Our elementary schools had an interim district level assessment in November. There was a lot of groaning and complaining about this assessment because we have 19 elementary schools, at least 3 resources that are being used at different sites, and grade levels are in many different topics even at the site level. The assessments we had ready to give covered approximately 45-55% of the topics that had been covered in classes in grades K-3 and the teachers were very upset about giving a test to their students that had topics they hadn’t covered. There was no way to write a test that would work for all schools, so we decided that due to our lack of math data on our students over the last year, we had to do something. We decided to have grades 1-3 give the previous level EOY assessments, Kinder gave an interim assessment from the most popular resource currently being used, and grades 4-5 would give the available assessments as they covered at least 75% of topics covered by the sites. This was quite an ordeal to make happen, and many teachers were not happy with the outcome. Quite a few felt these assessments were ridiculous, and couldn’t possibly give us any valid information. Furthermore, why would we give an assessment the kids had already taken the previous year? What could we possibly learn, we’re just giving tests for the sake of giving them to get data.
I have to admit, I was a little worn down through this. These discussions encompassed approximately one month, I spent quite a bit of time researching order of topics that had been taught across our sites, which resources were being used, and studying standards being taught against standards being tested for all of the ready assessments and in search of how to create more reasonable assessments. I felt like a broken record discussing the importance of having some data on our students so we had an idea of what they did and didn’t know, and that any data would be valid and important for informing our instruction. Many conversations required me to be patient and understanding in hearing the teacher’s concerns and validating those concerns.
I spent quite a bit of time going over the results of these assessments the first part of December, and was quite pleased with the information we attained from them. We learned that approximately 20% of our grade 1-3 students were not proficient on the previous year’s standards. We learned that our kindergarten students are doing very well and even scored well on topics that hadn’t been yet covered. We learned that our grade 4-5 students are doing well on topics that have been covered and not so well on topics that hadn’t been covered. This was consistent across the district, and at sites there were some slight differences, enough for me to encourage discussions between grade level PLC’s about teaching methods and sharing learning.
Today I was at one of our elementary sites for a scheduled PD day for the teachers. The on-site academic specialist and I worked together to guide teachers into evaluation and discussion of these assessment results. It started a little slow, we were hearing things like, “we know what to do with numbers, but these numbers aren’t even worth discussing. The information isn’t valid to what we are currently teaching,” and a few other old arguments. I started with a comment about how the CCSS are vertically aligned through the grades, and that this information could be quite informative about how we should be planning our instruction and possible re-teaching. There were a few rolled eyes, but we were able to get them comparing district level and site level results and start looking for patterns. I had a discussion with one grade level group that went something like this:
T: We notice that our students did well on these topics even though we haven’t taught them yet.
Me: What could that mean for planning and teaching of those topics?
T: We may not have to spend as much time on them, but it would allow some of the students who didn’t do well to be able to spend some time on them.
Me: Is there anything else that could be done with those topics?
T: We could work on some higher level skills in those topics since most of the kids are already proficient.
AH HA! Success. We actually did manage to get some useful information out of these tests. Across the room discussions took off. Teachers were talking about what their kids knew, seemed to be struggling with, how to plan for re-teaching, extension work, and sharing teaching ideas on topics.
I love teacher collaboration, even with invalid data. 😀