26 Apr

Test Prep

In the past, I’ve never really gotten behind the whole “test prep” movement.  There are a couple reasons for this.  My old principal used to announce with the morning announcements on the intercom that she wanted 70% of kids to pass the state assessment.  This assessment for two reasons: 1) 70% was more than double what we had done the previous year (no judgements).  2) As one of my fifth graders observed one morning, “Shouldn’t she want 100% of students to pass?”  Basically, she communicated to students that she had given up on them.  And because few of our students had ever seen themselves as particularly successful, many of them put themselves into that 30% that wouldn’t pass, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Obviously, it’s important to be realistic, and 100%, especially for the school, was hardly realistic.  At the same time, I absolutely believe in every one of my students, and even if they don’t pass (and I’ve got a handful of kids that I’m just hoping for growth, not even proficiency), it’s important that they learn as much as they possibly can to be prepared for the next grade.

But test prep this year has me all jazzed up.  I think it’s because my principal has been very specific with his goal and has been specific since the beginning of the year.  It’s realistic, ambitious (a marked improvement from last year), and so close I can taste it.  Seriously, I’m two kids away in both reading and math, based on our latest benchmark data.

So test prep we’re doing.  Math, I feel pretty ok about.  Here’s what’s going on:

1) I’ve split kids into groups based on domains they scored lowest in.  Some kids are in multiple groups because they need help with multiple domains.  Then, I’m giving each of those groups a pre-assessment so I can figure out exactly where the problems are.

2)  The frequency I’m meeting with the groups is dependent on the percentage of the test those domains make up.  If it’s 5-10% of the test, I’m going to meet with you, but maybe not as much as the group that’s struggling with concepts that make up 30-35% of the test.

3)  Other kids will be doing a combination of math practices, including targeted computer practice, vocabulary puzzles (odd one out, crossword puzzles, etc.), scavenger hunts (because somehow doing problems posted around the room is more fun than doing them at your desk), and obviously, Jane’s Game (a post on this later this week).

Reading, I’m struggling with but going back to the data has helped me a lot.  Let’s take a peek:

1) I’ve split kids into groups based on different strands (Literature Texts, Informational Texts, Language).  I focused on kids who were doing well in the other domains, but struggling with one or two.  These kids can obviously read and understand the words quite well, but are struggling with something about a particular format.  An easy fix, if you ask me.  And then, as space allowed, I tried to add in kids who we not proficient across the board.

2)  Because I only have three categoriesI have two groups of Informational Texts, but only one of each of the others.  This is because Informational Texts is 40-41% of the test.  And also, because I have quite a few kids struggling with this.  I split the groups based on discrepancy in scores.  If you scored very high in the other domains, you’re in one group.

3)  Kids not in groups will be doing a combination of reading practices, just like in math.  Vocabulary practice, practice reading passages with questions, independent reading with summaries, computer games, and writing.

We’ll be checking in weekly, to monitor our progress.  I’ll keep you posted.

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