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Assessment & evaluation

Concerns About Accountability Testing

Why don’t you write more about the new tests?

I haven’t written much about PARCC or SBAC — or the other new tests that other states are taking on — in part because they are not out yet. There are some published prototypes, and I was one of several people asked to examine the work product of these consortia. Nevertheless, the information available is very limited, and I fear that almost anything I may write could be misleading (the prototypes are not necessarily what the final product will turn out to be).

A Smarter Balanced PARCC?

By now, it's probably not a surprise that there are two different assessments that states are adopting for their Common Core state test. Many of the comparison studies have proven that the previous state assessments tested students at levels 1 and 2 of the DOK (depth of knowledge). After disaggregating the test-released items for the Smarter Balanced and PARCC assessments, studies have shown the levels of released questions have elevated to the higher tiers: 3 and 4.

Is childhood being hijacked?

How do the realities of our contemporary life mesh with childhood? Have expectations of what a young child should know changed so much that they're not able to be young? What are — or might be — the consequences?

Assessing and learning the letters of the alphabet

Teachers, parents, and researchers often wonder similar things about the alphabet. Specifically, what's the right order to teach letters? How can I best assess what a very young child knows about the alphabet? Should I start by teaching my preschool-aged child the first letter of her name, and then go from there?

Learning outcomes versus teaching tools

Over at Shanahan on Literacy, Dr. Shanahan wrote an interesting post We Zigged When We Should Have Zagged about the lack of comprehension strategies in the Common Core State Standards.

Managing school and test stress

Our younger daughter has always been super easygoing. She makes friends easily and is quick to laugh. Lately though, we've seen her positive attitude slip away. She's become one of those kids who literally counts the days until the last day of school. She's complaining about headaches and classmates, and she'd really rather stay home. The stress of end-of-the year projects and looming state tests is really getting to her.

The 'learning styles' can of worms

The concept of learning styles has been around for a long time. Intuitively, the notion of learning styles makes sense, especially for those who work with struggling readers. Some kids seem to respond better to visual information, others to auditory, and still others to tactile information. Following this train of thought, teachers should present information in a style that is matched to a learner's learning style.

Careful watching and listening during those first few days of school

First day jitters? First week jitters? Assessing kids those first few days and weeks of school probably isn't a great idea. Kids need a chance to settle in to school, to learn the new routine, and generally become more comfortable in the new classroom. Hopefully, by waiting, a child's assessment results more accurately reflect her true skills.

Alternatives to oral retellings

Many teachers and parents ask children to retell a story as a quick, informal way to assess a child's comprehension. Retelling can work well, but it's not without its pitfalls. For starters, it can be difficult to keep a group's attention while one student is doing a retelling. For another, a student may leave out an entire part of the story (that he understood) merely because he accidentally left it out. If the adult is familiar with the story, it's easy to step in and ask a question about the missing part.

How to read a report card

In a typical school year, report cards come home every nine weeks or so. The purpose of report cards is to communicate about a child's progress across subject areas. Most report cards also include a Work Habits, Social Skills, or similar section.

Some kids, especially those having difficulty in school, dread report card time. Here are some suggestions for making report card time a little less scary and a little more productive.

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"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase