State Testing — Tips for Teachers II

Posted on May 9, 2012Filed Under testing, Tips | 2 Comments

My drain is unclogged, but Survivor AND Modern Family are new tonight, so we gotta work fast.

I realized, after I left Monday, that I might have been a little flippant about the  disutility of practicing for these tests. The kids do need SOME practice with these types of things, especially if they haven’t dealt with the multiple-choice (or closer to the middle school reality, multiple-guess) tests. This will be dealt with in the tips section, but I guess I was thinking of what our school used to do until just this year. Which was to mass-copy packets of questions (from previous years’ tests) from the Department of Ed website, and hand them out to everyone, so their kids could practice for the test. And at our school, we test the kids with their first period teacher, so here we have Mr. Grissom in shop class droning out the correct answers to the practice tests, and kids are already thinking they’re going to fail the real thing because they got so many wrong on the practice, which was lame anyway and maybe they thought they had a few more right, but Mr. Grissom can’t answer their questions about “that English stuff” or “that algebra stuff.”

So that’s what I was thinking of when I said that. Which brings me straight to my number one tip:

1. Teach the kids how to game the test. This is what I spend most of our short (6-8 questions) practice sessions on:  “Throw out the stupid and repetitive answers first, and narrow to two or three–50/50 is better that 20%. Look for questions that give you answers to other questions. NEVER change an answer unless you are POSITIVE you are changing it to the right answer. Never violate the previous rule. NEVER think that there is a pattern to the answers–all C’s or ABCDE or anything like that–it’s no better than random guessing, see the first rule. ALWAYS read the questions about the reading passage first. Remember: choose the best one of the choices–your MOST correct answer might not be there. Pick the correct answer as soon as you see it; do not read the rest and risk being tricked into a 50/50 when you knew the answer already. There’s always going to be an answer that is CLOSE. Always look for the qualifier, as in, ‘Which one is not a member of…?’ or “T/F: The boys always went to the…'”

And etc. They’re lucky the state doesn’t exercise the “none of the above” option, like I do. Waaaaay easier to game. However, there still really isn’t any way to game the spelling section. Luckily it’s short.

2. Teach them how to erase. This is from last year about this time.

We had a meeting yesterday morning–the first day back…after two weeks off…a meeting…in the morning…after two weeks off. Anyway, there was an item about our upcoming STAR testing, and our admins were talking about ways we could raise our scores, since we dropped about 20 points last year.

We talked about getting the kids to take the test more seriously, we talked about patrolling the aisles and making sure kids aren’t just bubbling shapes…but nobody talked about whether calling those kids on that would actually make them do any better.

There was talk of incentives. I’m not a fan. It was suggested that we offer extra time at break for a week as a “reward.” Ugh. That’ll help. Great, more supervision time for some poor souls.

One person brought up that many of the elementary schools hand out gum during testing week, claiming that it keeps them more focused and less fidgety. Uh huh. Like why don’t we just make it nicotine gum? Luckily our custodian nixed the idea of rescinding our no gum policy. (Dang how I hate to see them chawing away like cows or cowboys.)

Then the talk turned to making sure they know how bubble. And I’m all, “Wha? They don’t know how to fill in bubbles? They’ve been bubbling practically their whole lives!”

Then our vp busted a stat on us. He said that the word from the testing people was that up to 20% of wrong answers are attributable to… wait for it…

Bad erasing.

Yup. So how useful are the numbers we get from tests like this if we can raise scores by 20% just by teaching the kids how to erase better? I guess only in a country where there are actually people who think Donald Trump should be president would we consider these tests a true measure of education.

One of our math teachers made the point that if proper erasing was so important to raising our test scores, maybe we should invest in good erasers for all the kids.

Guess what we’re ordering in time for testing?

Guess #3 will have to wait until tomorrow.

Comments

2 Responses to “State Testing — Tips for Teachers II”

  1. Heather on May 14th, 2012 11:15 am

    For the spelling section of the California tests, do students have to provide the spelling from scratch or choose the best spelling from a list? Our spelling questions are multiple choice and there are usually only a few; I spend a little class time on spelling rules, make sure they know how Spanish letters are pronounced so they don’t choose “halapeenyo,” go over the most common Latin roots, and hope for the best.

  2. mrC on May 14th, 2012 8:19 pm

    Cali tests spelling like I do: pick the wrong one or say they’re all correct. Your approach is fine. I use spelling lists as a way to talk about roots and origins and use analogies. The actual spelling of the words is sort of secondary, and a small part of the grade.

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