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Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Two-Day Tests and the Ideal Math Program

Many of our unit tests take students up to two hours to complete. That means the tests take two one-hour blocks of time. That's quite a bit of time given that we have 180 school days. Specifically we have the following assessments:
  • 10 unit tests (taking up to 2 periods over 20 days)
  • 6 systemwide assessment days
  • 3 Benchmark assessment days
  • common assessment day (this will likely take students up to 2 days)
  • 2 MCAS days
That's a total of 33 test days throughout the year or about 18% of the year. Which means there's about 15 days for each unit of teaching. Those 15 days are interrupted as well by school shows, special events, field studies, and other events which I believe are similarly important so it's more likely that we have about 12 days or 12 hours for each unit. Is 12 hours enough to learn multiple standards in a unit--for some yes, and others no, it depends.

Some children take advantage of further learning options by completing homework, practicing with online sites, attending tutoring programs, and seeking extra help. That also supports students' learning.

Is 33 days of testing too much? Is about 12 hours for teaching each unit enough? Are we using our time well with regard to teaching students math well? Is math taking up the right amount of the teaching/learning pie given that the pie is filled with reading, writing, social studies, science, STEAM, music, art, instrumental, technology, library, assembly, and special events?

As I think of this, I'd personally like to lessen the amount of tests and replace the lengthy assessments with more short, targeted performance assessments--the kinds that students complete multiple times with edits until they reach mastery. I know that our middle school is using a model like this. Yet, I do think there's room for some tests. I plan to think more on this on my own and with colleagues in the days ahead. I'll also review student data, both attitudinal and academic, as I think on the subject as we want to ensure that students have a strong math foundation both in skill, concept, and knowledge as well as positive mindset and work habits. 

Teachers all over the country are seeking that just right algorithm of time-on-task, student attention, pedagogy, repetition, assessment, and learning materials to help students learn well with strength and positivity. There's not a one-size-all answer and what we can do is continue to share our best efforts in this regard to help each other teach as well as we can. Onward.