Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Math Assessment Week

It's essentially assessment week with regards to math and our fifth grade students. Four out of five days this week students will take assessments. The assessments are not too challenging and students are mostly at ease with the paper/pencil and some online tests. When they finish, they get to read a book of choice, and thanks to the many teachers before me these students all enjoy reading.

To rush past or skip these assessments would result in a less targeted math program since these tests will give me a detailed look at individual students and the class in general. The tests will help me have a better idea of where to put the emphasis with regard to flexible grouping, whole class lessons, and learning design.

On a similar note, I'm anxious to see last year's PARCC results. I worked diligently to embed each standard into meaningful, relevant learning experiences. I tracked and coached my students all year with regard to the CCSS standards and learning routines. When I get the PARCC scores back, I'll note the following:
  • Did my top class performers perform well on the PARCC test? Why or why not?
  • How did my challenged students fair? Where did they test strong and where did they struggle?
  • How did the students do in general? What questions did they complete with ease, and what questions were more difficult? 
  • What CCSS standards did they perform well on, and which ones where more troubling?
  • How did my students do in comparison to other students in the system? If there were differences, where were those differences and what might be the reasons?
  • Do I agree with the PARCC scoring and answers for each item? Where any of the items questionable with regard to wording, answers given, or scoring?
It's difficult to target a program for good test scores this year as we don't know which test we're working towards. People may respond that I shouldn't be thinking about the tests, but teachers know that we are judged on those scores and our program freedom and ability to teach depends on getting good scores. When we don't get good scores, we reap repercussions in a large number of ways.

Right now, there hasn't been a decision whether our students will take MCAS or PARCC, two different tests with somewhat different preparation routes. We also haven't decided when students will take the tests which affects the curriculum map and special events too. We'll be judged on test scores that we can't aptly plan for as we don't know which test or when?

Overall, however, I'll use the results from system-wide assessments that we're giving now to inform future individual, small group, and whole class instruction. I'll focus all instruction on the CCSS which are good learning targets for fifth graders and are applicable to both PARCC and MCAS as the math year continues.

Note: Going forward I'm a fan of PARCC over MCAS for elementary school students as I like the fact that PARCC is on the computer and prompts deeper math learning. I hope a move to PARCC will mean a move towards putting a computer in every child's hands soon, a computer that's used in conjunction with a balanced, blended learning program with high quality educators. Yet I am also a fan of streamlined testing that only takes the time and money its worth--school should not be all about testing, but some testing is positive overall. Eventually I hope that all tests will follow a developmental progression so that students test at their just right step and are moved up accordingly rather than giving every child at the same grade, the same test. There's still lots of room for growth and change in this area of teaching/learning life in order to teach children well.