Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Test Day #1 Prep

Students have 13 standardized tests left beginning today and ending in mid-May. There are three systemwide tests this month, and 10 scheduled for May (test month!).

Two out of my three math classes will begin the tests today, and one class will begin tomorrow since we didn't finish the prep yesterday, and will do that today.

What does the prep look like? Essentially for homework students are completing a computation review and in class we reviewed measurement models and lots of vocabulary. Later in the week we'll review computation, take another test, then review problem solving, and take the final test.

Before the test starts, I'll tell students that every test has its own best strategy. For this systemwide test, the following strategies work well:
  • Take your time, this is not a timed test.
  • Read with your pencil, underlining key words.
  • Study the pictures or models and eliminate those that don't fit by marking with an x, and then circle the one that does fit.
  • Bubble the correct answer carefully, then "finger check" your bubbles by actually touching the number and the bubble to make sure you're bubbling the right answer. Young children sometimes make mistakes with the bubbles.
Our system has been employing this test for a long time. It gives a broad brush view of a child's math knowledge and typically mostly matches classroom observations and performance. Some of the questions and language are not a direct match for the new standards which required some prep outside of the standards, and not everyone holds on to that knowledge since we don't teach it with depth like we do with the current standards.

When students finish and check their work, they'll close their booklets and then silently read at their desks until the end of the period. We have a bit of extra time scheduled at the end of the day for any students who need more time to finish today's section. 

While they test I'll observe how they tackle the test and answer procedural questions. 

In part, I'm also assessed via students' tests in this case. Leaders look at the growth from the fall to the winter. What's challenging about this is that there's little room for growth at the top so if you scored high in September, there's little chance to grow much more, hence I'm not sure if the test is a good one for growth determination. Also since some of the questions are not related to the curriculum and not a focus of deep teaching, I wonder if it's fair to rate educators on this test. I've mentioned these points, and I know some at all levels are thinking about this. Typically, though, most students "grow" with the determined average range so there's little need to worry.