Middle States Initiative
St. Benedict's Prep is committed to improving students' critical reading and writing skills as our stated Student Performance Objectives. We feel that those skills are imperative to success in any field of study or work, and have instituted focused reading and writing instruction and practice in every discipline and every course. St. Benedict's has been re-acredited for a seven-year term (until 2024).
Middle and Prep Division students take the NWEA MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) tests in math, reading, and language usage during the Fall and Winter semesters (typically October and March), while Elementary Division students take it in the spring. We are using the test data to measure progress towards our Middle States accreditation goals of improving students' critical reading and writing. Students learn their scores immediately after completing the test, but that's not where it ends.
We also use the data to counsel students, through the Group system, about how their NWEA scores indicate their college readiness. NWEA completed a linking study in 2011 that shows the correlation between NWEA achievement, scores on the ACT, and success in college level coursework, and we have been using that study to drive conversations to determine what action steps students and faculty can take
to improve students' college readiness. Faculty moderators have been trained in the interpretation of NWEA scores and are able to counsel students based on their individual levels of achievement.
Critical Reading and Writing Interventions
Students have the opportunity to practice their critical reading and writing skills in all disciplines. Here are some examples of the approaches taken in courses from the sciences to math, from English to history, and in the arts. Our interventions are particularly focused on three key skills - vocabulary development, summarization, and reading critically from informational texts. They address the four Anchor Common Core standards selected by the Reading Skills committee.
Key Ideas and Details
1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
Craft and Structure
4. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
Critical reading and writing instruction isn't - and shouldn't - be limited to a traditional classroom setting. We are practicing those skills in Group, on our smartphones, while walking around school, and during the summer.
Writing prompts during Group allow students to think creatively, express themselves, and have their voices heard by constituencies within the school and beyond. Students wrote material that was incorporated into the Drama Guild's Fall 2012 production of "If I Could, in My Hood, I Would...", contributed letters to the editor of the Benedict News, reflected on Lenten preparation, supported a community member serving overseas with vibrant Christmas letters, and expressed their appreciation for our benefactors on Donor Appreciation Day.
SAT prep is an important component of any college preparatory program, and St. Benedict's offers a test prep class during the Fall Term. There is also a Test Taking Tips course offered as an elective during First Term. Our school subscription to Naviance, a college and career readiness platform that helps connect academic achievement to post-secondary goals and assists students in managing their college application process, includes access to SAT PrepMe. PrepMe is a personalized, adaptive learning solution that allows students to focus on the skills needed to maximize their scores; it's individualized and accessible through any Internet connection. Didier Jean-Baptiste, Director of College Guidance, can set your son up with a PrepMe account if he doesn't already have one; contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Word of the Day - including its definition and usage - is displayed on our digital message boards in the cafeteria, front lobby, and main stairwell.
Summer reading aims to not only keep students reading over the summer break, but to facilitate student engagement with the written word. A student can choose a book, from a list of choices, either at or slightly above his Lexile (reading level as determined by NWEA testing). A reading guide then helps a student work on his reading comprehension and writing while he is reading the book; therefore, a student will be able to continue practicing those important skills even out of the classroom. Faculty consultation is also available via e-mail to meet students' individual needs. Please click this Summer Reading link for more information.