Thursday, May 18, 2017


I haven't said much about it this year.  Mostly, I'm just tired...from the year and of testing.  But there was one little story....

We--8th Grade--were first.  Work out the kinks with the most experienced group.  Some particulars aligned just right for a perfect storm this year.  For instance, new testing coordinator and new principal--who had been out until about 2 weeks before the tests started.

And, then, on the first day of SBAC (we still do Science in one day, under the old testing format--which isn't as "intense" as SBAC)'s the story.

In late March, staff met to discuss the SBAC schedule.  At that time, testing was to start on May 2 (with 8th Grade ELA), and run until June 1, with testing on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with Fridays for make-ups.  At that meeting, a staff member proposed a compressed schedule—testing over 3 weeks, five days a week. 

On April 13, we got an email with the new compressed schedule, with this line: Unless there are other concerns that haven’t been addressed, this will be our schedule moving forward.  That came as something of a surprise, and some staff raised concerns.  For instance, ELA testing had been shrunk down from 3 days to 2.  My 8th Grade ELA colleague and I expressed a desire to have 3 days for ELA.

On April 18, we got an email saying that the Classroom Activity portion (a half hour class room discussion before starting the test) of the Performance Task was dropped.  

The schedule published on the web site and handed out to staff retained 3 days for 8thGrade ELA, and my colleague and I both told our students that we would have 3 days. 

The ELA CAT (day one of the three--readings with questions) was fine (May 8).  On the morning of May 9 (day 1 of the 2-day PT, in which students create longer responses to readings, drawing on the multiple sources the test itself offers), I sent the following email to 8th grade Test Administrators:

The Performance Task portion of the ELA test involves some reading (and listening) with short answer questions, then the lengthier essay (which could be any type—narrative, explanatory or persuasive).  2 sections, in other words.   There is, I believe, a firewall between the two.  Once you go to the essay section, you can’t go back to the previous section.  But you can start in on the second section today, and that work will be there the next day.

So far (2 years), it has seemed that students get through the initial reading and short answer section today, easily.  Some students then charge right into the essay work and are done with both today—and they really shouldn’t be.    Other students come back tomorrow and do a most cursory review of the previous day’s work and then submit.  And some students use both days fully.

(My colleague) and I have always encouraged students to do the following:

·         Do the initial section work—today.
·         Do some sort of preparatory work before actually starting to write the essay.  (We’ve never mandated what, how much or how long, but we have always strongly encouraged students to take their time and to do some sort of prewriting.)  Personally, I’d think that some decently full draft of the essay today would be reasonable.  At least an outline.
·         Come back the next day and reread (with a critical eye) their work, so they can do real revision.  It’s not unreasonable to encourage them to not even start immediately on the third day.  Take plenty of time getting themselves back into it, if they prefer.
·         Take breaks—mentally—between rounds of revision, in order to get some “distance” from the writing and thereby enable revising to be as productive as possible.

About 10 minutes later, the new test coordinator told me that all work done on day 1 would be frozen for day 2.  That had not been the case before (but he later read the testing manual and found that he was 1 work would be accessible on day 2). 

About 7:55 AM, I asked the principal to confirm the expectations.  She said she would ask the district assessment coordinator about Segment 1 and Segment 2 guidelines and expectations, and send out an email.

We began logging into the test about 8:10.  Most students were taking their test by about 8:20.

At 8:45, we got this email (from Asst. to Testing Coordinator, for the Principal):

Students are NOT to move on when they finish PT Part 1, students are to pause the test and then shut down the computer.  I will check in with everyone at around 9:30ish to get counts of how many students are still testing.

At 8:56, we got this email (from Principal):

PT Part 1 is taking a lot less time than anticipated.

We are GOING ON to PT Part 2 today. That means all kids will need to keep testing and finish today.

9:03, (from Asst. to Testing Coordinator, for the Principal):

You cannot go back to and work on anything from Part 1
[T]hose that move on will need to finish everything.  Rewrites and all

9:04, (8th Grade Proctor):

I think the 7th grade has students go on to part 2 and then has students WRITE their graphic organizer and do their pre-write ON PAPER first.  Then, tomorrow they type part 2. 

9:05, (Another 8th Grade Proctor):

So no testing tomorrow?

9:06, (from Asst. to Testing Coordinator, for the Principal):

Not if we are all done.  They have to finish Part 2 today

And 9:07, (from Asst. to Testing Coordinator, for the Principal):

Those students that do not finish Part 2 today will move to the extended testing site and finish their test there.

10:32, (from Asst. to Testing Coordinator, for the Principal):

Here’s the plan… Send all students who do not finish to the Library Computer Lab @ 11 am, Counselors will begin a new test session there and the downstairs computer lab if needed.
Please don’t forget to walk the students’ cards to Counselors.

11:02 (Principal)

ALL kids on part 1 go to library now to cont and finish part 1
ALL on part 2 pause and will continue tomorrow.

Of course, by this point, some proctors had already sent their continuing testers on to the library. 

The key issue is that we told them they’d have 2 days…that was familiar (from the last 2 years), and they have some internal understanding of how that works.

And we changed it to one day—after the test has started. 
Even if they’ve only unconsciously “planned” (and they have at least unconsciously planned), that’s a tough readjustment to make, once the test is in motion. 

So, I don’t mind one day, but switching from two to one, after we’ve started was disruptive.

 Everything worked out...we're all fine.  I do wonder if there might be some marginal impact on a few students' scores.  Certainly was not the way a standardized test is supposed to be standardly (if you will) given.

I can only imagine how many times something unusual like this played out across the whole testing universe.

No comments: