Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Testing Tale

I started this yesterday, and it got way too long for a blog post - and I wasn't even a third of the way through all I wanted to say. So I will say less, include a few pictures, and leave it at that.

Preparation:
Which number line is right?Getting ready for the WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) started two weeks before we took the test. I was especially concerned about how well prepared my kids would be in math, using a "spiraling" curriculum. Then there was this number line fiasco.

The Test:
TestingWell, in my third grade classroom, nobody cried, and nobody threw up. But I wish you could have seen the terror on the faces I looked out on as we finally got ready to start. It continues to disturb me greatly, the impact of this ridiculous testing on our young people. If this is not abuse.....

I was not allowed to look at the tests or their answers. I was not allowed to tell my kids if they were doing well. If I saw somebody accidentally turn two pages and skip a page, I was not allowed to tell them. Gotta tell ya, it was like going to Pluto to take a test.

The Art:
WASL DoodlesIf the kids finished early (95+% of them did every day), I told them they could draw, period. With a pencil only, and only on 8.5x11 newsprint. I didn't want them hurrying through the test so they could get out their special markers or whatever, and have a really great time if they got done fast.

Towards the end of the week, I started putting up their "doodles" on a poster in the hallway outside our classroom. Some very interesting artwork was produced.

The Writing:
In the third grade WASL, kids take reading for 2 days and math for 2 days. In another attempt to salvage something from the experience, I asked them to write about the WASL. I gave them a little time to write each day after the test, and then I asked them to post all their thoughts from the 4 days of testing to their blogs on Friday.

Their writings about the WASL are all compiled on one page here. It's a pretty long page, and a few of the kids are experimenting with html formatting in a wysiwyg editor on classblogmesiter, but you'll get the idea.

The Snacks:
And hey, I'm not the only teacher who pulls out snacks at testing time! Check Doug Noon's great piece on testing in his classroom. I think my kids had it all over some others, in terms of snack quality, but you'll have to read what they said.

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4 comments:

tspraul said...

My third graders finished their state test (MAP) about a week ago. It's funny (or maybe not) how classes across the country go through many of the same testing routines (i.e. prep, doodles, snacks).

Jeff Utecht said...

Ah...the WASL. Man how the year flies and I always remember marking the near end of school with the test. Love your WASL Doodle wall.

Good luck with the test.

Mr. Lauer said...

Hey Mark, In Oregon we have students take an online test that in most cases does not take more than 45 minutes. Our testing window is from October to the end of May. Students can actually take the exam up to three times. Results are immediately available to students and teachers. While not the best, I do think the way that Oregon does it allows you to provide feedback to students and also helps up see where students may need additional instruction. Don't understand why you can't let a student know about a procedural mistake like skipping page. It should be an assessment of subject matter knowledge, not test taking skills.

Mark Ahlness said...

Tim,
Oregon has it SO over Washington in the testing game. I am continually flabbergasted at the test we give - content, design, scoring, reliability, and on and on...

For the tech part of testing, we are at least 5 years behind where we should be. Online testing is a pipe dream right now in WA...

I end up thinking just give us the old ITBS or CAT - and let's move on - like get back to teaching, and not test-prepping.

Very out of fashion to say that these days, but at least those tests are normed and reliable.