Formative, summative, internal, external, diagnostic, high-stakes….ugh! Ugh! Ugh!
Tired of that testing talk? I am!
Your trusty literacy consultant…tired of assessment talk? I mean it’s like J.Lo being tired of lip gloss and young boyfriends! (Ok, I debated putting that in because it’s SO corny…but I did…and I probably lost 1000 readers right there. Moving on…!)
I was asked a question by no less than 5 teaching teams in the past 3 weeks: Do our kids have to take the WHOLE ENTIRE unit/theme test…it’s 43 pages long?!?!?!!????
That’s a really good question, but I think my answer might take us in a different direction than you might think.
When I asked the follow-up question: is your problem with the test one of students getting fatigued or teachers getting fatigued? Several stopped…and laughed. Kind of like the “you caught me” kind of laugh. So, which is it?
I’ve developed a few questions and some ideas around what you need to be asking yourself as you plan your testing schedule for next year:
What portions of the test relate directly to the standards I am responsible for teaching? In other words, are there portions of the test that are truly inconsequential or are highly unrelated to the core content that week? Then, you might want to consider taking that sub-test out. For that week. Let’s avoid broad or blanket deletion of sub-tests!
What sub-tests assess skills my students are a bit shaky on? These are EXACTLY the tests that you want to give students! You want to know what they don’t know, not just what they do know, especially if you’re going to actually USE the data to help your instruction the next day or week.
What sub-tests assess foundational literacy skills that are critical to maintain? I find that students often know a skill…for a time. Then they forget it. Why? We sometimes forget to continue monitoring it, because we assume “they had it and they always will”. Um, SO not true! (Even for your most accomplished learners!)
So, I encourage you and your team to look at the sub-tests that assess the must-know and must-have-mastered skills and administer those sub-tests to keep a good handle on those skills that need to remain maintained.
Am I freaking out over the length of the test or the skill expectations of the test? Sometimes the test seems so daunting…to the teacher. I hear folks say, “Oh my gosh, Jason just cried during the test, it was so long!” First of all, Jason cried during the test. The whole class didn’t cry during the test. And, are we sure that Jason doesn’t have other things going on in life that may be overwhelming him and the long test was just the tip of the iceberg?
If the test IS too long, then CHUNK IT UP. Give pieces of it casually at the end of the reading block for 3-4 days! I find that teachers are sometimes resistant to doing that and I can’t figure out why!
If you have a big unit/theme test that kids have been working toward for 4-6 weeks worth of instruction, then chunking the test shouldn’t get in the way of further teaching. I mean, is that last bit of instruction going to make ALL the difference in the world after you’ve been teaching it for 4-6 weeks already? Let’s get real – they should know it and if they do, they do. And if they don’t, then your assessment will show that.
How can I facilitate the taking of the test so that it doesn’t interrupt my teaching unnecessarily? Like I said, if the test is long, chunk it. If the test is hard, give the kids a pep-talk and remind them “you know this”. If the test is a challenge, GOOD! (A tough test assures that those who ace it really know the material – and isn’t that what we really want to know anyway?)
What I want you to avoid? Blaming the test for results that you’re not thrilled with.
Here’s the deal: teachers with kids who perform well aren’t complaining or fretting about the length of the test. Why? They’re too busy teaching.
KIDS WHO KNOW THE MATERIAL AND HAVE TRUE MASTERY IN SKILLS DON’T LOSE THEIR MINDS AND FORGET EVERYTHING ON A TEST.
EVEN IF IT’S LONG.
EVEN IF IT’S HARD.
EVEN IF THEY’RE HAVING A BAD DAY AND THEIR PARENTS ARE GETTING DIVORCED AND THEY RIPPED A HOLE IN THEIR PANTS AND THEY LOST THREE FRIENDS ON THE PLAYGROUND.
When you know a skill, you know a skill. Period.
And with that, I’m stepping off of my high horse. Come “follow” me for some chat (and an occasional high horsing around) on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheJillJackson