Thursday, March 28, 2019

Test Season: Good or Bad?

This is test season in school--a season when students are working to solidify a number of knowledge, concept, and skill points to prepare for upcoming tests.

I continue to have mixed feelings about this. On the positive side, I see the smiles on students' faces when they've put the time in to do well on a test. I also like the way that test performance alerts me to who is catching on and who needs more or different in specific ways. And, the tests serve as goal posts--something to work for. Before the tests, learning was sometimes lost amidst the many varied learning experiences. It was more difficult to see who was doing well and who need more or different, and without test scores, it was more difficult to advocate for program change and individual student support--having a number to represent a child's performance has helped.

On the other hand, the tests can be problematic too. First if the tests are too far from a child's ability level, then they become a constant drag on a child's learning confidence and potential. For example a fifth grader who is at a second grade level with regard to the learning expectations will be discouraged taking a fifth grade test. That's why I think the tests should be more progressive--you take a test you're ready for and move up accordingly. And too much time spent on dull test prep reduces the good time you can use on more worthy learning experiences.

The tests are here, however, and we make the most of them during a four-five-week period. We prepare by giving students the opportunity to work with classmates on practice tests that review problem type and the content learned. We review optimal test strategies such as the following:
  • read carefully, mark up the text
  • take your time
  • check your work
  • double do computations
  • complete all problems on paper, not just in your head (you can't check the work you do in your head.)
  • complete the problems you know well first, and then go back to the problems you're not sure of--there are often hints later in the test that can help you with problems that stump you.
Other ways we prepare for the tests is to show videos and films that review main concepts and provide students with a science slideshow template that they can complete with videos, images, and words to review all the science they've learned in grades 3-5.

And finally, we remind students that once this test seasons is over, we will enter the project base learning phase of the year--a time when almost every day is spent on engaging project based learning efforts.  Onward.