5 Things We Can Learn from Finland’s Renowned School System

5 Things We Can Learn from Finland’s Renowned School System

No mater where you sit on the political spectrum, all parents can agree that our children deserve a high quality education. North American countries pride themselves on having a top-notch school system, and educational policy is always at the top of the list for political candidates seeking public office. But according to a 2016 poll from education policy journal, Education Next, almost half (46%) of the general public would assign a grade of C or lower to U.S. public schools. And this Gallup poll from August 2016 revealed that “the majority of Americans were dissatisfied with the education U.S. children receive.” While America remains a world powerhouse, its educational system is struggling to match the performance of smaller, often less powerful, countries. One shining example is Finland, which has continuously ranked among the top countries for education. So what can we learn from Finland’s renowned school system?

A Complete Turnaround

Although in many ways, Finland has become the proverbial “poster child” for educational systems, it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, if you turn the clock back about 40 years, Finland was mediocre at best, and by some standards sub-par. Then a major educational system overhaul took place, which has had a significant impact on the country’s educational performance in recent years. The positive outcomes took several decades to manifest, but no one can deny the impressive results.

What Makes Finland Special?

Why does Finland consistently rank among the top school systems, when compared with much larger countries with far stronger economies? There are several points of view on that, which include the relatively homogeneous population or near-absence of poverty in the country, or the socialistic tenets of its education system, including free preschool and college, and free lunches for all primary grade students. While many of these can’t be replicated in the U.S., here are five, more portable, policy applications for the U.S.:

  1. Attract more highly qualified teachers. In Finland, it has been said that teaching is a highly respected career, with a more stringent vetting process than careers in medicine or law. Teachers must have a Master’s Degree, which is fully subsidized, and candidates for the profession are typically selected from the top 10% of their graduating classes. Teachers are compensated well in Finland, and they are paid for up to 2 hours of professional development per week, while only expected to spend 4 hours a day in their classrooms. Being a teacher is a highly respected, revered career in Finland.
  2. Reduce pressure on students to perform. One major reform Finland made to its educational policy was to massively reduce standardized testing. This has in turn helped reduce pressure on its students, and allow for more organic learning to take place. In fact, in Finland, students only have to take one standardized test, when they are about 16 years old. Finnish students don’t start school until the age of 7, and there is no formal grading or measuring system in place for students under the age of 9.
  3. Restructure the learning schedule. Finnish students typically have longer classes (an average of 75 minutes for older students), similar to the “block” scheduling still prevalent in some U.S. high schools. In addition, students have mandatory 15 minute recesses for every 45 minutes of instruction (one recess per hour, essentially), which allows students to engage in free-play, get fresh air, and generally focus better when they return to the classroom.
  4. Implement more hands-on learning. Students in Finland spent less time in a traditional classroom than their U.S. counterparts; the remainder of the Finnish student’s day is spent engaging in hands-on learning activities. Class sizes for hands-on laboratory experiments, and the like, are also reportedly smaller.
  5. Offer more one-on-one tutoring. Finnish students benefit from more opportunities to receive one-on-one tutoring from a teacher. Unfortunately, this is simply not an option for most U.S. students. The good news is that tutoring and test prep services are readily available to students through organizations such as Club Z!, which offers one-on-one in-home and online tutoring services for grades K-12 and beyond. Club Z! also works closely with each student’s classroom teacher to ensure that tutoring lessons closely reflect the student’s classroom curriculum.

As the old saying goes, “if it were so easy, everyone would do it.” There are a number of reasons why the Finnish school system cannot be easily adapted in the U.S. But nevertheless, there are things we can glean from their successful model, and strive to find ways to help implement these successful strategies.

PreACT Prep – Get Ready Now!

PreACT Prep – Get Ready Now!

A couple of weeks ago, we highlighted the PSAT/NMSQT exam in our blog, and now we are turning our attention to the PSAT counterpart, the PreACT. Much like the PSAT, the PreACT is administered to 10th grade students as a means to predict student performance on the ACT college entrance exam. The PreACT measures the same 4 subjects that are measured on the ACT – English, Reading, Math and Science, but in a shorter exam. Scores on the PreACT are aligned to the same scoring system as the ACT, with a range of 1-36, and also offers a projected score for the actual ACT exam. In addition, the PreACT score report offers insights into a student’s possible college and career options. For 10th grade students, now is the time to start PreACT prep.

Why Prep for the PreACT?

So if the PreACT is simply designed to be an introduction to the ACT, why do any test preparation? Test preparation for the PreACT offers students three major benefits – 1. it gives students an increased sense of confidence heading into the test, 2. it sets the necessary groundwork for students to succeed on the ACT college entrance exam, and 3. it gives students an advantage with college admissions.

Increased Student Confidence

According to this article in the Washington Post, nearly 20% of school-aged children suffer from test anxiety. That means that 1 out of every 5 students who take the ACT will have some kind of anxiety during the exam, which could have a negative impact on student performance and the resulting test score. When you consider that the PreACT is the student’s first introduction to the ACT, it only makes sense to make that experience as positive as possible. Having a positive experience with the PreACT will help boost a student’s confidence when faced with the actual ACT down the road, helping to reduce test anxiety so that the student can perform his/her best on the test.

Advanced Preparation for the ACT

The PreACT is more or less a shorter version of the actual ACT. So any work that a student does to prepare for the PreACT will pay dividends when he/she sits for the actual ACT exam. Reviewing things like how the test is laid out, what kind of questions are on the test, and strategies to maximize speed and accuracy on the exam, can help a student perform well. The ACT test scores are submitted to colleges as one criteria for a student’s admission to college. So preparing in advance for the ACT is time and money well spent.

College Admissions Advantage

Students can elect to send PreACT scores to colleges for review and consideration as well. For students who are applying to impacted majors, or highly selective colleges, sending a PreACT score can demonstrate to those colleges that they are serious about attending. Further, a high score on the PreACT test can show those colleges how well a student may perform in a given subject, or course of study, should they be admitted to the school. These are major advantages in this highly competitive college application and admissions arena.

PreACT Prep – Get Ready Now!

If you want your student to get a jump start on PreACT prep, call the PreACT prep experts at Club Z! today. Z Prep!, the test prep division of Club Z! In-Home Tutoring, offers in-home and online test prep for PreACT and ACT, with top tutors and proven strategies for maximizing test scores. Our comprehensive PreACT and ACT test prep programs offer in-depth diagnostic testing, complete content review for English, Reading, Math and Science, as well as targeted strategy development to help students maximize their scores. For one-on-one, in-home PreACT or ACT test prep, call 800-434-2582 to connect with a tutor nearest you. Or register today for one of our fall ACT group online class, with flexible test dates in October, November and December 2017.

Do Brain Games Really Work?

Do Brain Games Really Work?

If you’re like most parents raising kids in this digital age, you are likely worried that your kid’s cell phone or tablet addiction might be wasting more brain cells than feeding them. But did you know that playing “brain games” on your phone or tablet can really work to boost brain development? Check out these 7 free apps for you and your children to keep their minds fresh and engaged through brain games:

  1. SAT Vocab by MindSnacks – Help your teenager prepare for this important college entrance exam (as well as the PSAT and GRE) through this free app. Broken out into 9 cool games, this app offers a new way to tackle an old problem: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sat-vocab-mindsnacks/id494140836?mt=8
  2. Lumosity by Lumos Labs Inc. – This one is good for the entire family – offering a customized brain training program for each user! This app offers brain teasers, puzzles and other brain benders to help keep those synapses firing: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lumosity-mobile/id577232024?mt=8
  3. Duolingo by Duolingo – Want to learn a new language while you take the train to work? Check out the Duolingo app, which offers easy modules to learning a new language (currently Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Italian and English): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/duolingo-learn-languages-for/id570060128?mt=8
  4. Today in History by Downshift LLC – For all of you history buffs out there (and maybe even the history phobic), here’s an app to give you insight into the past in a way that makes it still relevant: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/today-in-history-lite/id312028719?mt=8
  5. Mathemagics by Blue Lightening Labs – Even if math isn’t your strong suit, this app will help you improve your speed in completing mental math by using fun games and brain teasers. The app even offers math tricks that can be used in a variety of educational settings (think SAT and ACT prep!): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mathemagics-mental-math-tricks/id306586847?mt=8
  6. World Geography Challenge by Atom Games Ent. – Think of this one like Geography Jeopardy. Drag and drop names of countries around the world into their appropriate spot on the map. Hover over certain map segments to learn about new countries too: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.age.wgg.appspot&hl=en
  7. Brain Games 2 by thepapership – This is the second installation of an old favorite, Brain Games, which offers various games to help sharpen your critical thinking and logic skills while also boosting your IQ: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.thepapership.juegosmentales2

For more engaging, and longer-lasting, learning benefits, consider working with a tutor. After all, there’s no substitute for a personal interaction with a trained educator to help boost your student’s capacity for learning. And the benefits are endless – from better grades to improved self-confidence, inside and outside of the classroom. To find a highly qualified Club Z! tutor near you, call 800-434-2582.

Fall 2017 Online Test Prep Classes Forming Now!

Fall 2017 Online Test Prep Classes Forming Now!

Back to school season has officially arrived! For many families, this is the time of year where students are getting adjusted to early wake ups, managing homework and after-school activities, and preparing for important tests such as the SAT and ACT. It can be particularly challenging to manage all of these responsibilities for students with work commitments, hectic athletic practice and game schedules, family obligations, and heavy course loads. For these students, Club Z!’s online SAT and ACT test prep classes have proven to be a perfect fit! The Fall 2017 online test prep class schedule has been officially opened for registration – see https://clubztutoring.com/test-preparation/online-classes/ for more details.

What are Online Test Prep Classes?

Club Z!’s online SAT and ACT test prep classes offer students one (1) full-length diagnostic test, complete with video-based answer explanations and a projected score for the test, and twelve (12) hours of one-on-one, live online instruction from a top SAT or ACT tutor. Classes are generally offered monthly, with a once-per-week 3-hour course schedule. All sessions are recorded in HD for playback and additional review, adding even more flexibility for students with busy schedules.

What is Included with the Online Test Prep Class?

Students receive access to an online diagnostic test, measuring strengths and weaknesses on the exam. This test is designed to mimic the SAT or ACT to help students prepare for the actual test. In addition, detailed diagnostic reporting shows students how much time was spent on each question, which types of questions were commonly missed or skipped, and offers video-based instructional models with top tutors demonstrating how to correctly solve each question. In addition, students will receive live online instruction from a top test prep tutor. All curriculum and practice materials are available online, and instruction is delivered using a virtual classroom. The virtual classroom allows the tutor to communicate with the students using a combination of video, written chat, and the use of an interactive, instructional white board.

What is the Cost for Online Test Prep Classes?

Each 12-hour course costs $499 USD, offering a concentrated SAT or ACT prep program at an affordable price point. There are no refunds for missed sessions; however, students can watch lesson playback online, or receive a link to the recorded session if the student is unable to attend live. The average score increase for students completing the online course is 150 points on the SAT and 3 points on the ACT.

Enrollment in a Club Z! online class does not automatically register the student to take the SAT or ACT. Students must register to take the SAT or ACT directly. Registration may be available online or via regular mail, and students may request accommodations for either exam during registration. Upcoming SAT test dates include October 7, 2017, November 4, 2017, and December 2, 2017. Upcoming ACT test dates include October 28, 2017 and December 9, 2017.

To view the Fall 2017 course schedule, or to enroll in a course, visit https://clubztutoring.com/test-preparation/online-classes/ or call 800-434-2582 today.

PSAT Prep – Get Ready Now!

PSAT Prep – Get Ready Now!

The primary test date for the 2017 PSAT/NMSQT is Wednesday, October 11th. If you’re not familiar with this particular test prep acronym, PSAT is short for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (or pre-SAT) and NMSQT is short for National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Most US students take this test during their 10th or 11th grade year in high school, as a matter of general course curriculum. Students who receive top scores are eligible to receive scholarship funds for college through the National Merit Scholarship Program.

The National Merit Scholarship Program

The National Merit Scholarship Program uses the PSAT/NMSQT as a screening tool of approximately 1.6 million US high school students. Approximately 50,000 of the top scoring students on the PSAT/NMSQT are eligible for recognition and/or scholarship funds through the National Merit Scholarship Program. Roughly two thirds of the qualifying students will receive a letter of commendation recognizing their academic achievements, while the remaining one third will be named as semifinalists and continue on for a chance to earn one of three scholarship funding awards. In order to advance from semifinalist to finalist (and receive one of three scholarship awards), students must submit additional qualifying documentation, such as academic records and a recommendation from the school principal. Students must also take the actual SAT exam in order to validate their PSAT scores, as a condition of being considered for finalist status. Finalists are ultimately awarded a $2,500 National Merit Scholarship, a college-sponsored Merit Scholarship (if the finalist has been accepted to college at that time), or a corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship.

What Subjects Are Tested On The PSAT/NMSQT?

The PSAT/NMSQT follows nearly the same format as the SAT exam, with the exception of being a shorter test. The PSAT/NMSQT is a 2 hour and 45 minute test, while the SAT is 3 hours (plus an additional 50 minutes with the optional Essay).  In addition, although scored on a common scale score with the SAT, the PSAT/NMSQT has a maximum possible score of 1520 vs the SAT’s top possible score of 1600. The two tests are the same in terms of what subject material is covered, with both measuring student performance in Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. The PSAT/NMSQT has a total of 139 questions to be answered in a total time of 165 minutes; the SAT has a total of 154 questions to be answered in a total time of 180 minutes (without the optional Essay) offering slightly less time per question than the PSAT/NMSQT.

Why Prep Now?

With a little more than a month before the national primary day of PSAT/NMSQT test administration, students still have time to complete an intensive test prep program to help them perform their best on test day. Comprehensive test prep programs should include content review in Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, active reading, data analysis and standard English conventions, and strategy development for best addressing each of the types of test questions, pacing, and overcoming test anxiety. Z Prep!, the test prep division of Club Z! In-Home Tutoring, offers in-home and online test prep for PSAT/NMSQT and SAT, with top tutors and proven strategies for maximizing test scores. For one-on-one, in-home test prep, call 800-434-2582 to connect with a tutor nearest you. Or register today for the September SAT group online class, which starts Saturday, September 9th and will continue through Saturday, September 30th.

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