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Sorry, No Test Prep Today: Project 180, Day 127



https://blog.newsela.com/2017/03/13/jay-mctighe-beware-of-the-test-prep-trap/

Another week. Another decision. To prep or not to prep? With now only nine days of class until the test, I can’t put it off much longer. Time will run out. One would think, then, that such urgency would compel me to get to the test practice (interim assessments). One would think. But it doesn’t. I am going to watch another week go by. No test prep today. Don’t have time. We are in the middle of learning, and I just can’t set it aside. And my gut tells me that’s okay. But I have also found other voices out there that tell me the same.

This morning  I came across an article by education giant Jay McTighe, whose perspective seems to lend credence to my instincts (see link and embedded table). But even with his gut-affirming words, I find myself still shadowed in doubt about such a decision. Always under the microscope as one who teaches at the “testing” grade level, the magnification has intensified this year with Project 180. Will the kids pass the test? And while I agree that we should not  “rely on once-a-year test score reports as the primary metric to determine how well students are learning or what improvements are needed,” it will be a measure that draws attention to my approach. Even more, it is a high-stakes event for my kids, and I want them to do their best–for themselves. All the kids will pass the test eventually; there are many “safeguards” in place to ensure this, but I want them to be done in one. I don’t want them to experience this stress event more than once. And it is such concern that gives rise to my doubt. But its presence does not diminish or jeopardize my core principles about learning, so I stall, resisting the urge to set aside the important for the immediate. No test prep this week.

Looking ahead, and only because Jay gives his “okay,” I will “give students opportunities to become familiar with the test formats (selected- and brief-constructed response; timed writing).” The week after break I will present the format to the kids, so they know before they go. I think I owe them that much.  Still, if I am honest, I feel like I am selling out a bit, compromising my principles, but sometimes we gotta do what we gotta do.

DO

DON’T

• Teach to the standards that are being tested.

• Ignore those elements of the standards that are not assessed (e.g., listening, speaking, research, extended writing, genuine problem solving).

• Give students opportunities to become familiar with the test formats (selected- and brief-constructed response; timed writing).

• Use the standardized test formats exclusively. Students need to experience a variety of assessment types, including performance tasks, extended writing, open-ended problem solving, and discussion/debate.

• Engage students in deep and meaningful learning by using engaging instructional strategies, primary sources and authentic tasks.

• Engage in excessive “test prep” by only practicing de-contextualized items that mimic the test format.

• Teach for understanding and transfer by engaging students in “higher order” thinking.

• Dwell on drill and practice (rote learning) focused on factual recall.

• Regularly use formative assessments to give students specific feedback on the important performances called for by the standards.

Use assessments solely for the purpose of giving grades. (Grades are not feedback, and are unlikely to improve performance.)

• Regularly review student work on authentic tasks in Professional Learning Communities and plan instructional and curricular improvements based on more genuine and informative performance data.

• Rely on a once-a-year test score reports as the primary metric to determine how well students are learning or what improvements are needed.

Happy Tuesday, all. For any who care, this morning with the first view of the blog, we will pass the 28,000 views mark since I began the blog. Thank you for your support.



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