Archive for the ‘Quick Tips in Education’ Category

Keystone Testing “Hacks” for HS Students

Testing Tips

There is still a week left of Keystone testing. Despite strange myths that exist, cyber school students DO take standardized state assessments just like every other school. Many cyber schools use resource centers or rent facilities to administer the tests in the same window as other students in the state. This year, Keystones are administered between May 16 – 27. Looking for a way to beat the test? Check out these 7 testing hacks below!

Testing Hacks

1. Plan your naps! Napping the day before a test can throw off your sleep schedule that night, leaving you more tired than you were before. If you are really exhausted after testing, a quick power nap can be a great way to recharge!
2. Stuck on how to start a compelling composition or written piece? Start with your favorite quote, or lyrics from a popular song to help you tell your story or support your arguments.
3. Empty your head – Before the test take a 5 minute brain dump. Writing everything you possibly can on a piece of paper about your feelings towards the test can ease nerves and anxiety. If you are worried about forgetting formulas or keywords quickly jotting them down is a good way to jog your brain as a last minute reminder.
4. Snack smart. Packing a few small candies can give you a quick burst of energy if you feel yourself starting to lag during the test, but beware – stay away from chocolates that will melt in your pocket! PA Virtual students are given snack breaks; do not eat during the test!
5. Pack smart, too. You probably need more than snacks to make it through the long hours required to sit for Keystones. If you are unfamiliar with the testing site, bring an extra layer to keep warm, etcetera.
6. Work backwards. Before reading passages, jump ahead and read the questions being asked at the end. This will tell you what to look for while reading, and always read the passages more than once if time allows.
7. Know when to go. Cyber students come from all over the state to different testing sites, so you might have to spend some time in the car before actually sitting for the test. Once you arrive, ask your test proctor where the restroom is so you don’t discover you need it in the middle of question 14.

What are your best tips for successful testing? Let us know in the comments below!



The New SAT

Did you know about 72% of PA Virtual students continue their education in some way after graduation? Students preparing to enroll in college should take the PSAT/NMSQT, SAT or ACT before graduation. In 2016, some major changes were implemented to the SAT assessment. From here on out, here are a few things students should be prepared for when signing up to take the SAT:

Timing is Everything

  • Clocking in at 3 hours and 50 minutes (including the essay), the new SAT still takes up a good portion of your Saturday morning.
  • You can expect the Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing sections to each be broken into two parts, lasting anywhere from 35 minutes to 65 minutes.
  • Fall testing dates are set for October 1 and November 5, but interested students should sign up at least a month ahead of time. High schools all over the state offer the test on different days, so cyber students will be able to take the test somewhere close to home!

The Perfect Score

  • The number for “perfection” is back to 1600 – a number many of your parents are familiar with. 800 points is the maximum for Math and Evidence Based Reading & Writing.
  • Instead of a 2400 point scale, where 800 points were at stake for your essay, the essay portion will now be optional and not count towards your final score.

Writing Fun

  • Recent grads can tell you all about the mandatory essay – which is now gone! The new writing portion is drastically different from what your older peers may have experienced and is now completely optional.
  • The writing prompts for the new SAT are said to be similar to the prompts used in the AP English exam. Before, students were able to illustrate their writing abilities by expanding on a wide variety of topics, but now students will be asked to analyze passages about history or science and use your writing skills to explain how the passage builds a claim or argument.
  • While the essay itself is optional, certain colleges will require an essay score for an application. Find out which schools require or recommend the essay here!

So, why the changes? The SAT came under critique for allegedly using words and phrasing that “tricked” students in to choosing wrong answers, and purposely making the test more difficult than necessary. The new changes are said to better reflect the Common Core, which many high schools have adopted– just like the PA Core Standards we build our curriculum around.  Now that you know what to expect, if you are worried about taking the test, find a study buddy, enroll in an SAT test prep course, or take free practice tests online!


Avoid the “Groundhog Day” Winter Blues

With These Tips and Tricks!


The classic 90’s movie Groundhog Day follows a Pennsylvania reporter sent to cover Punxsutawney Phil and his Groundhog Day traditions – only to find out that he repeats the same day over and over again! During a time of year when students are sometimes promised six more weeks of winter, how can students break out of their own endless loop and avoid the winter blues?

  1. Get out of the house – One easy way to break cabin fever is to get out of the house! Cyber students have the flexibility to work from almost anywhere – take your laptop to your local library or coffee shop and put yourself in a different environment for a part of your day. Many cyber schools have resource centers strategically placed around the state where students can visit for extra help, school events or just to meet other students. If you live close enough to a PA Virtual resource center, take a visit!
  2. Shake up your daily routine – In a traditional school, students are tethered to their desks between bells and stick to the same schedule every day. If you are enrolled in asynchronous courses, you have the ability to try something new. Or, if you always tackle homework in the same order, switch up the subjects. If you are quiet in classes, do your best to interact more with your peers and your teachers.
  3. Give Back – Even though the holidays have passed, there are still tons of ways to give back to your local community. February is a very popular month for communities host local blood drives for the American Red Cross. If you are healthy and meet the appropriate requirements, you and your family can locate a blood drive near you.
  4. Break out a good book!– When stuck in the winter months, nothing can help you escape better than a great story. Selecting something you can enjoy outside of class is key, take a look at the 50 most anticipated books of 2016 – some of which are already out!

Feel free to share your thoughts, plans, and ideas here or on social media.

How Parent’s Resolutions Can Affect Kids

Positively Throughout the Year


At this time of the year parents everywhere are making the same resolutions for the New Year we’ve all heard before – eat better, lose weight etc. Some parents may be happy with how things have gone with their children this year, but others might be looking to make some changes. Take a moment to reflect – how have you handled tough situations this year? What could you have done better? Here are a few ways parents can go above and beyond making the “normal” resolutions this year family focused:

  1. Celebrating Family Milestones: Outside of birthdays and holidays, how much emphasis does your family put on celebrating the little things? During 2016 pick a few milestones your family can celebrate that reflect an important mark in your child’s education or personal growth. Depending on your children’s ages, anything from finishing a book to a college acceptance is a major milestone! Before you think you have to go and celebrate everything – keep it within reason. Set a goal for your children (receiving a certain score on a test) and plan the celebration (cooking their favorite meal) beforehand.
  2. Create “You” Time Once a Week: Parenting isn’t easy. Everyone needs a little detox time after the holidays, but creating time for you is important year round. Take as much or as little time as you like, but making sure it sticks is key. Whether you need a few minutes and a cappuccino alone, or a few hours to watch your favorite football team, makes sure your family knows what time is “mom time” or “dad time.” Unplug for a bit, and you will soon see the benefits of a regular recharge.
  3. Build Your Parent Network: We all want our kids to be socialized – but what about you? In your hometown or online, you can make a resolution to build your parent network this year! Being active in your community is just one way to create this new friend group. PA Virtual offers several online opportunities for parents to connect with other parents through the school. Our New Parent Orientation and Parent Learning Sessions bring together parents from all over the commonwealth. These can help introduce you to other parents and families who are just entering the world of online learning, or those who have been here for years.
  4. Cozi-Family-Organizer-AppEvaluate Organization: Feeling like you just couldn’t keep up with crazy schedules this fall? Planning is everything – creating a family calendar is a quick and easy way to let everyone know where everyone is. This can be handwritten in a traditional calendar, on a whiteboard, or use an app on your phone like Cozi! Who needs the car when, and who is responsible for driving little ones places can be seen at a glance.
  5. Bonus tip! Work meal planning into your family calendar. Meals bring families together – planning ahead so your family knows what nights they will be eating a home cooked meal, take out or leftovers can eliminate everyone’s least favorite question, “what’s for dinner?”

Resolve this year to show your children that family and love are your priorities.

Feel free to share your New Year’s resolutions and stories with us!


Last Minute Educational Gifts for Ages 13-18

  1. education- gift-giving-for-kidsWallet Ninja Multi-tool – This nifty gadget is a slim piece of steel that can easily fit into a wallet or pocket and is no bigger than a credit card. With 18 tools including a cell phone stand, this would make a perfect stocking stuffer for a teenager on the go.
  2. This summer fashion trend of flashy metallic tattoos has stayed strong this school year, thanks to teen celebrities like Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez continually showing them off. Gone are the days of temporary butterflies and peace signs – sheets of these fun shiny body art can be picked up almost anywhere.
  3. Another stocking stuffer idea if your student drives often is a gift card to a local gas station. Across PA Sheetz and Wawa let you purchase gift cards in store and online for almost any amount.
  4. Mini Bluetooth Speaker – These come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges, and allow students to connect their devices wirelessly. Inexpensive options can be found at places like Bed Bath & Beyond like this rainbow light speaker for under $20 – some options are even waterproof! Best Buy stocks the largest variety of high-quality speakers, from Beats by Dre to Bose, the leader in home sound systems, which can be found online here or in store.
  5. Remote control cars are a thing of the past – with the release of the latest trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (in theaters December 18) the latest tie-in toy is an app-controlled droid BB-8. It didn’t take long for Disney to partner with robot makers Sphero to bring the adorable round droid featured in the new film to life. BB-8 can explore your home, chase the family pet, and deliver holographic messages all controlled by an app on your phone. As you would expect, droids don’t come cheap and this can be found on most retails sites for around $150.

It is the season of giving, so the nice gift of all is to teach your children the importance of giving to those less fortunate.

Feel free to share your kid’s wishlist ideas and stories with us!