Monday, December 8, 2008

Vertical Articultion of Assessment 2008

Today a select group of teachers met together for vertical articulation around assessment. This group of teachers was selected because they have experience in multiple grades within the K-1-2 framework. The teachers began with an overview of how first graders begin comprehension FCAT-style testing in January of each year and how they build new testing strategies each month. Second grade teachers then discussed their first nine weeks of assessment and explained some of the challenges they see as children move from the end of first grade to the beginning of second grade. As the teachers discussed the "gap" between first and second grade and with give and take on both sides, the teachers identified areas that needed to be reworked at both the end of first and beginning of second grade. Next the group broke into smaller work clusters to refine the identified assessments. This is difficult and tedious work but it provides common assessments so that teachers can bring work to the table and have conversation around the results. Are students learning what we are teaching? When a teacher sees that another teacher's students are having greater success on certain test items, it leads to discussions on instruction which is indeed one of the reasons that we give assessments.

In first grade, students will return from the holidays to begin learning about test strategies. They will receive a grade level passage for homework on Monday that they will be asked to read to an adult every night at home. The purpose in this is to practice for fluency but also not to penalize students that cannot easily read the text. At this point we are not testing the child's ability to read at grade level as much as we are teaching them specific test strategies. We want them to be able to read the text so that we can assess if they actually understand the test strategy we are teaching. In January we will be teaching first graders:
  • How to bubble in by filling in the entire bubble.
  • Reading all the answer choices before you bubble in.
  • How to show your proof by underlining or highlighting the answer in the text.
On Friday of each week, the child will bring back the grade level story they have been reading at home and will get 10 multiple choice questions about the story to complete in class. In January the teacher actually reads the questions and the answer choices to the class but as the year goes on children will be expected to read the questions and answer choices independently. New strategies will be added each month along with new types of questions (question stems). A second story will added to each assessment in April with only the first story being practiced at home. The idea is to teach and prepare students to take that first lengthier assessment when they enter second grade and ultimately to feel confident when taking the FCAT for the first time in third grade. It's not ALL about testing but we do want to lay out a test-taking genre that is naturally embedded into our daily work. Today we laid done the stones of that foundation in a sequential, organized way!

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