Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Test Assess: The Role of Experience and Other Factors

As I further reviewed a host of end-of-year scores, observations, and efforts from last year, I wondered about the role that experience plays in education.

For example, last year as I employed an open-ended Marble Maze STEAM exploration, I noticed that a few students didn't know where to begin. Even though there had been an introduction, it was clear that these students had not spent a lot of time playing with the kinds of materials this activity offered. They struggled with language, the ability to play and explore, and an open attitude to trying something new.

As I assessed the scores, I found that these same students struggled with the language and concepts related to science study while peers, who I believe had greater experience with science tools, resources, and experiences, did well on the tests.

How do we make up for a lack of experience with regard to play, reading, and study in any curriculum area? First, I wonder if there should be "experience years" that are added to children's school tenure. For example, perhaps a child entering kindergarten receives a play/experience evaluation, and if the evaluation shows that the child has had little experience with play and knowledge/concept experiences, then the child is placed in an "experiential pre-K" program where he/she has a year of rich play and exploration with terrific guidance, resources, and experiences. Perhaps this occurs again after second grade and another evaluation so that children have an experiential year prior to third grade. By extending a child's learning program and including greater, rich experiences, we might have the chance to help students make-up for the experiential gaps that impede their academic growth and success.

The score assessments demonstrated other interesting areas of need and success. For example, and not surprising, some dual-language students struggled and some did not--what made that difference? Children who struggled with math problem solving seemed to also struggle with the science/tech test questions. Students who had difficulty with vocabulary and reading, struggled. Yet, students who typically achieved in the average range on standardized tests, but had high interest in science, did well on these tests. Strong, overall academic students did well, but students who tend to struggle with the traditional program, didn't do as well.

One area that led me to wonder was the children who do exceptionally well on hands-on, STEAM activities, but struggle with language/paper-pencil tasks. Where do we make space for these students to learn in ways that build confidence and success in our still, mostly language based, academic environments in schools? How do we bridge this gap?

I continue to be a fan of data that makes me think about the overall program and service to children. I look forward to listening to my colleagues and leaders who will also analyze the data, and hearing what points they'll pull from the information. How will we use this data to better develop our programs and efforts with regard to engaging, empowering education for all children?  We know that early analysis of student data helps educators to begin the year with new information, ideas, and initiatives to serve students well. I look forward to the analysis, program discussion, and new efforts in the days to come.