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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Math/Science Strategy: Getting Ready for "Game Day"

I've been talking about upcoming standardized math tests as "Game Day." I've been trying to teach math in a meaningful way while helping students master all the standards too. I'm working closely with colleagues as we integrate specialist services and Response to Intervention (RTI) in this regard as well. Now it's time to tighten up the strategy and move forward.

I say to students, "I don't want the teaching/learning to be all about the tests, but I do want to give you the chance to do well on the tests and learn in meaningful ways too." They understand, and I know their parents understand too. In general, parents want their children to succeed on these tests as well as to have a meaningful, engaging school experience every day.

So, what's the game plan?

Teach All Standards

Prepping for the System-Wide Assessment
We've reviewed almost all the standards so far, so in the next few weeks prior to our February vacation we'll review every standard in a systematic way. During this time we'll start each math class with a quick practice of computation skill too since it takes practice to retain the skill of calculating large numbers with accuracy, good pacing, and attention to order of operations. Then during the two days before the test, we'll play a big math review game that reviews all concepts. After that we'll take the three-day in-house standardized test, a multiple choice test.

PARCC Performance Assessment
After that we'll prep for the first PARCC test, a performance assessment test. We have about 20 math days to prep for that test. During that time we'll focus heavily on problem solving and performance tasks that integrate all of the standards. We'll continue to practice calculation daily. We'll also review PARCC practice tests, tutorials, and tools during this time. Then at the start of April, we'll take the first PARCC,

Science MCAS Prep/PARCC Summative
During April, the lion's share of math/science time will be devoted to rich science activities and science writing as we prepare for the Massachusetts' science test. We'll also continue our regular review of the math standards so we're prepared for the PARCC Summative. I hope to integrate math concepts into the science study and investigation as much as possible.

Biography Project
Finally at the end of the year the focus will turn towards the fifth grade biography project, a signature grade level event and the fifth grade play. That time of year is filled with field trips and special events too.

To reach these goals, I'll have to focus on the following actions:
  • Enlist students' investment with lots of coaching, feedback, inclusive learning design and meaningful, engaging project work.
  • Focus on the goal with time and attention (don't let other activities get in the way).
  • Engaging home study practice.
  • The "just right push and coaching" as too much of a push turns students off.
While controversy about the tests continue, at this time I'll continue the goal of meeting test standards and teaching well. It's a mighty goal, but I'll stay the course for the next few months. Then reflect when the scores role in.

Note: Last year I had a similar goal. We made good gains overall as students mainly made good progress and they remained engaged in the learning.