Testing Strategies

I promised a few weeks ago to explain, to the best of my ability, how Common Core Testing would be used in conjunction with the requirements of the MCAS to determine if the students were learning. Since then, I have heard of one school that climbed from a four to a one in standings. That means quite a bit, because that school was at the bottom of the list and climbed, with other schools into the top tier.

PPARC was abandoned as part of the testing package. The Mayor is deeply committed to the STEM learning project, which may or may not be something that sticks. Hopefully, it will be something that helps out and makes testing more accurate.

The problem that I had with the original MCAS was the time off-task of the students who were not in the testing unit. I also had a problem with the fact that the people correcting the MCAS were not always in education and in some cases were undergraduates from universities in Boston and its environs. Core Curriculum centers on righting those areas of concern and making our interpretation of test results much more controlled and less dependent on people who have never been teaching.

As stated, in that blog, was the fact that there are still areas of Core Mapping and Testing that we have not yet covered. The purpose of this essay is to list and explain those eighteen areas. Core Curriculum is extremely busy. There are a great many items to write about.

“The rapid rise of Common Core Standards (CCSS) is an unprecedented event at the national level.” That is written by the State Department of Education in its introduction. The idea is to “raise the bar” (ibid) for what students should know and be able to do. Students are currently tested in English and Mathematics. More inclusions will happen at a later date. Now, just to make this easier to explain, we take a common question from the Common Core test. “Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.” Notice that the student is asked to think. He has to determine where the question is going, and analyze the development of peak ideas in the text. It takes an awful lot of thinking.

Massachusetts has the best testing results in the nation. The local Teacher’s Union has bumper stickers to that effect in their office on Merrimack Street. There are curriculum “maps” which guide the teacher’s teaching. There is less of an emphasis on “teaching to the test,” in Common Core. A Map will contain a sample Lesson Plan, The Lesson Plan contains ‘step-by-step’ guide for the activities taking place in the classroom, making certain the fact that they are learning items that might be in the test, but under Common Core, their learning includes the opportunity to teach beyond the test and teach items or Curriculum that are more spontaneous than in the traditional MCAS.

The test includes Curriculum Maps to bring to the students the background knowledge of “a diverse array” of events, people, places and ideas. When I was teaching to the MCAS, I could not include things that were not determined to be in conjunction with the testing material. This CCSS makes it possible for a good teacher to teach other items to the students that correspond to what is happening in the unit.

Maps were written by teachers for teachers. The CCSS takes pride in the fact that Maps were written by sitting teachers, three dozen in all. That hopefully means that the questions will take into account things that might not be included in the test. “Together, these teachers brought dozens of years experience to the mapping project,” according to the source document (ibid). The CCSS standards are written by writers, and reviewed by teachers, administration, and the Massachusetts Department of Education.

The teachers determined what was going on the tests. They designed them to test the student’s ability to co-relate the facts of each question and illustrate their basic knowledge of the Map information. In 2010, a public review of the Maps project yielded hundreds of helpful comments. These were incorporated into the project.

The Maps will continue to improve. There is a second on-line addition of questions that is available to the teachers twenty four seven. The purpose is to allow teachers to critique the Maps and the questions on them. “Comments on the Maps is available for public view” (ibid.). There have been more than three million “hits” of the Map site to date.

Most of the information on this blog is the result of the workings of the CCSS. Its President and Executive Director is Lynne Munson, and she was the source of most of the information. I thank the Department of Education for their fastidiousness in explaining the entire program. As a teacher who threw in a great deal of information that was part of his curriculum, the Common Core seems to be much more gripping than the MCAS. I look forward to seeing how it is implemented and reviewed. I think the children will benefit from the changes in the test material.

4 thoughts on “Testing Strategies

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