While I believe that we need to prepare our students for the test, this does not mean the “unit” consisting of kill and drill sample assessment exercises, day after day for the three weeks preceding the assessment. It means preparing our students, throughout the course of the year, for what to expect in terms of content and skill on the day of the assessment. It means continually assessing their progress towards proficiency of what the assessment is measuring through interim and formative assessments. And it means informing students of that progress along the way. Whether that assessment is “high” or “low” stakes, standardized or not.
My colleague Jennifer Borgioli hit the nail on the head when she refers to this as “test prep: right not rote.” She has an amazing video series on the topic and she has also started a list of the traits which she has allowed us to share:
I completely agree with this sentiment. My students are prepared because of the instruction and feedback about their assessments that they have received throughout this year. Will all of my students have 3’s and 4’s on the upcoming test? Probably not. So with that said, how can I consider them prepared? My students have the skills necessary to be successful when taking a test because we started practicing for any test on September 5, 2013, our first day of school. The instruction that students have received has been challenging to their schemas and has helped to develop totally new ways of understanding text and working with the skills essential in learning that will make them college and career ready, which is what “the test” will be assessing. We are having a “Rock the Test” assembly next Friday, we have testing plans in place, and we are ready to blow this exam out of the water! (even if we do not get mostly 3’s and 4’s).
Lisa Sabella, 5th grade ELA teacher Ripley Central School
I will echo the sentiments of my colleague, Lisa that the test prep in our district begins on the first day of school and it is NOT in the form of test preparation books. We very simply teach the standards and ensure our student receive rigorous CCLS aligned instruction. With that said, we do allocate a few days before the test to prepare our students, faculty and staff for the test. Once our testing schedule is created, we organize a “dress rehearsal” of the testing day for both Math and ELA. On dress rehearsal day students run through the testing schedule as if it is the day of the test. Sample tests are created and students take these tests in the testing environment. After the students take the sample test each teacher or accommodation provider discusses the experience with the students. During this discussion children identify what went well, what was difficult for them and students identify strategies they used during while taking the real test. This is followed by a whole class discussion where the students share strategies with each other. Finally, each student creates a testing plan in which they choose strategies they will employ during the test and write them out. When planning the dress rehearsal, we ensure the practice test is rigorous and longer than the students can finish in the time allotted. This allows us to have important discussions with our students about what strategies they used when they did not understand a question and how they felt if and when they ran out of time . Additionally, students receiving accommodations learn who they will be testing with and have the opportunity to meet with that person ahead of time. The dress rehearsal is an important part of setting the stage for the test, demystifying it for the students and working out any bugs in a low stress situation.
Lauren Ormsby, Superintendent/Principal, Ripley Central School
We have been doing test prep all year. We have been teaching the common core standards all year. My teachers have embraced the common core and are teaching all if the ELA modules and even the math modules which is not a requirement. But they see the benefits of teaching the common core through the modules. I had a fifth grade teacher tell me last year that the assessments last year were the "fairest" assessments she has ever given. "I taught the standards and that is what was assessed." That teacher received a highly effective rating from the state growth number. The modules and standards are rigorous and preparing our students to demonstrate what they have learned. If you asked one of our students when the assessments are, they probably couldn't tell you. But they are ready. They are going to show what they know!
Kimberlee Texter, Principal, Dunkirk School #4
Theresa Gray is Coordinator, Integrated Education Services (IES) for Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES and is grateful for the colleagues who shared their voices for this posting.