13 April 2012

Testing Time

Since this is all I'm really thinking about right now, I decided to join in on the High Stakes Testing Link-Up at Empowering Little Learners.  So here it goes...

I teach in Gwinnett County, Georgia (a suburb of Atlanta).  My school system is the largest school system in the state serving nearly 161,000 students.  During the school year, we give two different kinds of tests. 

In my system, we give the Benchmark assessments at the end of every quarter.  They are four percent of a student’s final quarter grade, and the data from these help to drive instruction. 

The other test we give is the state’s Criterion-Reference Competency Test.  This test is given in April, and it is really the HIGH STAKES TEST since it determines AYP.   There are five sections to the C.R.C.T.: Reading, English/Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies.   It is an extremely fair test!

I teach fourth grade, an extremely high stakes year in my school system.  Fourth grade is called a Gateway year.  This means that students must pass all five sections of the test for promotion.  If they do not pass one section, this means coming back summer school and retaking the test at the end of that session.  If students do not pass during the summer, they are considered a transition student which means they are placed in a fifth grade class with a fourth grade label.

The C.R.C.T. is given over five days.  Each subject of the test is given in two sections with a ten minute break in between.  Each section takes a minimum of 45 minutes and maximum of an hour and ten minutes.  Scores come back in one of three categories: does not meet, meets, and exceeds.  At my school, we strive for not just having students meet but exceed standards.

At this point in time, the tests count more for the reputation of the teacher than anything else.  The state of Georgia is revising the teacher evaluation system, which has not been presented to us yet, so who know what the future may hold!

To prepare my students for the test, obviously, I teach the curriculum!  Beyond that, stating a month before the test, I expose them to standardized test-like questions.  We go over test vocabulary.  We study tests as a reading genre and are able to identify the types of questions that will be asked.  I teach strategies for test-taking and give test-talk upon test-talk upon test talk.

My biggest tip is build students confidence.  Discuss questions and strategies for answering test questions.  I repeat and emphasize good testing strategies over and over.  I have told my students that I want my voice in their head when they are taking that testing with reminders about smart test-taking!


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