Tuesday, May 08, 2007

They Test Me, So I Test Them

Last week we had the first round of our NWEA testing, covering reading. There’s 17 kids that I’ve had since the beginning of the year; of them, 12 tested above the 50th %ile, with the other five being in the 49th, 48th, 45th, 36th, and 5th.

Charitably, that means that 70% of my kids met the grade level standard. The part that’s annoying me is the 5 that are below. Both of my special ed kids, for example, fell below. One made great gains, one barely budged. The other three kids who were below the 50 percent line have all made growth, one of them incredible growth, but I still didn’t get them there.

Then there’s the nagging question of just what the test means. The primary version of the NWEA is still in “beta” mode, so to speak, so the percentile rankings they have established are based off of a very small sample. That throws an element of uncertainty into the testing process that I wish wasn’t there; I like to be able to think of their scores as good, not good with an asterisk.

What the NWEA has all over the WASL is the timeliness aspect; I get NWEA results back that same day, where the WASL scores (for 4th grade, at least) won't be available until the kid is in 5th grade. The end result is that it's not a test of the child, it's a test of the program, and program change is the hardest thing to do in education.

In math my kids did OK. Of the 17 kids who have been here all year long 13 of them met the grade level standard, with three of the misses being in the 40-50 percentile range. If I add in the kids who came during the year I have 18 of 22 at grade level, a not-to-shabby 82%. If I decline responsibility for my special ed kids that goes up to 90%, but they’re mine and I’m keeping them, so there.

Overall, I can see a lot of room for improvement in what I do. This year our Title program was in a shambles for most of the year; next year I need to get the small group support to the kids who need it sooner. I’ve found some neat at-home activities on-line that I think could make a real difference; next year I should push the parent contact angle more and see if I can get better growth from the kids I identify early on as needing more help.

Next up is the DRA Reading Assessment, and then the silly season really begins.

How are your kids doing?

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Blogger Tim Fahlberg said...

You might also want to take a look at using ExamView and the ExamView Learning Series.

Using these together would enable you to assess your students as often as you like from grade levels 3-10 for math and reading using Washington-State GLE-aligned questions and aggregate data by standard for each student over time. See www.fscreations.com.

This set of screencasts will show you a little of what's possible: http://tinyurl.com/2m3jrf (It redirects to Screencast.com)

It would cost your school less than 2 cents per school day per student to do this (about $3.50 per year). I'd also want to get your students creating mathcasts (math movies) which would share their thinking and reasoning outloud about mathematics (see http://math247.jot.com/WikiHome/Library/Mathcasts%20By%20Students) to experience mathcasts by students. I helped 2 sets of teachers get $10,000 Qwest/OSPI grants which will get their students creating lots of mathcasts.

Tim Fahlberg
Mathcast Pioneer

6:12 AM  
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6:55 AM  

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