My school has entered assessment season; we've been there for a couple of weeks. It’s a beast. But, I doubt I have to tell you that. We have the task of coordinating 600ish students needing to take the Smarter Balance subject tests, each of which takes two days. In another month, we will test the 300ish juniors on the new science test. Sandwiched in between our state tests are two weeks of AP tests.
Over the years, we have been able to grow accustomed to the state test and its requirements, which has allowed the logistics piece, while being a lot of time and hard work, to run efficiently and predictably. As I have watched our sophomores and twelfth graders, who have graduation requirements left, take the ELA test these last couple weeks, I’ve realized that I’m finally able to see past logistics and think more about the students and their experience in testing.
During one test session in particular, I walked between rooms and wasn’t worried about the computer having power or if a card with an SSID number had gotten misplaced. If you are wondering about logistics, please do take a look at previous posts that I have posted on this blog on things like: Fall Retakes 2017 and changes, HOW to coordinate, Building Level View, or what the scores mean, ala two years ago. Pretty much the only major change this Spring Assessment window, is that I discovered how to do Positive Attendance in Skyward and ordered ID cards for all students so now what used to be hand entered individually excused absences that took days, is done in 10 minutes with a few zaps.
I was instead worried about how it felt like a sauna when I walked into one room, with kids falling asleep, one student fanning themselves with a testing card, and I swear I saw a bead of sweat fall down another’s forehead. Walking into another testing room, I encountered a student who had the look of “when is this going to be over”, which sadly from his screen saying he was on question 13, would not be for some time. I tried to register with my facial expression that “yes, it’s long, I know, but we would make it through and we need to focus and perk ourselves up”. But, how much can you really display with a facial expression with a student you had never seen before that day?
I thought about my new student-centered observations and came up with my Top 4 things to work on for our students’ benefit. I’d love to hear if you have experienced similar observations or if you have a different set of “what we need to focus on with students” when it comes to assessment and behavior.
- Give students strategies for enduring.
When the student checks out, for whatever reason, do they know how to help themselves check back into the test, especially in a way that isn’t disruptive to the testing environment? What role should the proctor play in this work? What role should the classroom teachers play prior to the tests? The ideas that Erin Lark has written about on this blog are a great starting point.
- Watch your choice of words.
Avoid confirming a student’s suspicion that this is too hard and they're just not ready. Don't assume disengagement, head down means the student is lazy or not invested. My number one word that I have cut from my language, and I have to actively monitor, is the word “just”. It’s JUST a couple of paragraphs. It’s JUST a couple of hours. There is an implied meaning in the word “just” that if you can’t do “JUST this simple task”, you must not be smart enough.
- Allow appropriate breaks.
If you have students without good self-monitoring, offer the ones who look like they’re waning the chance to take a walk in the hallway. Or, bring small snacks like granola bars for students. One big break that I have built into our schedule is that students only test two of our four periods in a day, unless that student elects to stay longer. Sure, the tests could be answered and submitted in one day, if we really pushed. But for most of our students that aren’t finished, after 180 minutes of staring at the computer and reading and answering, their brain needs a break.
- Be calm and competent (even when you don’t feel it).
We adults have a lot of power of setting the environment of the room; students will sense our nervousness, our disconnect from a task, or our positive feelings. Part of being competent also means pausing to get help from others in the building as needed.