Method Test Prep Spotlight seeks to highlight MTP clients, friends, and acquaintances who are doing amazing things in education. For each installment of the Spotlight, we will select a dedicated individual or organization to profile, and will then interview the awardee to share their story. Through the Spotlight, we hope to develop a bank of successful experiences and practices for other schools and educators to learn from.
This month's Method Test Prep Spotlight Award goes to Britt Freitag, Assistant Dean of College Counseling at Blair Academy, a coed boarding and day school in Blairstown, NJ. Since 2014, Ms. Freitag has been tasked with guiding Blair Academy’s extraordinarily busy students. She takes this opportunity seriously, striving to provide resources that are accessible, beneficial, and affordable for students of all stripes.
One year after Freitag's arrival at Blair Academy, she and her colleagues in the College Counseling Office became concerned that the school’s test prep solution was not working for everyone. "It was important to provide programs that students who were at the school on financial aid could afford, and [that] wouldn’t disrupt the little scheduled free time that they had to enjoy." The counselors sought a reasonably priced test prep solution that their office could subsidize for lower-income families. Furthermore, they had to consider the realities of their students’ schedules and the relative impracticality of visiting tutors. "The students have very little free time throughout the week, so the only workable option for tutors to come to the school was on Sundays, which is [the students’] only day to sleep in…and [tutoring] was very expensive.” That Blair Academy is situated in a remote area of New Jersey only added to the challenge: the small number of tutors who were available at the time concentrated only on the SAT. Freitag and her colleagues, however, wanted to make sure her students could prepare for the ACT as well. As they researched different programs, they noted the flexibility of Method Test Prep's self-paced program and recognized that its 15-minute modules made for ideal daily tasks that could be realistically incorporated into her students' rigorous schedules. Once Method Test Prep was adopted, Ms. Freitag became Blair Academy's MTP point person, helping ensure swift and efficient adoption of the program among the students.
Though Blair Academy does not incorporate ACT/SAT-specific prep into its academic curricula, students can manage 15 minutes of test prep per day on their own. While the students’ parents occasionally express skepticism toward the relatively brief prep intervals, Ms. Freitag uses an analogy to make sense of the format: it's better to go to the gym 15 to 20 minutes every day than it is to go one day for 4 hours. "An assignment can replace one check-in on Instagram, and that's not asking too much—kids are capable of that.”
In addition to the online self-paced ACT and SAT course, Ms. Freitag and Blair Academy have used Method Test Prep's practice exam scoring service to provide diagnostic ACT and SAT tests for their students. The diagnostics allow the students to experience realistic exam conditions without the pressure of having the results end up on their official records. Freitag shares that this piece of their test prep approach reassures parents, who appreciate receiving so much insight into their children’s needs without the risk of initial scores negatively impacting their college admissions outcomes. One of Ms. Freitag’s early changes was to administer these diagnostic exams in the spring of sophomore year. Once the results are in, MTP runs a webinar for parents, explaining how to use the scores and report data to formulate a logical prep plan. Subsequently, sophomores create their Method Test Prep accounts. The combination of early testing and proactive MTP account creation motivates students to use their test results to start prepping over the summer before junior year. Indeed, Ms. Freitag has observed spikes in MTP's self-paced online program usage from June to August. ”The diagnostic is really key so the kids can make good use of their time working on things they know will improve their scores.” (Click the link below to download a sample of the report that every student receives when using our exam scoring service.)
Blair Academy has adopted a simple test prep philosophy: the school will provide the tools and guidance, but the students are responsible for doing the work. Freitag says the College Counseling office works hard not to overemphasize testing—the staff take a holistic approach and are careful not to push kids in unreasonable ways. “The biggest challenge is getting kids to start, but we try to overcome that by getting everyone together in the auditorium and doing the initial walkthrough of the online program as a group. It's proven to be a very effective approach, and the student user guide is a great resource as well."
More About Britt Freitag
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: I like being the adult who shows up for kids, something I didn't get in my own high school experience. Also learning all the modern day slang, like what "G.O.A.T." means ("Greatest of All Time") or "I have some major tea to tell you" (tea = truth).
Q: Is there a part of your job that you find particularly rewarding?
A: Being the mediator between kids and parents, then witnessing a positive shift in the family dynamic. It all comes out in the college-going process. I also take pride in stopping my female students from apologizing for speaking, saying "sorry" all the time for expressing their opinions.
Q: What are the biggest challenges in your position?
A: Especially being at a boarding school, parents want evidence of what we're doing with their kids. So I either have time to put together the evidence or doing the work with the kids. Balancing the work with the need for external communications can be very difficult.
Q: Do you have any hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I'm really into "Tablescaping" (this was something new to us!) and interior design. I hang with my husband and our Greyhounds, cooking and watching a lot of British murder mysteries.
Thanks again to Ms. Freitag for being a shining example of great things happening in education!
If you would like to nominate an individual or organization working with MTP to be considered for a Spotlight Award, please send an email to email@example.com with the subject line Spotlight. Please also share this story with people in education as well as with parents and other interested parties!
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