Friday, May 20, 2005

Testing the Testing Waters

Today our students enjoyed the wonderful Pacific Northwest weather while we teachers attended meetings. Now, I am not a huge fan of meetings--I have trouble paying attention, sitting still, and keeping my quips to myself. This knowledge about myself makes me slightly more understanding when my students get antsy. But today's meetings actually had value, at least for me.
Relatively new to the profession, my professional goals include improving not only what I do in my classroom but also what we do as a school community. We broke off into teams, by grade and subject, to form a charter, an overarching objective for our grade level. As Washington state's focus in on the WASL, our schools main focus was the 9th and 10th grade year. I teach 12th grade English and 9th grade Reading. I wasn't sure what I could add to the 9th grade English teachers discussion which was where I was placed.
It occurred to me that what we lack is consistency. From one classroom to another, from one year to the next, there doesn't seem to be any consistency in expectations. So, against my natural inclination, I offered the idea of entrance and exit exams for 9th grade English. The test, and I cringe to say it because I am not a fan of high stakes testing, would be a way to gauge what they know at the start, relative to what we want them to know at the end, and then test them again at the end of the year to see if they had learned what we expected. Both tests would be on the same level so that we could determine actual growth. The end of the year, or exit test, would not necessarily hold them back, but be used as a tool for the 10th grade teachers. I think it is necessary to develop something along this line in order to begin a consistentcy among our expectations as a department and as a school.
Now, we must begin the process of developing benchmarks, both for reading and writing. Here's where I'll admit a major weakness. I am not good at details or finishing grand ideas. In fact, I don't know how to write a solid test of that nature, nor do I fully understand exactly what we want every 9th grader to know how to do.
I want this to be something that our particular site is in charge of, our district likes to be involved heavily with each site, so that the benchmarks and approach would fit our school's needs and personality. We shall see who is skilled with such curriculum development. For those who read this, if you are especially skilled, please, offer insight.


At 6:34 AM , Blogger Nancy A. McKeand said...

I think you hit the real probelm when you said "nor do I fully understand exactly what we want every 9th grader to know how to do."

Before worrying about a test, I would think that there should be some sort of agreement on what students in 9th grade Reading should be learning. If you don't have that, it is no wonder that there is no consistency! But surely you have a written curriculum somewhere. It might have the answers you are looking for without subjecting the students to a test.

Just a thought...

At 6:53 PM , Blogger The Science Goddess said...

Why not make it easy on yourself? OSPI already has classroom-based assessments available for Reading. They are already established for each grade level and EALR. Just download and go.

At 8:33 PM , Blogger Boston Dreamer said...

Like you, I am not a fan of high stakes testing, but I think the idea of testing students at the start of the year to see where they are and at the end of the year to see how far they travelled is how all 'exit' testing should be done. Kudos. :)


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