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The SAT’s Shifting Strategies

by Julie 27. March 2014 11:09

Standardized tests are changing left and right, and the SAT is no exception. The test is being updated to align more closely with what students are required to do in high school. While these changes are being made, others will be included as well.

Keeping the Common Core in Mind

Dave Coleman, president of College Board, was also the “architect” of the Common Core, so it is no wonder he has decided to align the SAT more closely to the new standards. This is a smart move. 

•  It makes the SAT more relevant to testing students’ knowledge. 

•  It also makes the Common Core more relevant because it will be used on the SAT, which colleges look at during the admission process.

•  If states actually follow the Common Core, their students should be prepared for the SAT, which leads into the next change.

Leveling the Playing Field

By keeping the Common Core in mind and making a few additional changes, the College Board hopes to reach more lower-income students than in the past. According to Coleman, this country needs more opportunities and the College Board is renewing its commitment to delivering them.
•  Because of the Common Core connection, students should be prepared for the SAT without outside tutoring, SAT-specific lessons, or practice books. (Although, those additional services can still increase test scores.)
•  To prepare test-takers who want more help, the College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to create test-preparation materials. (We have also partnered with Kahn Academy, including some of their lessons in our Show What You Know® Online programs to prepare students for the Common Core or for STAAR with online assessments, lessons, and games.)
•  Income-eligible students will also receive fee waivers to apply to colleges.

Updating the Sections

In order to make the SAT more accessible, some of the sections are being updated in ways other than keeping the Common Core in mind.
•  The dreaded vocabulary section of the SAT will be updated to align closer to what students should already know. This means that it will test their current knowledge. However, there is an advantage to also testing the peculiar and challenging words: it tests college readiness. Students will likely come across words that they don’t know as they read. The current vocabulary section tests their ability to strategize and connect the words to similar words and their context to determine the meaning. While students will love the updates to this section and it will test what they have learned, it takes the strategy out of the test and reduces the test of their college readiness.
•  In addition, the essay will be optional and will be paired with a reading selection. Students will need to explain how the author used certain techniques to get their point across. They will not need to write their own persuasive essay. Students will be recognizing the techniques rather than recalling them and putting them into practice. This decreases the value of the essay because it does not show that the students are able to use what they know, which is needed in college and in many careers.

Taking and Scoring the Test
•  Students will have the option to take the SAT on the computer.
•  Students will no longer lose a 1/4 point when they answer a question wrong. This will encourage students to select the best answer for each question rather than skipping questions.
•  The test will return to a 1600-point scale with the essay being scored separately.

Find out more:
•  At EdNet Insight
•  From the New York Times
•  More from the New York Times
•  From NPR

The Digital Dilemma: The Print to Digital Transition for K-12 Education

by Guest Blogger- Paul Laporte 6. March 2014 16:24
It was after the second world war when the influx of “ready-made” print content known as “Supplemental” began to really grow. Also at this same time, content to address a region's specific curriculum requirements began to be widely adopted and was known as “Text Books”. For over the next 50 years, School Boards and Educators had ONLY these two options as the key content and curriculum foundations for teaching a nation's K-12 students. For all those years, Classroom technology was only the overhead projector, which displayed this print content over clear acetate. I’m sure most educators long for that simpler time when a class lesson went without interruption and the only “hardware” issue was a broken chalk.
For the K-12 Educator, the first digital version of content to widely be distributed began in the early '90s, in PDF format. Throughout the next 20 years, and somewhat still today, savvy teachers preferred this format primarily due to increased availability by being able to purchase this format online. Additionally, the PDF format is easier to store on a desktop, and one has the ability for 1st generation printing rather than making a copy of a print. For digital, this format is still relatively low tech and appeals to most who have not used truly great digital content.

By the year 2000, those two long-held key foundational content options expanded and transformed to a multitude of digital hardware options. K-12 education had stepped up their game considerably, learning from the invasion of consumer electronics and the internet expansion; therefore making the need for more digital in the classroom essential to better engage young digital learners. This leading revolution advanced the content buying habits of Educators and Curriculum Directors by including expanded Technology Departments who were now responsible for digital hardware. The idea was to better show content and curriculum on specific educational-suited devices like Interactive Whiteboards, Digital Projectors, Slates and soon after handheld Tablets and BYODs.

Unlike the previous 50 years, Schools and School Boards put enormous efforts into acquiring digital hardware, oftentimes at the expense of the curriculum content. It used to only be about the content, now Educators have the daunting task not only to choose a device, rather what operating system, assessment integration, connectivity options, one-to-one bandwidth, and security and loss prevention, to mention a few. For plenty of schools, this technology has done the intended opposite by complicating and sometimes diminishing the delivery of curriculum content for students in exchange for the latest shiny new hardware device. 

PDFs now add little value operating on these new robust digital devices. Teachers and Students demand a higher level of engaging interactive content. The purchasing of great digital content for these new devices were seldom included in the package, as the hardware manufacturer's distribution channel had no interest or did not understand the value of content. The manufacturers and their resellers need for a sustainable aftermarket is imperative, so they choose training programs instead of content. Therefore, with the delivery of the new hardware device brought in-service training for Educators on how to use the new electronic device and how to use proprietary programs to create content. Hardware manufacturers always used examples of the “Exemplary Teacher” who made all their own digital content; sadly that has proven to be the exception. This offering was a great solution for the hardware manufacturer, not so good for the Classroom Teachers and their Students.

Today, even more so than the earlier 50 years, very few Teachers make their own content. Most are too busy with day-to-day teaching, increased class management, assessment and after-school programs, to name a few. In the old days, there were far less demands on the Classroom Teacher. The standards were less demanding and foremost of curriculum content was purchased in supplemental or text book print versions by the School Board, or bought from the pockets of individual Teachers. To do the same now, great digital curriculum content is often more expensive than its old print counterpart and often out of budget for individual Teachers. Also, many regions have eliminated the Text Book, even the PDF version as it provides little value to the new hardware devices, thus exacerbating this content dilemma.

It is clear why Teachers seldom made their own content when it was a print format, now they are making even less content in a digital format. For most Teachers, it takes considerably longer and is significantly harder to make engaging interactive content that will appeal to the new digital learners, utilize the best features of the new device, and get it to operate successfully. Most Principals will agree that unfortunately, many of the Interactive Whiteboards and Digital Projectors in their classrooms have only ever been used as large TV screens or fancy electronic chalkboards. By 2006 in Europe and 2009 in North America, it was clear that the majority of teachers were not going to make their own digital content for the Interactive Whiteboard or Digital Projectors, so the lack of use of the devices became embarrassingly obvious.

Less users quickly translated in lagging new installs of these “Big Screen” devices in K-12 schools. New and existing hardware manufacturers sighted this as the “wrong device” and quickly saw an opportunity to market the tablet as the unique new mobile hardware solution. The first iPad was introduced to education in 2010 and by 2012 it was quickly touted as the “new solution” for K-12 classrooms. Android tablets quickly jumped on this, and today the market is now flooded with 100s of similar digital solutions. Furthermore, there are 1000s of individual “apps” cashing in on this wild west trend; unfortunately, at best offering gamification with limited pedagogy, no consistency, and un-proven learning foundations.

Now it is 2014, and the shine has already begun to wear off many tablets. Why? Again for the same reason, not enough great content pre-loaded on the device! Also, some Educators say that it takes enormous resources to load and manage individual apps, to keep them all powered up and to have them all stay connected. Unfortunately — going the way of the Interactive Whiteboards — many of the tablets in classrooms are simply used for games and outside educational web browsing. Over the last decade, there always seems to be money for the latest classroom hardware device, but not for engaging digital curriculum software, even though we know that classroom hardware is simply a platform to interact with engaging content. This is changing; the waste is very visible and we now realize that with no ready-made content, the latest hardware device is almost useless. Like a laptop without software, educational hardware is simply an expensive and poor light source.

Tablets and big screens are purposeful and will continue to be the rage in K-12 Classrooms; however, we have learned from the past and are now migrating to the paramount “total solution” that will be sustainable.

Many of the great digital content publishers feel that the “total solution” for a K-12 classroom is a “Big Screen” at the front with teacher-led instruction for clarifying the key curriculum concepts along with student hand-held devices, primarily for research and assessment. The key difference is that successful hardware manufacturers will hard-bundle complete digital curriculum packages with every unit sold, giving Classroom Teachers and Students a true “complete solution” to effectively use the power of their hardware. Technology and Curriculum buyers will work together and ensure that the install of any new hardware will include a complete suite of ready-made curriculum content. Content is king — always has been, always will be.

March for Music

by Julie 27. February 2014 09:34
Celebrate music during Music in Our Schools Month (MIOSM) this March. More and more music programs are in danger of being pulled from schools, but music won’t go down without a fight! Even while schools are struggling to keep music alive, MIOSM is reaching more students, educators, and musicians.

MIOSM began in 1973 as a single statewide celebration.
By 1985, it was a month long. MIOSM is meant to raise

awareness about the importance of music education. In a time when music education is disappearing, this month is more important than ever.

So why is music education so important?

Music is a part of our daily lives. It can be found on the radio, in movies, in television shows, and even as ringtones. Look around you next time you are on the bus, walking around a school campus (especially colleges), or at the gym. Chances are that you will see many people with headphones listening to music. Many people pair certain ringtones with certain people; it could be because it is their friend’s favorite song or maybe the song makes them feel like they do when they see their friend, parent, or child. Music education helps individuals fully appreciate and understand the music that they hear so often. It can show them the work musicians put into creating their work or how music affects people. The music in television shows and movies may be in the background, but this background noise affects the scene’s mood and the audience’s reaction. It is one of many tools at our disposal to connect events and emotions and spur people to action.

Music can bring people together and initiate social change. The Chicago Children’s Choir was formed during the Civil Rights Movement to help children better understand each other. Choirs, bands, and orchestras are made up of a diverse group of people (any age, gender, nationality, race, etc.). The music forces them to put aside their differences and find what they have in common: a love of music and a goal (not to mention non-music commonalities). The Chicago Children’s Choir, which was originally 12 members, has grown to over 3,500 children according to the Huffington Post, and a group within the choir, called the Voice of Chicago, travels around the country, and even internationally, showing the power of music to unite people.

This experience doesn’t have to end with youth! Columbus, Ohio’s Harmony Project brings the community together in song, service, and education. The choir is a diverse group of individuals (some with no musical experience prior to this group). The choir and other members volunteer their time to improve neighborhoods in their community and promote community issues.

Clearly, music can be taught outside of school and still have an impact. Why should music be in our schools?

First, it can be connected to other parts of the curriculum. In music class, students make music, but how does this actually work? What makes the sound when you hit a drum or play the clarinet? This can be explained by physics. A connection with social studies can explain why music has changed throughout the years and what impact it has had on history. Don’t forget math. How do students know they have the right number of beats in a measure? What is the difference between a quarter note, a half note, and a whole note? I even learned my times tables through tunes I already knew. (I still remember how the times tables match to the tunes today.)

In addition, schools are meant to prepare students for the future. Music can help them learn how to maintain a commitment. Learning an instrument or preparing for a performance is hard work and involves a lot of practice. Performing can also help students gain confidence and learn how to deal with the pressure of other people counting on them. Sometimes they may perform a solo, but many times, they will perform as a group. Choir, band, and orchestra give students a diverse set of experiences.

What can I do to promote music in our schools and pass along its importance to students?
To celebrate MIOSM, get your Music Education Fact a Day by following the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) on Twitter or Facebook. Share the knowledge you gain from these facts with your students.

If you don’t teach music, incorporate it into your classroom or home. Pair music with historic events or a physics lesson. Use it as mnemonic device for remembering multiplication facts. Have a conversation with your children about the impact of music on the movie you just watched. Debate the benefit of music or a specific song or musician with your students.

Check out our music products that can be incorporated into your celebration.

We want to know! (Leave a comment to join the conversation.)
Do you think music should remain in our schools? What do you see as benefits to learning music? How do you use music in your general classroom or core curriculum in your music classroom?

Happy NaNoWriMo!

by Julie 4. November 2013 15:43

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. It is also a great month to get your students involved in writing (especially in locations where the weather is cold and gray). Students (and teachers) have had a few months to shake away the cobwebs after summer break and refresh their understanding of grammar and the writing process. 

Now is the time to delve deeper and push students to understand their full writing potential: they can write a story and even a book if they put their minds to it. You may have heard about some of the novels that came from NaNoWriMo, such as Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Erin Morgernstern’s The Night Circus.

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo is actually a nonprofit that encourages aspiring writers to sit down and create. The adult program has a word-count goal of 50,000 words, but young writers can set their own goals. Beginning writers could create a shorter story, while more advanced writers could aim for a full novel. If your students reach their goals, they can even get free copies of their finished manuscripts through CreateSpace (https://www.createspace.com/nanowrimo?ref=890654&utm_id=5932)

So how can you use NaNoWriMo to your advantage? Check out their Young Writers Program at http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/. The website brings writers and educators together through forums and provides electronic pep talks throughout the month. If your local library or bookstore is involved, you may be able to meet other writers and educators participating in the program through local write-ins. The program is free to use, and you only need internet access occasionally to participate. Students can write offline and paste the text into the Word Count Validator on their NaNoWriMo account at designated times.

Set aside time during class for students to write their stories, or have them write at home. During class, keep your students inspired! Give them fun writing activities and prompts to boost their creativity. Provide materials and lessons to help them become better writers (http://ow.ly/qovSO).  Learn more about holding writing workshops in your classroom to take full advantage of NaNoWriMo (http://ow.ly/qovzt)!

And don’t forget, if you want to try writing a novel in just 30 days, sign yourself up at http://nanowrimo.org/!

WE WANT TO KNOW: How do you encourage your students to write? Are you going to have your students try the NaNoWriMo challenge or try it yourself? Keep us updated! Leave a comment below to let us, and your fellow teachers and parents, know. 

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National Bullying Prevention Month

by Julie 9. October 2013 16:25

Have you ever heard the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? As bullying comes into the spotlight more and more, it becomes clear that this saying is not true. Although you may not see physical harm from name-calling or other types of verbal bullying, the effects are still very real. Bullying can negatively affect students’ physical and emotional health, lowering their self-esteem and even threatening their ability to learn.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, providing a perfect reason to discuss all types of bullying with children and teenagers. This topic is not always easy to approach, which may be why it is often discussed in response to something that has already happened rather than in advance as a way to prevent it. Use this month to get ahead of bullying by discussing these issues before they occur!

Teaching and modeling acceptance and compassion can help children understand that differences are not bad and not reasons to avoid or make fun of others. Bullying can occur because students don’t understand each other. Encourage students to interact with people who seem different from them. Introduce your students to students with special needs in your school or city (you could even make an event out of it and have a picnic lunch in a classroom or outside). You could also set up time to volunteer at a local shelter. The more students interact with others who seem different, the more they can connect with each other and accept these differences. Whether or not you can arrange these experiences, be sure to teach your students about various cultures and groups. If you don’t know where to start, you may want to check out our available character education books  (http://ow.ly/pC5L8 ) and culture books (http://ow.ly/pC5Zf ).

In addition to directly teaching about bullying and accepting others, it is a good idea to create a plan to respond to bullying if it occurs. Let your students know that they can come to you to discuss problems they are having with others. Explain to students how they should report bullying to you and how you will handle it (Will it be anonymous? Will you ask the bully to apologize? Will you make them do a good deed to make up for it or read a book about bullying?). Don’t forget to follow-up and make sure that the student has stopped their bullying behavior.

For more information about bullying, ways to talk about it, or ideas about how to handle these situations, visit http://www.stopbullying.gov/ or PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center at http://www.pacer.org/bullying/

WE WANT TO KNOW: Do you see bullying in your classroom? How do you handle it? Does anything in particular work well to prevent it or stop it from happening again? Leave a comment to let us (and your fellow teachers and parents) know!

Fighting School Absences

by Lauren 30. August 2013 16:37

 With schools across the nation now back in session, teachers not only have to focus on curriculum and lesson plans, but they also have to keep track of day- to-day classroom happenings- like students’ tardiness and attendance. Although schools have long promoted class attendance, especially with the overly familiar Perfect Attendance Award (hardly the coolest or most prestigious award to win), class attendance has dropped dramatically over the last few years. In a recent study by Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that up to 15% of American students are chronically absent from school, meaning they missed one day for every ten. 

Similar research has found that 90,000 elementary school students miss more than one month of school each year. Here’s the bottom line: when students miss class frequently, it makes teachers’ jobs much more difficult, and students lose out on the learning time they so desperately need.

To combat the growing problem of chronic absenteeism (missing 10% or 18 days of the school year), the Advertising Council and the U.S. Army have teamed up to form a new campaign to promote attendance. Ads show how frequent absences diminish students’ possibility of graduating. The campaign launched at a critical time. September is now Attendance Awareness Month, a nationwide initiative designed to show students how attendance contributes to higher grades and performance. Plus, since in September students are just getting familiar with classroom policies, it will be easier for teachers to stress the necessity of attendance at this time.

The campaign also appeals to parents, challenging them to think about why their kids miss school. Are their reasons for absences valid? Often parents don’t think attendance is really important until high school, while others don’t keep track of how many days students really miss. Going on vacation for a week, 3 or 4 sick days, and family emergencies all add up. It’s easy to see that parents have the biggest deciding factor in student absences; when 90,000 elementary students miss over a month of school, it’s hard to shift the blame to the youngsters, who have no control over transportation or family vacations.

Unfortunately, only six states and several larger school districts, including those in New York City & Oakland, California, measure chronic absenteeism. This means most schools across the U.S. don’t have the capabilities to track and follow up on student attendance. At most, a letter might get sent home with the student, but who knows if it actually ends up in a parent’s hands. In order to change the lax attitude about absences, students and parents need to have a shift in values, where class attendance and knowledge are a priority.

How is absenteeism handled in your school? If you’re a teacher, have you noticed student absences increase in the last several years? If you’re a parent, what reasons do you have for letting your child miss school? What are your thoughts about the Ad Council’s new campaign? Will it be effective?

For more information on the initiative to end chronic absences, visit BoostAttendance.org.  This website also has a Text2Track, where parents can track student absences.

Kentucky Aims to Approve Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

by Lauren 12. August 2013 09:01

After much resistance to the Next Generation Science Standards, the science equivalent to the Common Core State Standards for reading and mathematics, Kentucky education officials are now on their way to implement the NGSS state-wide. While in other states, accepting the NGSS has been standard procedure, Kentuckians voiced strong opinions against the standards, due to their emphasis on evolution. Clearly, the fight between evolution and creationism in schools is still very much alive.          

In fact, public opposition became so fierce that major news outlets, like The Huffington Post, published articles focusing on the evolution debate occurring in Kentucky. While the standards were being evaluated, the state received thousands of responses from residents. E-mails poured in, many of which claimed it was unethical to teach evolution to students “because it is a theory and not a fact.” Others claimed teaching evolution would ostracize religious students. Even more said teaching evolution interfered with students’ freedom of religion.

Although creationists pushed back, Kentucky education officials confirmed that evolution teachings are already a part of science curriculum in the state. Officials also told criticizers that much scientific evidence exists to confirm evolution. Ina recent statement, they said, “[evolution is] the fundamental, unifying theory that underlies all the life sciences.” They also stated, “there is no significant ongoing debate within the scientific community regarding the legitimacy of evolution as a scientific idea.” To confirm the validity of Kentucky educational officials, over 3,700 people signed a petition in support of the standards. Those who support the standards hope they will eliminate scientific ignorance and keep Kentucky on the right track for a competitive science education program.

As of now, it seems like evolution won out for Kentucky schools. Before the NGSS is accepted though, the standards have to be passed by the General Assembly, where they could reach further opposition.  As other states begin to focus on the NGSS, tensions between evolution and creationism are expected to rise. This is one of the most contentious debates in education curriculum. Many believe the two are in direct conflict with one another, an unbridgeable gap that defies any attempt at crossing.

What are your thoughts on the evolution vs. creationism debate? Can harmony ever exist between the two-where evolution is in science class and creationism in religion class? How does your school deal with teaching evolution and intelligent design? Is one promoted over the other?

School Supply Prices on the Rise

by Lauren 25. July 2013 15:47

Yes, it’s that time of year again! With July quickly coming to a close, teachers, parents, and maybe even students now have their thoughts turned to the back-to-school season. For most of you, this time of year is filled with preparation-new classrooms, new students and teachers, and yes, even new school supplies. When I was younger, this feeling of preparation was one of the best parts of the back-to-school season. School supply shopping involved purchasing crisp folders and pristine notebooks, heralding a fresh start for the year.

Although I’m sure school supply lists have changed quite a bit since I was in grade school, one thing has always remained constant: price increases.The Backpack Index, an annual report from Huntington National Bank that analyzes changing school supply costs, reported that school supply prices are up an average of 7.3% this year, which no doubt will have a profound effect on schools, teachers, and parents.

The report calculated the cost of basic school supply items, like paper, pencils, and erasers, but it also looked at the rising costs for instrument rentals and sports or other extra-curricular fees. No matter what your student is involved in this upcoming school year, it’s certain more money will be spent. If you’re the parent of an elementary school student, you can expect to see prices that are up approximately 5.3% from last year. In fact, elementary school parents will probably pay up to $577 per child on school supplies and extra-curricular fees this year! The numbers are even larger if your student is in middle school or high school. A middle school student will need an average of $763 in supplies. High school students had the highest increase, a shocking average of $1,223 per child for school and extra-curricular necessities.

While parents are clearly affected, teachers also bear the brunt of increased supply costs. In fact, teachers spent an average of $347 of their OWN money on classroom supplies for the 2012-2013 school year. That number is expected to rise for 2013-2014.

So, what can be done? There are certain organizations that help out teachers and parents with school supply costs. Wal-Mart has a program that donates funds spent on school supplies to registered school districts. Adopt a Classroom enables individuals or businesses to adopt and donate funds to a classroom in need. Some organizations, like Crayons to Classrooms, located in LEP’s native city of Dayton, Ohio, provide free school supplies for teachers in under-funded K-12 districts.

What school supplies are noticeably higher this year? What methods do you use to save money on back-to-school shopping? Have you used any of the programs listed above? Feel free to share your experiences and money-saving ideas with other readers!

You can read the original story here:

Reinventing Summer School

by Lauren 19. July 2013 11:34

 In the past, summer school has been  used solely as a  remediation tool, where  students who have  failed classes or  missed much class time come  to make up their work in order  to proceed to the following grade level. Not so today. 

Many large school districts, like New York City,Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Providence, Charlotte, and LEP’s nearby Cincinnati Public School System, have decided to use summer classes as a means of preventing summer slide, bolstering knowledge, and reaching students in a more fun and relaxed learning environment.

In these reinvented summer schools, students cover the basics, like reading, writing, and mathematics, but they also benefit from creative activities, like art and music classes, as well as trips to local museums or theaters. This gives teachers the opportunity to truly make learning “fun” and work without the constraints they have placed upon them during the school year. In Jacksonville, a large number of students attend summer school not to make up classes, but to continue their education and prevent falling behind their classmates.

To fund these programs, many schools, especially fiscally challenged districts in Baltimore, Chicago, or Pittsburgh, have looked to philanthropic organizations. In Jacksonville, schools used federal stimulus dollars and a Wallace Foundation Grant to fund summer school programs. They also partnered with several nonprofit organizations, which helped the school set up a variety of field trips. It’s clear that many of these schools have had to get creative with funding, but no matter the source, students will reap the benefits.

In fact, summer slide can be truly problematic for teachers and students. Research shows that summer break causes students to lose at least one month of instruction per year. Low-income students are often disproportionately affected by summer slide. While students from higher economic backgrounds are often able to travel, go to camp, or even enroll in educational classes over the summer, low-income students might be stuck at home or daycare, where they often experience little to no educational stimulation.

With these factors in mind, many educators have long been pushing for a year-round school year, where students have short breaks throughout the year. Having the summers off was logical when students were affected by harvest time, but honestly, it doesn’t make much sense any more. Now, many students live in large cities or suburbs and both parents hold a full-time job, so summer break means sleeping in and spending the day at the pool, watching cartoons, or playing video games. However, summer break seems to be so ingrained in our society, it might be hard for students or parents to give it up. In the meantime, it looks like summer school may be students’ and teachers’ best bet to level the playing field and increase knowledge and engagement.

What do you think about reinvented summer school programs? How will they help students? What are the downsides to summer school? Is year-round school something our government should consider?

Common Core: Testing the Test

by Julie 26. June 2013 16:47

As the school year wrapped up, students were busy taking tests and showing how much they learned. According to Education Week, some students dropped the paper and pencils and instead used new online assessments, which is how the Common Core assessments are expected to administered. Like most practice rounds, some things went well but some problems crept up.

First the problems. Not all computers were created equally. Those that have been in use by schools for a number of years might not be able to use the same programs as more recent computers. If the assessments that are distributed to students are developed using recent technology, either all schools need to upgrade their systems or test makers need to keep in mind that not every student will have access to the same things. Although the tests are able to incorporate more, such as videos, by being online, there are still limitations.

Online tests bring other unique problems. Instead of having a piece of paper in front of them, students have to log in to access the test. They also have to be able to stay logged in. That didn’t always happen. Some students got kicked out of the system. The problem could be anything from the connection with the internet (especially for laptops) to the massive numbers of students in the system at one time. This is what testing the tests is for: to find and fix the problems.

Not everything went wrong though. Students seemed to easily get the hang of testing on the computer. But with the amount of exposure to different kinds of technology, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Many students are growing up learning how to use computers, smart phones, and tablets.

The practice tests also gave teachers a preview of what the Common Core assessments will be asking. Though the standards have already been provided, examples have not, and as we all know, interpretation can vary from person to person. Without sample questions, teachers are struggling to come up with a common understanding of what the standards are asking and the types of questions that students will encounter. Having seen examples, they should hopefully be able to better prepare their students.

Are you concerned about online testing? Or do you think that the capabilities outweigh the possible issues that come with it? How will you prepare students for the new format?

You can learn more about the results of the test here: http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2013/06/12/03commoncore.h06.html


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