How timely is this? The cover story to Time for Kids magazine this week is all about the shifts coming around Common Core testing (either PARCC or Smarter Balance.) We have our own Massachusetts state reading assessments next week (with Math in May). So, testing is on our minds, as much as I would not like it to be. I’ve talked to my students about the changes in our state’s expectations (ie, Common Core) and the changes that are coming down the pike with testing. The TFK cover story, however, provided a solid overview of what they can expect to see happening in the next two to three years.
The article sparked some great discussions and also generated some pertinent questions, such as:
- Will students HAVE to use the computer or will they have a choice to use paper?
- What if a school doesn’t have enough technology? How will students take the test?
- How long will this test take to do?
- What if you don’t have good typing skills?
- How will the test be introduced? (ie, Will there be a practice year?)
- Could someone cheat by using the computer to find information online?
- For the tests that are “computer adaptive,” does that mean that students who answer incorrectly will have more questions to answer than those who answer correctly? (Computer adaptive tests move the student forward in different directions, depending on the previous answer).
- Why is there more writing?
- My mom/dad says this new test is coming because too many teachers are teaching to the (current test). Is that true?
I didn’t have the answers to all these queries, because so much of what is going to happen remains unclear and muddled.
As for that last question (which was asked by three different students in three different classrooms, by the way), I tried to explain that while that may be happening in some classrooms in some schools, and it may be a worthy complaint, I did not feel that we were doing that. However, I acknowledged that the kinds of teaching we are doing now, and the levels and kinds of expectations that we have for students now, has changed over the past three years (more evidence-based writing; more research activities; more non-fiction, argumentative, expository pieces) due to the shifts.
And then we started to talk about strategies for next week’s state reading test. So maybe the complaint about time spent teaching to the test is valid, after all. Sigh.
Peace (in the testing),