Literacy Skills Checkup

This is a great time of year to evaluate your child’s literacy skills. STAR testing is complete and a full year of learning is in the books.

Here are some signs that an investigation into your child’s literacy skills might be warranted:

  • difficulty with sounding out words
  • slow and labored reading
  • struggles with reading comprehension
  • trouble understanding the meanings of words and sentences
  • poor spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • difficulty with memorizing sight words

These signs could indicate a learning disability such as dyslexia. Challenges can also be caused by gaps in instruction, resulting in developmental delays.

Dyslexia is the most common learning difference.

As many as 1 in 5 children have dyslexia.

Dyslexia is not associated with IQ, but encompasses difficulties with recognizing and reading words, writing and spelling.

Dyslexia often surfaces by 3rd grade when students are expected to read fluently.

Our reading specialists can evaluate and use standardized tests to screen for dyslexia and determine some of the root causes for reading differences.

Prep Academy Tutors offers support in the Orton-Gillingham approach, a direct, multisensory, structured diagnostic method that emphasizes reading, writing, and spelling. We also offer one-on-one tutoring with a certified reading specialist or ELA teacher.

The Science of Reading

2023 – The Year of the Family

The Institute of Multi-Sensory Education believes 2023 will be the year when “Families will become more engaged in their child’s literacy development.” Across the nation, parents are eager to help support their children on their quest to become skilled readers.

According to our Nation’s Report Card, reading scores dropped 3 points in 2022 for both 4th and 8th graders. The effects of the pandemic on our education system has certainly contributed to this.

As a result, many schools around the nation have adopted or enriched their curriculums based on “The Science of Reading.”

Research has found that reading and comprehension requires multifaceted skills. “The Science of Reading” introduced educators to the Simple View of Reading and Scarborough’s Reading Rope.

A model showing that skilled readers need to have language comprehension skills (background knowledge, vocabulary, language structure, verbal reasoning and literacy knowledge) as well as, word recognition skills (phonemic awareness, decoding, and sight recognition).

“All the components are interconnected and interdependent. If just one strand is weak, it affects the rope (and the reader) as a whole.”

Schools across the nation have already implemented concepts of “The Science of Reading.” Trends show it will have a broader impact in the upcoming year.

Building Vocabulary

Vocabulary is critical to comprehension. “Knowing 95-98% of the words in a text is necessary for an acceptable comprehension level.” Building academic vocabulary at home can help build a child’s prior knowledge. Parents can foster rich vocabulary by using words that are not typically used in spoken language, but often displayed in written language. Playing word games like Bananagram, Scrabble, Big Bobble and Wordle are fun and engaging ways to practice and enhance vocabulary. Working on a crossword puzzle or a word search together builds vocabulary and encourages critical thinking.

Comprehension Strategies

A great way to practice comprehension strategies at home is to start a conversation. Go beyond the book before, during and after reading. Before reading, activate prior knowledge and set a purpose for reading (are you reading to learn or for fun?). Think, what do you already know about this topic? During reading, make connections and stop and think! What’s happening? After reading, ask your child to make a quick sketch or jot down and summarize what they learned. Journals are a great way to monitor if your child really understands what they read.

Reading…A Way of Life!

Modeling reading and making it a daily habit is a great way to connect with your child. Reading together creates memories that last a lifetime. Set a time and place to read. Use your imagination and create a reading nook in your home. Who wouldn’t love a cozy fun place just for reading!

Take a trip to the library or the bookstore. Let them choose! Studies show kids are motivated to read about things they find interesting. Subscribe to educational magazines like National Geographic Kids and motivate your child to read nonfiction and learn all about the world around them. Even better, start a little free library of your own and help your child inspire others to read! (

Our goal is to use explicit instruction based on the “Science of Reading.” Our tutors are experienced in literacy development and comprehension and focus on the individual needs of our students.

Our literacy services include:

  • Orton-Gillingham reading remediation
  • Dyslexia screening
  • Comprehensive evaluations of literacy skills to establish specific competencies, using over a dozen standardized and criterion-referenced tests.
  • One-on-one instruction with a certified reading specialist
  • ELA tutoring
  • Small group book clubs


*Written by our staff author and teacher, Maryann Moriarty. Maryann has 15 years of teaching experience in New York City and is a contributing author at the Educator’s Room.

Mastering Math

We may not realize it, but we are all infused with mathematical practices from the moment we wake up and throughout the day. Our alarm goes off and we check the time. We measure our coffee, check our finances, and use multiple numbers in some form throughout the day. As adults, we successfully apply mathematical practices in our everyday lives. Students are expected to master the same practices for math competency.

The NYS Next Generation Standards states, “A lack of understanding prevents a student from engaging in mathematical practices.” So, how can parents help foster understanding and make math an intricate part of their child’s life?

A Positive Math Mindset

According to the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, “Parents with a positive attitude towards mathematics are more likely to incorporate mathematical activities and language into the home environment. This additional exposure to these mathematical concepts might create an advantage for these children in their mathematical performance.”

Studies from Stanford University School of Medicine found that, “Having a positive attitude about math was connected to better function of the hippocampus, an important memory center in the brain, during performance of arithmetic problems.”

Although a positive attitude helps, according to the National Council of Teachers of Math, factors such as conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, strategic competence and adaptive reasoning are also needed for math proficiency.

Math Vocabulary

“Teaching and learning the language of mathematics is vital for the development of mathematical proficiency.” Explicitly teaching math vocabulary can greatly increase conceptual understanding. Word problems can be tricky and math vocabulary can be trickier. Many key vocabulary words have multiple meanings. Misconceptions and errors will occur if the wrong meaning is used in a math word problem.

For useful math vocabulary flashcards, check out:

Math in Everyday Life

  • Use your imagination and create a math problem from everyday activities.
  • Cooking and baking with your child is a great way to introduce measurement and proportion.
  • Gardening is a terrific way to connect nature and math as you practice counting and measuring.
  • Telling time is a life skill and a first grade standard. Practicing telling time with both an analog and digital clock significantly increases a child’s understanding of time.
  • Let your child pay at the store and use cash! It’s an important way to introduce the concepts of money.

At Prep Academy Tutors, we are committed to instilling a positive attitude as we support your child, while teaching mathematical concepts and proficiency. Our certified teachers are experienced in math instruction from pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade.  Contact us to learn more.


*Written by our staff author and teacher Maryann Moriarty. Maryann has 15 years of teaching experience in New York City and is a contributing author at the Educator’s Room.

Acquiring Computational Thinking with Coding and Robotics

Advancements in technology are growing at a dynamic speed. Schools across the nation are preparing students with the critical skills needed for future academic and career success.  Computational Thinking (CT) is believed to be the highest order of problem solving and many feel it should be the new educational mindset. 

CT is one of the five main tenets in the NYS K-12 Computer Science and Digital Literacy Standards that will be fully implemented by September 2024. 

The standards designate Computational Thinking with the following main components:

Modeling & Simulation: Modeling involves representing a system that enables you to observe, understand or simulate it. These models can be used to simulate real world phenomena.

Abstraction & Decomposition: Abstraction is focusing on key elements and only keeping relevant information.  Decomposition is breaking down a problem into smaller parts so it is easier to comprehend.  

Data Analysis & Visualization: Data Analysis allows you to study the information so you can draw conclusions and make informed decisions. Visualization is when you use graphs and charts to help convey results.

Algorithm & Programming: An algorithm is a sequence of steps used to complete a specific task.  Programming is the process of creating and developing code to perform a specific task. 

By mastering these standards, students will develop the foundational skills needed to solve problems and create solutions.

In a recent eSchoolNews podcast titled, Robotics Plays a Key Role in STEM Education, Jason Innes of Kinderlab Robotics discusses how early childhood education can support STEM learning. He feels, “The best way to teach coding and Computational Thinking in pre-K and Kindergarten is robotics.” He further states, “Seeing a physical robot move around the class makes coding into something concrete.” 

Another study conducted on Educational Robotics for Developing Computational Thinking in Young Learners also found, “Robotics activities for young learners can be versatile and purposeful to achieve the intended CT skills.” It further found,“The five most frequently developed CT skills in young learners are Sequencing, Conditionals, Loops, Debugging and Algorithmic Thinking.” 

These are all components used in coding and robotics. 

Recently, an upstate NY school became the first in the state to fully implement the NYS Computer Science and Digital Literacy Standards with a K-12 coding and robotics program.

With the help of educational apps such as Scratch, Scratch Jr., Kodable, Bee Bot and Photon, students are developing the initial skills of computational thinking. 

But can computational thinking only be developed in computer science classes?

An article published in the “Journal for STEM Education” stated that Computational Thinking should be a “model of thinking” and suggests that it is not only for the students who study computer science. “The development of CT can then be truly integrated into all education for everyone to succeed in STEM education.” (Committee on STEM Education 2018).  

Teaching computational thinking skills across the curriculum encourages innovation, exploration and critical thinking.  

At Prep Academy Tutors, we incorporate strategies that enhance computational thinking across the curriculum, enabling our students to use these critical skills in real world applications. 


*Written by our staff author and teacher, Maryann Moriarty. Maryann has 15 years of teaching experience in New York City and is a contributing author at the Educator’s Room.

What Is ISEE?

What is Test-Optional?

Students can now opt-out of standardized testing.  Many colleges (and the list is growing) are now test-optional or test-blind.   

Test-optional means colleges allow applicants to decide whether to submit SAT or ACT scores as part of their application. It doesn’t mean that schools aren’t interested in seeing an applicant’s test scores, but if a student doesn’t submit their scores, it won’t be counted against them in the application review. Many colleges implement a test-optional policy.  

Test-blind means colleges will not consider an applicant’s test scores even if they are submitted.  Test-blind or test-free policies are much less common than test-optional policies. 

When determining whether to submit scores, students will generally be advised to submit their scores if such scores land within a particular school’s middle 50% range of test scores. Click here to read more about the middle 50% range.

SAT vs. ACT: How to Choose

When choosing whether to take the SAT or the ACT, proper evaluation is worth the effort.  Students should take a full-length, timed practice test for SAT and ACT. Here are some questions to ask yourself that highlight the differences between the SAT and ACT:

  • How do you handle time pressure? 
    • The SAT and ACT tests are similar lengths, but the ACT includes more questions and is therefore faster-paced. The ACT can be well suited for students who process information and work quickly  
  • Do you like science? 
    • Basic knowledge of biology, chemistry, and earth science is required for the ACT 
  • What kinds of questions do you find challenging? 
    • There is more time allotted per question on the SAT, but areas such as the critical reading passages on the SAT are generally viewed as more sophisticated
  • Do you like to use your calculator on the math sections? 
    • If yes, the ACT allows calculators throughout. The SAT has a no-calculator section

For students interested in comparing scores on the SAT and ACT, the College Board and the ACT organization provide conversion charts to show how composite scores stack up.


The ACT is another standardized test used by colleges to make admissions decisions. The ACT is administered by ACT, a non-profit organization of the same name. The ACT tests students on material associated with the standard high school curriculum.

Key differences between the SAT and ACT include less time per question on the ACT, plus a science section on the ACT. Superscoring is now available for the ACT. All colleges and universities in the US accept both the SAT and the ACT. 

The ACT exam is offered nationally in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July. 


  • Test Length: 2 hours and 55 minutes
  • ACT:
    • English: 45 minute/75 questions
    • (2) Math: 60 minutes/60 questions
    • (3) Reading: 35 minutes/40 questions
    • (4) Science: 35 minutes/40 questions
    • Writing (optional): 1 essay/60 minutes
  • The optional ACT writing test is available to students for an extra cost.  It is scored separately and does not affect a student’s composite score.
  • Total score is between 1 and 36

Click Here for ACT Dates and Deadlines

Click Here to Register for the ACT

The NEW Digital SAT

The College Board has begun the transition to a digital SAT and PSAT for U.S. and International students. 

Dates To Know:

  • Spring 2023: U.S. students take a paper-and-pencil SAT, International students take a digital SAT
  • Fall 2023: All students take a digital PSAT, U.S. students take a paper-and-pencil SAT, International students take a digital SAT
  • Spring 2024: All U.S. and International students take a digital PSAT and SAT

Important Changes and Digital SAT FAQs:

  • Shortened test: The digital SAT will take 2 hours instead of 3 hours.
  • Adaptive testing format: Allows the digital SAT to measure the same skills as the current SAT more efficiently (in less time). Each section is split into two modules. How you perform on module 1 determines the difficulty of module 2 and is a critical determinant of your final score. The digital test allows students to toggle back-and-forth within a module but not between modules. 
  • Calculators allowed: The digital SAT will allow students to use a calculator throughout the entire math section. 
  • Shorter reading passages: The digital SAT will feature shorter reading passages which will be faster to read and analyze with just one question tied to each passage.

Faster score delivery: Students will receive score reports within days (not weeks).


The SAT is a standardized test used by colleges to make admissions decisions and provide one common data point that can be used to compare all applicants. The SAT is created and administered by the College Board. 

High school students opting to take a standardized test, take the SAT during the spring of junior year or fall of senior year. Public schools in Connecticut require all juniors to sit for the SATs. When planning your test prep and testing dates, it’s important to leave time for retakes. Statistics show that students often improve scores with a second attempt. 

The SAT can be superscored. Superscoring combines your best performances from multiple test days into one score that reflects your highest achievements. It’s important to find out the score submission policy for each college you apply to. [Click here to read more about Superscoring]

The SAT is offered nationally every year in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June. 


  • Test Length: 3 hours 
  • SAT:
    • Reading: 65 minutes/52 questions 
    • Writing and Language: 35 minutes/44 questions
    • Math No-Calculator: 25 minutes/20 questions
    • Math Calculator: 55 minutes/38 questions
  • In 2021 the College Board discontinued the SAT with Essay 
  • The total score is between 400 – 1600

Click here for SAT dates and deadlines

Click here to register for the SAT