Five things parents should know about end-of-year testing — from/by Hilary Scharton, Vice President of K-12 Product Strategy for Canvas by Instructure; with thanks to Ann Noder, CEO/President Pitch Public Relations, for this resource


Every spring, schools across the nation give students millions of standardized tests. Students sit for hours, filling in answer bubbles with their number two pencils for an exam that may span days. They’re told the tests are “important”, they need to “do their best”, and that they have “one chance” to show what they’ve learned. For any child–much less one with test anxiety, ADHD, or learning disabilities–it can be a painful process.

Should we let our students take these tests? In 2015, over 650,000 students (1) nationwide opted out of standardized tests. In some parts of the country, up to 20% of students did not participate. What can a test tell us about how our kids are doing? Here are five things parents should know about end-of-year testing:

1. Tests don’t measure what we think they do
We expect tests to tell us how much students have learned. However, significant evidence shows tests aren’t great at figuring out what you know or what your potential is.

Consider the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). For many of us, it was a rite of passage that evaluated your entire school career and gave colleges a way to predict whether or not you’d be a successful student. However, the best prediction you can make from an SAT is how much money your parents earn.(2) Your score will go up 30 points for every $10,000 in your parents’ yearly income.

In addition, scoring well on the SAT has almost no correlation with success in college. The best predictor is high school grades.

2. Tests are designed to be efficient and compare groups
Most tests are designed to make efficient comparisons between groups, not tell us about individuals. Group comparisons are valuable because they give us data about curriculum efficacy and how to allocate funding.

However, if we want efficient group measures, there are limitations. These tests won’t cover every topic students learned and will need to be easy to give and grade.

That means test authors have to use questions like multiple guess choice and leave out questions that might get at more important skills like critical thinking or creativity. If you’re only doing multiple choice, you’re rewarding passive and superficial learning like memorizing facts or formulas. When the last time was your job let you pick the right answer from a list?

3. Test prep is often antithetical to learning
In states where testing is king, it often comes with an emphasis on “accountability.” The idea behind the accountability movement is that we, as taxpayers, should be able to ensure we’re getting the highest educational value for our tax dollar. If that’s our ultimate goal, it makes sense to set up rewards (and penalties) so teachers and districts get the best performance possible from their students.

In these states, we see more time devoted to teaching test-taking skills. Teachers and students learn which kinds of questions and topics are covered and dedicate class time to practice. That’s not intended to game the system, but to give students tips about how to be a good test taker. (Ever learn that if you don’t know the right answer, pick B? How often have you used that knowledge since you left school?)

The positive is that it usually works. Students score a little better on the state exam. However, research shows that states that focus on accountability perform much worse on nationwide and international tests than states that place less emphasis on accountability. It turns out the time your teacher spent in class talking about answer B and #2 pencils would have been better spent teaching you more academic content.

4. Different tests tell us about individual learning
So if our current tests aren’t telling us what we need to know about individual students, what can we do? In short, we need to do more testing, which sounds crazy. We need to make sure we’re doing different kinds of testing so we get good group data AND good individual data. We can best measure individual growth with authentic tests that are integrated into learning. Assessment is authentic when it asks students to apply their knowledge to real-world, meaningful problems.

Imagine you’re back in geometry class and need to learn about volume. Would you rather have your teacher tell you the formula and give you a worksheet to practice (how we’d learn if standardized test grades were the goal) or could you learn more if your teacher gave you a project to come up with a better juice box that minimized shipping costs and maximized profits?

Likely the latter would not only make you more interested in learning about volume (“When will I ever use this?”), but you’d also have the opportunity to work on other important skills. Project-oriented, goals-driven group learning is an engaging way to teach students how to apply what they’ve learned, while also giving them practice working cooperatively, being creative, and dealing with messy problems that might not have one “right” answer. It gives students opportunities to apply their knowledge and a glimpse into what adults do in the workplace.

Teachers do this kind of assessment almost reflexively, whether students are raising their hands to answer a question, working in small groups, or doing independent research. One of the difficulties with this kind of assessment, however, is that the rich experiential data in classrooms is often lost. Fortunately, schools more often have access to technology that will help teachers do assessment, quickly see results, and then make important decisions about what students know.

5. How can I make sure my child is doing well?
Be involved. Districts are great at letting parents know when and how students will participate in standardized tests, but the only way to know about what’s happening in the classroom is to talk with your child’s teacher.

Teachers are experts–they know how important assessment is and how to do it well. Don’t be afraid to ask how your child will be graded on what they learn, what success looks like, or how much time will be spent preparing for standardized tests.

If you live in a state that emphasizes accountability, let your local representatives know that you care about more than test scores. Ask for teacher and school ratings to connect to other metrics like college acceptance, AP completion/pass rates, or student engagement. We, as parents, know what’s best for our individual children and must feel empowered to ask for it.

1. http://www.fairtest.org/more-500000-refused-tests-2015
2. http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/2013/TotalGroup-2013.pdf

 


Hilary Scharton loves education and has worked in it, in some form or another, for her entire career. She currently serves as the Vice President of K-12 Product Strategy for Canvas by Instructure, the open online learning management system (LMS) that makes teaching and learning easier. In her role, she sets the strategic vision for how Canvas makes its products even more awesome for students and teachers across the globe, while focusing on leveraging technology to support improved instruction and equitable access for all students.


 

 

 

 

Are you telling stories in the classroom? — from teaching.berkeley.edu by Melanie Green

Excerpts:

Stories can make a subject accessible and even interesting… [Storytelling] can provide value, turn something abstract or obscure into something concrete.

Stories:

  • make a subject relatable and accessible to students
  • can pique interest, or demonstrate relevance, in a subject that students usually dislike, or worse, find mind-numbing
  • build meaning-making (there’s that word again), helping students to recall the information later
  • forge, or repave, paths to material that students already thought they knew, making way for new perspectives, connections, and experiences to develop through someone else’s story
  • make a subject approachable

 

From DSC:
The Master Teacher also used stories (parables) to teach people:

 

 

 

If our Creator/Designer did so, I think we should take a serious look at doing so as well.

 

 

 

 

From DSC:
I’m very grateful for the teachers that I’ve had in my life as well as for the teachers that our children have had throughout their lives! (This goes for the coaches and pastors that have been in our lives as well!) Many of those teachers really went the extra mile — making personal sacrifices while they contributed the additional time and efforts that it took to get the job done.

Teaching and learning is messy and very tough work.  For example, it’s very difficult — if not impossible — to simultaneously provide personalized/customized learning to 25-30+ students (and to do so every day)!

  • Not every student has the same prior knowledge.
  • Not every student has the same capabilities; some students have additional/special needs to help them learn.
  • Not every student learns at the same pace.
  • Not every student has the same goals.
  • Not every student has the same interests and/or passions.

The job can be very stressful, for a variety of reasons — one of which is that teachers have to deal with all kinds of agendas that are simultaneously coming at them.

So thank you to all the teachers out there who are making significant contributions to others’ lives.

Thank you for your service to others!

#TeacherAppreciationWeek2018

 

Educause Releases 2018 Horizon Report Preview — from campustechnology.com by Rhea Kelly

Excerpt:

After acquiring the rights to the New Media Consortium’s Horizon project earlier this year, Educause has now published a preview of the 2018 Higher Education Edition of the Horizon Report — research that was in progress at the time of NMC’s sudden dissolution. The report covers the key technology trends, challenges and developments expected to impact higher ed in the short-, mid- and long-term future.

 

Also see:

 

 

 

Research roundup: 4 new reports on what’s working for blended-learning practitioners — from christenseninstitute.org by Luis Flores

Excerpt:

At the start of the year, we published a blog post on interesting research from 2017 related to innovative approaches to school design. Even though we aren’t even half-way through 2018, there are already several insightful reports on blended and personalized learning from this year that are worth highlighting.

These reports examined various tools and approaches to implement blended and personalized learning models, as well as the potential impact these models could have on students and teachers. From examining how schools implemented their models sustainably to recommending methods to best support teachers, these are informative reports for anyone interested in implementing blended and personalized learning models in their schools.

1. Digital math tool produces gains in student achievement
2. Personalized learning can be implemented sustainably
3. PD-rich blended-learning plans increase chances of success
4. Ensure that teachers create, and design strategies for, their goals

 

 

 

 

More than 9 in 10 elementary school teachers feel highly stressed, MU study finds — from munews.missouri.edu by Keith Herman, with thanks to Cailin Riley for the resource
Research shows high stress classroom environments yield poor student performance and behavior

Excerpt:

“It’s troubling that only 7 percent of teachers experience low stress and feel they are getting the support they need to adequately cope with the stressors of their job,” Herman said. “Even more concerning is that these patterns of teacher stress are related to students’ success in school, both academically and behaviorally. For example, classrooms with highly stressed teachers have more instances of disruptive behaviors and lower levels of prosocial behaviors.”

 

“We as a society need to consider methods that create nurturing school environments not just for students, but for the adults who work there,” Herman said. “This could mean finding ways for administrators, peers and parents to have positive interactions with teachers, giving teachers the time and training to perform their jobs, and creating social networks of support so that teachers do not feel isolated.”

 

 

Also see:

Empirically Derived Profiles of Teacher Stress, Burnout, Self-Efficacy, and Coping and Associated Student Outcomes
Keith C. Herman, PhD, Jal’et Hickmon-Rosa, BA, Wendy M. Reinke, PhD
First Published October 6, 2017 Research Article
Download PDFPDF download for Empirically Derived Profiles of Teacher Stress, Burnout, Self-Efficacy, and Coping and Associated Student Outcomes Article information
Article has an altmetric score of 28 Full Access

Abstract
Understanding how teacher stress, burnout, coping, and self-efficacy are interrelated can inform preventive and intervention efforts to support teachers. In this study, we explored these constructs to determine their relation to student outcomes, including disruptive behaviors and academic achievement. Participants in this study were 121 teachers and 1,817 students in grades kindergarten to fourth from nine elementary schools in an urban Midwestern school district. Latent profile analysis was used to determine patterns of teacher adjustment in relation to stress, coping, efficacy, and burnout. These profiles were then linked to student behavioral and academic outcomes. Four profiles of teacher adjustment were identified. Three classes were characterized by high levels of stress and were distinguished by variations in coping and burnout ranging from (a) high coping/low burnout (60%) to (b) moderate coping and burnout (30%), to (c) low coping/high burnout (3%). The fourth class was distinguished by low stress, high coping, and low burnout. Only 7% of the sample fell into this Well-Adjusted class. Teachers in the high stress, high burnout, and low coping class were associated with the poorest student outcomes. Implications for supporting teachers to maximize student outcomes are discussed.

 

 

From DSC:
I vote that we change the color that we grade papers — whether on paper (harcopy) or whether via digitally/electronically-based annotations — from red to green. Why? Because here’s how I see the colors:

  • RED:
    • Failure. 
    • You got it wrong. Bad job.
    • Danger
    • Stop!
    • Can be internalized as, “I’m no good at (writing, math, social studies, science, etc…..) and I’ll never be any good at it (i.e., the fixed mindset; I was born this way and I can’t change things).
  • GREEN:
    • Growth
      • As in spring, flowers appearing, new leaves on the trees, new life
      • As in support of a growth mindset
      • It helps with more positive thoughts/internalized messages: I may have got it wrong, but I can use this as a teaching moment; this feedback helps me grow…it helps me identify my knowledge and/or skills gaps
    • Health
    • Go (not stop); i.e., keep going, keep learning
    • May help develop more of a love of learning (or at least have more positive experiences with learning, vs feeling threatened or personally put down)

 

 

 

The problem with hurrying childhood learning — from edweek.org by Justin Minkel

Excerpts:

When he lectured in the United States, Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget would invariably get what he called “the American question” from a member of the audience. After he had explained various developmental phases that young children go through in their understanding of concepts like length and volume, someone would raise their hand and ask, “How can we accelerate a child’s progress through the stages?”

Baffled, Piaget would explain that there is absolutely no advantage to speeding up a child’s progression. The point of knowing the stages is to be aware of what stage a child is in, so that we can create the conditions and offer the guidance to help her move to the next one. It’s not a race.

One of the most insidious results of the testing madness afflicting education has been an emphasis on speeding toward a particular outcome—a reading level, a cut score—without taking the time to ask what is sacrificed in that rush.

We need, of course, to pay attention to academic growth. It’s one thing for a child to be below grade-level or to be on a trajectory toward catching up over the next couple of years. It’s a fundamentally different situation when a child is virtually flat-lining in his progress, or is making such slow growth that if he continues at that rate, he won’t become a proficient reader in time to acquire the content and confidence he’ll need to thrive in school.

But I see too many kids who are hurried and harried toward the level they’re “supposed” to be on by the end of a given grading period, with too little attention given to the path they’re walking to get there. I see children begin to define themselves by test scores, grades, and how quickly they’re leapfrogging from one level to the next.

Here are two ways that teachers, parents, and administrators can take a deep breath and see past the timetables set by adults to the particular journeys of the children themselves.

But here’s the critical point about their progress: that growth is a positive side effect, not the end goal, of the block of time we call the “Wild Reading Rumpus.” The true purpose of that reading time is for my students to come to love reading, so that they will lead richer lives—not just in the future, when they go on to college or a career, but in the present.

 

When we celebrated their perseverance and hard work, I had children stand and be applauded not according to how high their score was, but according to how much growth they had made.

 

 

From DSC:
I just thought this was an excellent essay.

Too often K-12 education in the United States is like a run-away train. When the train’s leaving the station, you better hop on board. It waits for no one. Its speed is set. You better keep up. Good luck to those who don’t. “Best wishes!” our system cries out.

 

 

 

From DSC:
As important as being able to effectively communicate with others is, I think we could do a better job throughout the entire learning continuum of proving more coaching in this regard. We should provide far more courses, and/or e-learning based modules, and/or examples where someone is being coached on how best to communicate in a variety of situations. 

Some examples/scenarios along the continuum (i.e, pre-K-12, higher ed and/or vocational work, and the workplace) might include:

  • For children communicating with each other
    • How to ask if someone wants to play (and how best to find an activity everyone wants to do; or how to handle getting a no each time)
    • How to handle a situation where one’s friend is really angry about something or is being extra quiet about something
    • How to listen
  • For children communicating with adults (and vice versa)
    • How to show respect
    • How to listen
    • Not being shy but feeling free to say what’s on their mind with a known/respected adult
  • For highschoolers
    • Wondering how best to interview for that new job
    • For communicating with parents
    • How to handle issues surrounding diversity and showing respect for differences
    • How to listen
  • For college students
    • Wondering how best to interview for that new job
    • Encouraging them to use their professors’ office hours — and to practice communication-related skills therein as well
    • For communicating with parents, and vice versa
    • How to listen
  • For those entering the workplace
    • How to communicate with co-workers
    • For dealing with customers who are irate about something that happened (or didn’t happen) to them
    • How to listen
  • For managers and their communications with their employees
    • How to encourage
    • How to handle disciplinary issues or change behaviors
    • How to listen
  • For leaders and their communications with their departments, staffs, companies, organizations
    • How to inspire, guide, lead
    • How to listen

I intentionally inserted the word listen many times in the above scenarios, as I don’t think we do enough about — or even think about — actively developing that skill.

The manner in which we deliver and engage learners here could vary:

  • One possible way would be to use interactive videos that pause at critical points within conversations and ask the listeners how they would respond at these points in the scenarios. They might have 2-3 choices per decision point. When the video continues, based upon which selection they went with, the learner could see how things panned out when they pursued that route.
  • Or perhaps we could host some seminars or workshops with students on how to use web-based collaboration tools (videoconferencing and/or audio only based meetings) and/or social media related tools.
  • Or perhaps such training could occur in more face-to-face environments with 2 or more learners reading a scene-setting script, then pausing at critical points in the conversation for students to discuss the best possible responses
  • ….and I’m sure there are other methods that could be employed as well.

But for all the talk of the importance of communications, are we doing enough to provide effective examples/coaching here?

 


Some thoughts on this topic from scripture


James 1:19-20 (NIV)
Listening and Doing
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

 

Proverbs 21:23 (NIV)
23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

 

Proverbs 18:20-21 (NIV)
20 From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. 21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

 

Proverbs 12:18-19 (NIV)
18 The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. 19 Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

 


 

 

 

50 animation tools and resources for digital learners — from teachthought.com by Lisa Chesser, opencolleges.edu.au

Excerpt:

Some of the animation links cataloged here will give educators very basic tools and histories of animation while others have the animation already created and set in motion, it’s just a matter of sharing it with students. Educators need to decide which tool is best for them. If you want to create your own animation from scratch, then you want to go to sites such as Animwork. If you want to select from an animation that’s already set up, for you then perhaps Explainia makes more sense. One of the easiest ways to animate, however, isn’t with your own camera and modeling clay, it’s with your links to sites that hand you everything within their own forums. Use the first part of this list for creating original animation or using animation tools to create lessons. Use the second part to select animated lessons that are already completed and set to share.

 

 

 

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