A True Classroom Partner?
USATestprep is a full service online-based website for use in elementary, middle, and high schools. The service is paid yearly by your school or district and is designed to help manage, track, and facilitate learning to your state standards. With almost 2 million users in the United States, you might wonder if this will be a fit for your school. Herein, I have combed through the website and functions to help you decide.
The company is billed as “by teachers, for teachers” which is an idea I find appealing. As an educator, with experience ranging from Elementary through College level courses, I was interested to see what the website offered.
Initially, logging into the site the impression is basic and, I will tell you, I was not thinking it would meet expectations. However, the more I watched the instructional videos, the more excited I was to delve into the program.
The following is my review of what I found upon use of USATestprep.
No Software To Install
The first positive point is that the entire program is online, meaning no software to install for students or teachers. You can use it from any browser. With hundreds of students in your school, installing an app or cd-based program would be nearly impossible.
While tests, practice questions, and vocabulary activities will work on your iOS devices, there are limitations. The inability of iOS to accommodate the Flash plugin makes certain items inaccessible. You’ll find the games, videos, and online puzzles are all out of your reach. While I found this a downside to the system, I think it is a minor negative point.
No Limit on Users
The second pro I found was that your school or district's account does not limit the number of subaccounts. This means all the teachers, aides, administrators, and students in your school can benefit from this program. You won’t have issues with needing to “upgrade” if you’re accommodating more students which makes this system just as appealing to a small facility as a larger one.
Additionally, The advantage of using the program schoolwide is uniformity in organization, testing, and remediation. Students won’t be adapting to the USATestprep model for only one subject and can benefit from it in multiple subjects if the school chooses to purchase multiple content areas.
Easy Setup for Teachers
For me, this is the best reason I found to utilize USATestprep in my classroom. As a teacher, I have limited time and resources. I want to impact my students positively without adding to my staggering workload. This classroom partner allows you to create classes, assign work and tests, play games with your students, and so much more.
You have the choice to upload students in bulk or allow them to create their own accounts. You can also create classes; selecting the appropriate standards and tests which customizes your access to a multitude of resources. Once your classes are created, you can put the responsibility on your students to “join” which eliminates the need to search for each student by name and add them to each roster.
Adding Students to Classes
Students cannot be bulk added into classes. However, the selection tool is organized alphabetically and allows you to limit your list by grade. Additionally, it does have a suggest function which will show you students who have sent you results anytime in the last year.
Fully Integrated Curriculum Materials Ready for Use
The inclusion of classroom assignments, study materials, and tests is another immensely positive point for USATestprep. Offering content which is geared towards the standard of your state and subject is a major development. This streamlines the process of curriculum creation for any teacher.
I looked at various assignments in the subjects and found the content in line with educational standards. Additionally, the ability of teachers to customize these resources and add in their own made me excited for the possibilities of this program. The example below is for an SAT Reading exam. The module allows assignment of tests and activities which help students reach critical learning milestones and the inclusion of auto grading and student progress tracking is incredibly helpful for measuring success.
Customizable Assignments, Benchmarks, and More
The ability to add your own assignments and tests means you can use this program to supplement your own developed curriculum or create a new one. Furthermore, you can choose and assign items as the year progresses or set them for future use to layout your plan.
Since there are a lot of ways you can customize assignments, benchmarks and tests it can be confusing. However, the tutorial walked me through the process thoroughly. This allowed me to get the most from this awesome feature without intimidation.
Auto Grading for Assignments and Tests
Any teacher knows that grading assignments and tests is a job you often find yourself completing after hours. With the integrated resources of USATestprep there is no need to grade most items. Everything short of Free Response questions are automatically graded. The program even determines short answer responses with allowances for spelling and alternate phrasing.
This, however, does not mean you are powerless in the grading process. You are able to review student results and change marks when you see fit. As for free response, you are provided answer key rubrics to help standardize your grading process.
Progress Tracking and Guided Remediation
Another extremely appealing feature of USATestprep is the system for tracking student progress and the guided improvement tasks. The program provides a virtual gradebook which updates with your student results automatically. You can look at a progress report which shows either a graph of overall performance or individual assignments. The assignments are color coded for easy viewing and tracking.
Students can also see their performance using the color coded system. This allows them to select items which are below standard and then work on suggested remediation based on the subject area and standard of the item. Each item has related tests, games, and more which your students can complete to bring up their proficiency in specific areas.
In this sample progress report, you’ll notice four colored dots. Grey is not completed. Red, 66% or less, yellow 66% to 85%, and green 85% and above. So, looking at your student dot rank you can determine if more students struggled with one assignment than another, etc.
Simple Messaging System
Lastly, I liked the simple messaging system. This allows you to contact all your students, from any class, or choose individual students as needed. It also has a handy instant messaging function to contact online users. As with assignments, this is customizable too. You can choose whether students are able to reply or not. Additionally, you can rest assured that students aren’t able to send you multiple responses to any one message.
Instant Messaging Does Not Work for iPad Users
The only downside of the instant messenger is that it does not work for any users on an iPad. However, this limitation does not affect regular messages.
After playing with USATestprep’s system, I honestly wish I had known about it sooner. As someone who loves organization, planning ahead, and incorporating multiple types of learning into my courses, I can imagine getting great use out of this. I didn’t feel it was overly complicated to master and would say the adjustment is worthwhile. If I were teaching elementary school, I might not think the use of a computer interface in daily lessons would be helpful. However, I could still see using it for the fun interactive games, in class projector lessons, and the printable resources.
When it comes to older students, we all know that they prefer to incorporate technology into their school day. This is a great way to make learning fun while tracking progress, and reducing your own stress.
USATestprep is a winner in my book, with eight advantages and only 3 disadvantages. I would highly recommend it to any educator seeking a way to improve test scores and simplify their remediation process.