Picture this scenario…
As you sit in your hard school chair, you can hear your heart pounding against your chest, and your hands are sweating from the nerves that are racing from the anxiety your teacher’s heels are creating on the floor as she passes out yesterday’s assessment. She calls your name at the same moment she lays the test face down onto your desk. With a nervous heart, you place your trembling hands on the test. You peek through your fingers to notice the long list of questions you missed. Your heart sinks deep into your stomach as you swallow hard. This is not good. You tried so hard, and still was not successful!?!?
Unfortunately, this is the moment most students believe defines them. This is the moment that most students stop trying and allow this one test to claim them for the rest of the year.
As teachers, it is our job to use these short cycle assessments, benchmark assessments and district tests in a different way- The Right Way, the meaningful way. Here are Six steps to make these tests about what students and TEACHERS did right and how we can fix what went wrong without allowing these tests to define them.
- Notice what questions you/students answered correctly. I heard a teacher just today announce, “Celebrate what questions you answered right because that is just as important as what we did not answer correctly.”
2. Use the assessment to collect data on many different areas BUT most importantly
Vocabulary – This is one of the highest areas of struggle for students in all content areas, in all grade levels, and in all backgrounds.
Question Stems – This is where most students struggle. The test questions are different than the objective, and the tests are asking the students the same kind of question multiple different ways.
3. Allow students to measure their own effort and their strategy use. Ask them how much effort they put forth on this test. Without a growth mindset and the belief that staying focused and attentive during a test, students will not be successful. This is a very difficult thing for teachers to teach. Teachers need the buy in from our students on the importance of effort, there is very little we can do about the actual data. Ask them what strategies they used on the test. Have them show you evidence of those strategies. Allow them to express what strategies you have taught that helped them, and what strategies need to be practiced or implemented to support their success.
4. Notice the trends with your class, rotations, campus, and district. What questions did most students struggle with, what questions did most students do well on, and what objectives did we improve on? The school I am currently working on uses a lot of consensograms to collect this type of data. The visual allows students to be reflective and goal oriented. If rotations differ, figure out why? If teachers’ data is different, ask why? In this reflection, teachers can find opportunities to grow from each other and learn new ideas.
5. Set goals and change classroom instruction based on this assessment. If teachers don’t use the data to drive instruction forward, there is absolutely no point in taking the assessment. Our (RX) prescriptions for change give students so much control in the classroom. This collaborative opportunity allows each student to express his/her concerns and ideas to the teacher. When a teacher actually listens and makes the tweaks during this reflection/prescriptions, the students are more apt to be engaged in the learning process. Give students the chance to sit with you, one on one, to discuss the data. During this conference set goals with the students; specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, timed goals. SMART goals.
6. Learn from your mistakes BUT celebrate the successes!!!! If it is always about what went wrong, the test will define the student. If the teacher can see the light and express her/his pride for the student effort, mindset or successes, the test will be just a piece of the learning process. Next assessment, set a goal and find some kind of incentive (extra recess, a pie in the face, a game of knock out, dance party etc…) to intrigue all your students to do their best, to show what they know.
Help students understand that this is a jumping off point. This assessment is being used to collect data and information on what we (teachers) need to be providing for them to be able to be independent learners. Students can be helped all day with differentiations in place to help them be successful. But what do students need to be successful on a test that measures all students on the same objectives? What strategies can we implement to help students become good test takers? Until we can find another way to hold everyone accountable, tests are the reality, and they are not going away any time soon. Let’s make the best of it, and make tests work in our advantage.