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Monday, April 04, 2016

Test Season Reflections

Test Season essentially begins in earnest today with some direct prep. There isn't the luxury of time for deep project work right now as there's a need to review multiple points prior to the impacts of test season.

Some might argue that children learn more with deep, collaborative project work, and I agree that project/problem work is a rich, engaging, and motivating way to learn, however, with nine days of testing (8 standardized tests and one system-wide test) in the weeks ahead, it's time to shore up the following skills in the next three weeks of school:
  • Review of test taking strategies
  • Review of test taking tools
  • Review of the online platform
  • Review of standards we've yet to solidify (we're close, but have some work to do this week with that)
I've thought about the  many ways that we can do this, and I think the most targeted, efficient use of our time is direct, traditional review. We used that approach for a test a month ago and that worked.

Test season also means that we have to rethink that schedule for eight of the nine days of testing. The schedule is impacted in the following ways:
  • Typical teacher support is unavailable since most special needs teachers are assigned to support test taking in grades 3-5 throughout the test period.
  • Computers and school teaching/learning spaces are impacted too since many classes will be using the computers for the tests and the school spaces will be used for small groups.
  • Student energy and will change after spending a couple of hours each morning in a more structured, quiet test-taking mode than our typical interactive learning structures.
  • Our weekly assemblies are limited during this time since students will be taking tests.
Today I'll meet with colleagues to discuss how we're going to use the time after the tests. I imagine that we'll complement the tests by working on our upcoming biography project, spending some time catching up with online math practice sites, working on our social competency/open circle work, and recess, of course.

This year the tests are only taking place during one season rather than two, yet we have two other periods of testing with systemwide tests as well. 

I still think nine days of testing is too much. I'd prefer one math test, one ELA test, and one science test--three days of two-hour tests rather than 8 days of standardized tests. Our systemwide test could perhaps become a practice test for the standardized test instead which would be helpful. 

Perhaps our change to new testing once again next year will reflect a reduction in the number of days used for testing--that would be nice.