Posts Tagged "standardized tests"

What Should You Expect From Test Prep Materials?

Over the last five years, we have learned a lot about instructional materials. One observation is that comprehensive and supplemental materials, including RtI and test prep resources, are designed very differently and are intended for different purposes. Another observation is that unless you use a material for its intended purpose, it is unlikely you will achieve the result you need. [Read more…]

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EdNext Poll on Testing

ednext_XVI_1_poll_fig01-small

[Source: The 2015 EdNext Poll on School Reform
WINTER 2016 / VOL. 16, NO. 1]

Over the last few months, the national conversation about public education seems to have shifted from a debate over the Common Core State Standards to a debate over state testing.  Daily, newspapers feature stories about states dropping out of the Common Core testing consortia, PARCC or Smarter Balanced; states abandoning long-standing state testing contracts; and parents opting [their children] out of taking state tests.  Increasingly, state legislatures are examining ways to reduce the number of tests students have to take.

A new poll by Education Next suggests that there may be less hostility towards testing than the media would have us believe.  The nationally representative survey solicited responses from approximately 4,000 members of the general public, parents and teachers.

When asked:  “Do you support or oppose the federal government continuing to require that all students be tested in math and reading each year in grades 3-8 and once in high school?” respondents answered as follows:

Members of the public:  67% supported vs. 21% opposed continuing the federal requirements for annual testing (contained in the federal  No Child Left Behind Act)
Parents:  66% supported vs. 23% opposed continuing the federally-mandated testing;
Teachers:  47% supporting vs. 46% opposed continuing the federally mandated testing.

In answer to the question, “Do you support or oppose letting parents decide whether to have their children take state math and reading tests?” The responses were as follows:

Members of the public:  25% supported vs. 59% opposed giving parents the right to “opt-out” of state tests;
Parents:  32% supported vs. 52% opposed giving parents the right to “opt-out” of state testing;
Teachers:  32% supported vs. 57% opposed giving parents the right to “opt-out” of state testing.

While federal and state policymakers may change the type, number and timing of tests students have to take, testing will remain an indispensable part of our education system.  Learning List’s independent alignment reports help educators understand how the instructional materials they use may be affecting their students’ test results.  If students repeatedly missed test questions associated with a particular standard or group of standards, teachers can refer to Learning List’s alignment report(s) to determine (1) whether the district’s instructional material(s) is/are aligned to those standards, and (2) more specifically, whether the specific citations (e.g., page numbers, lessons) they assigned are aligned to those standards.  If either the material or the citations were not aligned to those standards, students likely did not learn what those standards required them to know.  Either situation is easily fixed by providing supplemental materials aligned to those standards or by assigning other citations listed in the publisher’s correlation that have been verified to be aligned to those standards.

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The Value of Field Trips in Improving Critical Thinking Skills

In the face of decreased budgets and increased pressure to improve students’ performance on standardized tests, many schools have reduced the number of field trips they provide to cultural institutions, such as museums and historical sites.  Instead, schools have focused on increasing the amount of time students spend in class preparing for tests and often allocate resources to “reward” field trips to entertainment venues, such as amusement parks, for students who improve their attendance or test scores.  However, new research suggests that in de-emphasizing culturally enriching field trips, schools are missing valuable opportunities to develop students’ critical thinking skills as well as their ability to appreciate and understand diverse peoples, perspectives, and historical periods.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas, is the first large-scale, random-assignment analysis of the effects of cultural-enrichment field trips on student outcomes.  The research design compared survey results between matched pairs of K-12 students.  For each student pairing, one student was randomly selected to participate in a cultural-enrichment field trip during the period of the study and the second student’s participation was deferred.  Researchers found that the students who participated in field trips experienced significant increases in their critical thinking skills, as well as benefits in terms of historical empathy (i.e., the ability to understand the lives and perspectives of people who lived in different places or in different times), tolerance, and interest in cultural institutions.  Notably, the benefits of field trips were considerably stronger for disadvantaged students.  The study’s authors conclude:

We don’t just want our children to acquire work skills from their education; we also want them to develop into civilized people who appreciate the breadth of human accomplishments.  The school field trip is an important tool in meeting this goal.

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