A Reflection by our Executive Director Nakia McCall
“How do they expect me to get increased proficiency and mastery if I do not teach these test taking skills? You know – “Circle, Underline, Bubble, REPEAT”. That is the question many educators are secretly asking themselves at this point in the academic year. This is also the point where teachers begin to respond with things like, “Yes, I have seen the data.” or “Yes, I know what is expected of me and I do realize the sense of urgency.”
Immediately after spring break is when administrators, teachers, and students feel that big push to be ready for the end of grade assessments. Many administrators consistently use the words “increased sense of urgency.” The question is in what form does this urgency take? Will teachers completely shift to test taking strategies and abandon the core instructional practices or are they to create a “supermix” of it all and hope for the best?
It is my belief that now is the time to stake your claim on the non-negotiables of end of the year instruction; those things that we know are imperative to building lifelong learners, those things that will allow us to continue developing critical thinkers that strategically answer questions because they have been provided with the strategies and tools that they can activate to continue moving to a level of mastery. And don’t fear, we’ve got you covered with our 20 Strategies for Gathering Evidence and Making Student Learning Visible resource below.
3 Key Considerations to Ensure Student Learning
1. Analyze students work. Analyzing student work is an essential part of teaching. Teachers assign, collect, and examine student work all the time to assess student learning and to revise and improve teaching. Work samples are the fundamental text that teachers should use to understand the students work. By reviewing the work of your students you will be able to recognize misconceptions, support students in making self-corrections, and affirm your expectation that students will be able to fully understand their own thinking.
2. Don’t wait – act now! Create a reteach and enrichment model. The goal is for teachers to provide weekly instruction and assess students. Based on the assessment results, teachers will place students in either a reteach or enrich session for the following week. Seek the input of your administrator(s) to determine if you should create a model specific to your students or engage in a collaborative approach with your grade level colleagues.
Key Elements to making this work are
- common formative assessment that is aligned to the intentions of learning,
- collaboration that encourages teacher teamwork and reflection,
- and dedicated, uninterrupted time (at least 30 minutes, 3x a week).
3. Create a “jury ready” learning environment. Ask yourself, “What are the essentials required of my students to be successful with the content, based on the intentions of learning?” Got it in your mind? Okay, now close your eyes and imagine, for a moment, that you were accused of a serious crime that you did not commit, and you were on trial for your life. There is one twist, you will be given an opportunity to assemble your own jury but the members of the jury must be selected from your students. In order for students to cast their vote, they would have to pass Stage I, where they would be questioned about the instruction you have taught based on the same intentions of learning previously mentioned. If they are able to answer questions successfully, they would then be selected to serve in the authentic role of a juror in Stage II. Are you confident you would be acquitted of the crime based on the instruction as you have taught it? Certainly they would know how to memorize the information and perform on multiple choice and short answer tests. But would your student jurors be able to analyze both sides of an argument, distinguish between fact and opinion, and weigh the evidence presented? Would they understand the competing theories of justice and mercy? If not, what must you do to have them ready for such a challenge. In order to do so, you must use the information gathered from student samples, assessments, and small group reteach and intervention to prepare them.
Though the actual student jury does not exist, the end of grade assessments are coming. How will you prepare your students? Will your students be ready? Many teachers will ask whether we can afford to do these things with such a short time before end of the year assessments. But perhaps the real question is – Can we afford not to?