher than amoung females. - National Institute of Mental Health.

***If you believe someone is a harm to either themselves, or another person, please don't hesitate to call   9-1-1 and get help immediately.

The following is a list of resources on Suicide Prevention:

Suicide Prevention Resources:  http://www.sprc.org/

The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide: http://www.sptsusa.org/

CHADS Coalition for Mental Health: www.chadscoalition.org





Thursday, August 24, 2017

Welcome Back To School

This year we welcome almost 70 students to the Freshman class as well as other transfer students who decided McGivney was where they really belong. Welcome to our family.

One of my summer reads was "The Marian Option: God's Solution to a Civilization in Crisis" by Carrie Gress. While reading, I came to a realization that in some ways, I am a sort of a matriarch at this school. I turn to Mary a great deal and being a mother myself, I know the pull in my heart when one of my children struggle, so does Mary. This gave me a renewed sense of purpose at McGivney, one where I try to help each and every student approaching all situations with an unconditional regard. Know that I am here to help and will do so with everything I have.  

We have quite a bit to tackle these first few weeks back to school and it is my hope that through this blog I can keep you updated on all the Student Services and Counseling activites. Please also check the Master Schedule on our website as I do post happenings there as well.

For those of you new to McGivney, I would like to explain our College Representative Visit process.  Most of the representatives come to visit during both lunch hours. The students are encouraged to attend no matter their grade level. On those days, most students grab their lunches, go to the room, meet with the representative, and eat while they are learning about each university's opportunities.  Again, all ages are encouraged and invited to attend.

Seniors, I am currently holding appointments with you and your parents to map out college application plans or your next steps following graduation.  If you have not yet signed up for an appointment with me, please follow this link to do so: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0844afab22aaf58-senior.  Links to the Common App, the FAFSA, and the McGivney College Scholarship Guide can be found on this page in 'Useful Links'.  You have been emailed details on how to create an FSA ID which needs to be completed AT LEAST 48 hours prior to filling out the FAFSA.  Most college applications are open now and even if you plan on taking another ACT before December, you can still apply as those scores can be sent later.  If you are looking to apply to an East or West Coast school, please see if they accept the ACT or if you need to take the SAT.  I have SAT information in my office and can help you with that application process even though we do not offer that test at McGivney.  A FAFSA workshop will be held at McGivney this coming fall.

Seniors, Juniors, and Sophomores, the ACT test dates for this coming year have been set. The ACT link can be found under 'Useful Links' as well.  The next test date is October 28 with a registration deadline of September 22.  Seniors, the last ACT that colleges will be able to accept for your admittance would be the December 10 test date if you are applying under regular decision, but please notify your admissions rep if you are waiting to take the December ACT.

Juniors and Sophomores, the Illinois Regional College Fair will be held in the Meridian Ballroom of SIUE on Tuesday, October 24 from 6 to 7:30 pm.  More information can be found via this link: http://www.siue.edu/undergraduate/ircf/. Plan on attending as there will be hundreds of college representatives available to you.  Find out when they have Open Houses, how they schedule visits, application requirements and more.

Email me with any suggestions of information you would like to see or opportunities I may have missed.