Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Test Quest

Today I spent the day with a group of eight first and second grade teachers who were committed to writing first grade assessments that: 1) close the gap between first and second grade, 2) include the appropriate new standards, 3) guide instruction by deepening oral read aloud comprehension with questioning of higher complexity, and 4) are written with our high stakes test in mind. This is not the first time we have undertaken this work. The first time was probably six to eight years ago when we selected weekly reading passages and wrote questions. Then again a couple of years later we gathered sample leveled text and wrote questions to be used with our DRA assessments because our second grade colleagues felt that the oral retelling of the DRA did not reflect the comprehension that was required in weekly written assessment as students entered second grade. Then again two years ago we looked at the last assessments in first grade and the first assessments in second grade to make sure there was a smooth transition. Once again today we tackled the idea of doing an even better job. I imagine that a few more years down the road we will again take a look at assessments! After all, in a few years I expect our state to adopt the Common Core standards and I also expect the pendulum to swing more to the middle as we de-emphasize high stakes testing for a more comprehensive view of assessment. We must always take a look at how we assess our students so that we get the best information possible and in this time of test frenzy, we actually seem to have the opportunity to perfect our understanding of how a multiple choice test might inform our instruction, as limited as that might be.

What is the most amazing about the work that was done today was the depth of knowledge, background work that had been done before the meeting, and the level of collegial conversation. The day was led by first grade lead Maria Mallon, second grade lead Carrie McLeod, and Special Education Teacher Debbie Rossignol under the direction of our Standards Coach Suzanne Shall. The amount of work these ladies had done BEFORE our day together was amazing. It took them half the day to explain all the background work of looking at the first grade standards, identifying the standards that could be on our state assessment, and then taking each standard and looking at the benchmarks, test attributes, context limits, stem/excerpts, distractor attributes and samples of FCAT released items for each standard! Even with all the background organization, it still took my small group of three teachers three hours to complete a single test! However, the conversation and the learning that took place was well worth it and makes us all better teachers in the end! This kind of time and this level of conversation embedded in our day-to-day work is what great professional development is all about! How I wish this was the norm in all our schools!

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

I can't take any credit for the work that Debbie, Maria, and Carrie did. Led by Debbie, these ladies put so many hours over several days in for the planning and prep work, I was simply in awe. I feel priviledged to work in a building that embraces leadership at all levels and feel honored to learn from Debbie's expertise. Every time we conquer this task, I learn more than I thought possible. No one can write a Reading test like Debbie, but it's not like we won't die trying! :)