December Imperatives for Teachers – Preparing for the Calibrating Period

During the Opening of School and the Formative Period of the Learner Year, teachers focused on preparing students with the minimum competencies needed for success and on building student potential as learner. In the next period – the Calibrating Period – the focus is on building proficient performers (i.e., students who can use their learnings independently on tests and in real-world situations). For calibration to be successful, students must come to school, exercise optimum behaviors, and own basic learning skills. Students lacking any of these will not get maximum gains during the Calibrating Period.

The Ed Directions coaches encourage their schools to do an interim student status profile to determine which students are proficient in all areas and which students have an area or areas of weakness. These interim data studies can be formal or informal and can involve extensive artifact analysis or rest on teacher anecdotal data. The study can involve looking at deficiencies related to collective or whole class conditions (e.g., teacher did not cover important bodies of tested material) or at individual student deficiencies (e.g., attendance problems or inability to take notes). The important thing is that we end December with an idea of student priority needs and a plan for addressing those needs. There are number of tools in the Ed Directions coaches’ toolkit that can be used in December. Some of those tools are included below.

1.     Have the “power contents” been covered and mastered? It’s important to know if the most tested contents scheduled for the first semester have been covered. This doesn’t just involve looking at lesson plans to see if content clusters have been named. Every standards-based test includes a prioritized list of tested areas and clues to how those areas are tested. An unpacked example of a 5th grade language arts standard is included below:

Reporting Category

Genre

Percentage of Assessment

Indications of Rigor

Key ideas and details

Literature

15-25%

·       Reading selections may include grade level selections that include from 300- 800 words.

·       Variety of testing formats will be used including electronic formats.

·       Readings will be on grade level and will include discipline-specific language in test prompts.

·       Question values are determined by the rigor and difficulty of the questions.

Informational

Craft and structure

Literature

25-35%

Informational

Integration of knowledge and ideas

Literature

20-30%

Informational

Language and editing:

  • Evaluate and correct errors
  • Use grammar rules such as capitalization, punctuation, and spelling
  • Language use and conventions

Literature or Informational

15-25%

 

This 5th grade language arts standard identifies the general categories of language arts to be tested, the genre that will be used for testing, a “power” ranking for each of the categories, and cues to the level of rigor. This type of unpacking can be done in every tested area and should have been done before school started to ensure intentional unit and lesson planning. Whether or not it was previously done, a tool like this needs to be used to audit the program students have been in all semester to see if the collective experience of the class that is necessary for success was sufficient to enable success for all students.

 

2.     Are all students test wise? – In preparing students for a test, there are a number of different levels of preparation that can come into play that will make the students more confident test takers and can be applied to all tests:

·      Test wise and strategies – Strategies like time management or self-check strategies are basically “Band-Aids” that can help students build confidence; this core set of strategies will help them get through the test but may not help them maximize their performance.

·      Can students task-analyze test questions? – Every test question on a state test will have embedded rubric details that tell the students what they must do to get full credit. How many students expect to just remember the answer and don’t know how to analyze the question to see what they must do to get credit?

·      Can students relate unfamiliar test questions to what they have learned? – Do students have strategies for stepping outside their classroom comfort zone to attack answers that take them into unfamiliar territory? In Kentucky, several students at every school skipped a question on the state test that involved the reading about “spelunking.” Since they didn’t know what spelunking was, they didn’t attempt to answer the question. The problem was, they did not have to know what spelunking was to answer the question about the reading.

 

3.     Have all students had successful experience answering all the different types of questions they might see on a state test? Again, the unpacking of the state standards can give teachers clues to what’s expected of their students in terms of the types of questions they will have to answer. Some states have students answer computer enhanced questions and students who hadn’t had extensive computer experience were at risk. In other states, students were asked to participate in a performance event when they had never seen a performance event. Ed Directions emphasizes that by December, all students should have mastered the format and venue they will face on the state test. They may not be able to work at the rigor required (that will come during the Calibrating Period), but they should have mastered the format and venue. Ed Directions uses several tools to get teachers and students to test venue proficiencies. An example of test unpacking for the language arts standard used above is included below:

Number of Test Items

Types of Test Items

19

Selectable Hot Text – 2

Evidence-Based Selected Response [EBSR] – 4

Graphic Response Display (GRID) – 3

Multiple Choice – 3

Multiple Select – 1

Open Response – 1

Drag-and-Drop Hot Text – 1

Editing Task Choice – 3

Editing Task – 1

 

The types of test items included on this list must be unpacked to another level. For example, in the multiple-choice area, there are no recall questions on the state test. To prepare for the state test, the student must be able to use a procedure or an operation to determine, answer, or use data or information to draw inference or conclusion. Under the electronically enhanced items, there are a variety of computer question styles and they vary from state to state. For students to be prepared, they must have successful experience working with the types of questions they’re going to experience on the school’s state test(s).

The Ed Directions coaches use the tool below (the tool is abbreviated to save space in the blog) to do a December test mastery check on all tested students. In late November early December, students test in each tested subject area that include all of the tested formats and venues. Their work is analyzed to determine student mastery, and the students are sorted using this tool for text/bubble questions.

Teacher:                      Class:                    Period/Subject:

Student

MC 2

MC 3

Editing

Open Response

Short Answer

Evidence Based

 

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

 

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

 

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

 

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

o  Mastery

o  Working

o  Concern

 

Each Ed Directions coach works with PLC groups to analyze student test needs and identify students who have trouble with question venues or formats in all tests or in individual discipline tests. Students are sorted by level; students who need work with one or more types will be given a diagnostic test to see where the work breaks down and try to determine the cause the breakdown. Students will then be given access to support programs that match their individual priority needs.

 

4.     Are all students giving “best effort” on all test questions? If students don’t give best effort on tests, their performance is a “false read” of their actual performance potential. It’s important that the students who are not giving best effort be identified in December so that support programs for attitude and perception issues that contribute to student failure to endure, give best effort, or stay highly engaged. It’s best if this identification took place earlier in the year and support started say, in October, but it’s critical that the school be ready to support the students from the beginning of January. An observation tool used by Ed Directions coaches to observe individual student performance is included below:

Student:                       Test #:                        Unit:    

Student score:                             Questions missed:

Questions observed:                                         

Target question (missed):        

Type of question:                        Location on test:

Question content:     

Number of words:                       Number of thinking steps:

 

Student Attention

Student Engagement

Possible Issues

o   Totally engaged for the duration of the test

o   Responded to minor distractions

o   Multiple distractions – loss of time

o   Attention distraction caused major time issues

o   Highly engaged for the whole test

o   Highly engaged for most/some of the test

o   Adequate engagement

o   Mostly off task

o   Total lack/refusal to engage

o   Misread the question

o   Incomplete answer

o   Lack of content mastery

o   Lack of test mastery

The student was prepared, attended to the test and his/her work, stayed highly engaged, and completed the required response correctly.

  1       2       3       4       5

Student interview:

 

 

 

 

The observer, whether an Ed Directions coach or another outside agent, watches the targeted students and then interviews the students about their thoughts on their performance on the targeted question. In some cases, the Ed Directions coach will use an individual questionnaire to compare student and teacher perceptions before the student interview is conducted. A version of those questionnaires is included below:

 

Student Performance Checklist

Thinking about this question on the test (include question or copy of question)

Rating from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree)

I read the question carefully.

    1        2         3        4        5

I understood and did what I was supposed to do.

    1        2         3        4        5

I gave my best attention and best effort to the question.

    1        2         3        4        5

I completed all the tasks that were required.

    1        2         3        4        5

I am sure I got the question right.

    1        2         3        4        5

I remember when the content of the question was taught in class.

    1        2         3        4        5

 

Teacher Checklist

Thinking about this question on the test (include question or copy of question)

Rating from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree)

The student is test wise and a competent reader.

    1        2         3        4        5

The student gives best effort and stays engaged in all test questions.

    1        2         3        4        5

The content of the test was covered in the first semester.

    1        2         3        4        5

The student completed all the learning work required for the content and task of the question.

    1        2         3        4        5

The student demonstrated mastery of this type of question.

    1        2         3        4        5

The student is a good test taker.

    1        2         3        4        5

I am confident the student got this question right.

    1        2         3        4        5

 

There are any number of other data points we need to have in hand by the end of December, including but not limited to attendance, tardiness, behavior, emotional competencies, test anxieties, teacher absences, major disruptions or crises, student physical/learning/behavioral/emotional disabilities, student work ethic, student drive for success, etc. As a school, we need to identify the high leverage data points that impact large numbers of students and develop support programs for students who fall within those data streams. School administration, school academic leadership, and teachers of tested and non-tested subjects/grade levels need to be involved in identifying the issues and developing support programs that help their subjects/grade levels prepare students.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *