Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer School Concerns

Wow-I just looked through the Benchmark Assessment that my students have to pass to pass their grade in Summer School! I can't help but be concerned about what I see as a disconnect. The students that I am teaching took at Pre-test and then have been taught 6 units in 6 weeks with a unit test after each unit taught. They then take a post-test - all of which is curriculum-based. The pre-and post-tests don't count toward their grade, but the six unit tests make up their summer school grade. They must pass summer school to be promoted. They must also pass a benchmark assessment. Passing both of those parts enables a child to be promoted.
Passing Summer School + Passing Grade Level Benchmark = Promotion

Concern #1
The pre-test could have been used for planning - could have been - however, we didn't receive the results from the pre-test until we were giving the post-test (!), so we never had the pre-test results during the time we taught the units. The pre-test information came as a single number -e.g., 68 - so we couldn't even use it to analyze which questions students had missed to know which types of questions, which units, should be emphasized while teaching. The pre-test information could have been helpful and useful if the results had not been received so late and in such an unusable form. The pre-test was actually in the teacher's manual, so had we known we were going to receive the information so late, we could have hand-scored the tests before sending them off to get what we needed for planning. Too little information, too late.

Each unit test was one story long with 12 questions at the end. Such a short assessment didn't really require reading/testing stamina. However, both the pre- and post-tests are two stories long, requiring a little more stamina. Stamina, especially with third graders who have failed reading, is a huge problem. They begin to loose focus, if they have not practiced reading intensely for longer lengths of time. They get tired, sleepy if they are forced to read for longer that they usually read.

Concern #3
I have taught students to underline and number their responses - requiring them to go back and prove their answers - which has been fine for the unit tests and the pre and post-tests, but when we get to the benchmark, the directions clearly state that students may not write in the test booklet! Ouch! How are they going to be able to prove their answers? Every time we practice and they don't go back and prove, they take the easy way out and just try to remember the answer - a proven road to failure. Would have been nice to know.

Concern #4
The benchmark assessment uses a scan sheet with the questions numbered and then choices A, B, C, D. however in the test booklet, the answer choices are alternately A, B, C, D, and then E,F, G, and H. While this might not cause confusion for an older, more experienced test taker, for 3rd graders who have already failed reading, this can cause a problem. They get easily confused and off the correct number. These students need every possible chance to succeed.

Concern #5
The unit tests that we have been giving throughout the summer are not timed. Many of these students suffer with fluency issues (they are slow readers) so this has been to their benefit. However, now, all of sudden, the benchmark assessment, that must be passed to move on to the next grade, is timed! For students that suffer with fluency issues - and that often relates to comprehension difficulty as students read so slowly that they are unable to remember what they've read at the end of the text - this can be disastrous!

It almost seems as if Summer School is an afterthought instead of a well thought-through remediation for students who are truly struggling. Administrators, who are so loosely connected to the students probably had to make quick decisions for large groups of students in different grades and situations. I'm sure their decisions had to be based on global needs. But these are the students who deserve our sincerest effort. They need curriculum individually designed for them. They have already proved that they can't function in a regular situation by failing. They need the most experienced, most thoughtful teachers who are truly experts in their fields. I wonder if the summer program would have been any different if it had been designed by the very teachers who are making the decisions on who is passing and who is failing and who needs to go to summer school - teachers who are in the trenches, who have relationships with children, who have cared so deeply for these students during the year, who have their own blood, sweat, and tears in every detail of each student's learning. If they had designed a summer school experience, would my concerns be the same? I wonder...

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

The frustrations you mention about summer school prevail year round in our Intermediate classrooms. We must unite to find answers-the kids deserve it.