Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Teacher Magazine: Test Prep Magic

By on February 27, 2009

Check out my article in yesterday’s Teacher Magazine outlining 5 little-thought-about strategies in teaching test prep.  Hope it helps you during your own Test Prep season.


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  1. Ramona
    February 27, 2009

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    Thanks for the article. Can you tell me more about your district interim assessments? My district has used them for years with content courses, but I’ve yet to see a good interim assessment for ELA. They tend to mimic our state assessment with no regard for material specifically taught during the six weeks (as do the other courses’ exams). You mention sentence combining–are your exams just a check each six/nine weeks on students’ reading/writing skills or do they increase in difficulty as the year progresses? I’m really stymied on this and would appreciate any feedback you can give.

  2. Tweenteacher
    February 27, 2009

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    I am happy to talk about what we’re doing. Just note that it seems that every year we throw out the old and start anew, being dissatisfied for one reason or another. This year, we’re trying a “spiraling” curriculum and our tests are created by a grade-level partnership for each quarter. That is, over the summer, we identified some standards that were essential and should appear on every Reading assessment, while some are new to each quarter and are assessed on the Reading test only on that one quarter assessment. (The students, however, believe that every standard we’ve covered is fair game.) This year, because we lost our sorely-needed textbook adoption due to budget cuts (see my post here), we have cobbled together assessment questions from different sources. Our district doesn’t have a curriculum coordinator (pros and cons with that which we could go into further), so it’s the grade levels that are putting these multiple choice exams together for each quarter. In addition, each teacher does their own differentiated assessments throuhout the quarter which may or may not mimic the standardized test format.

    In that past for writing, we’ve covered a different genre each quarter. But then we realized that we were really looking at apples and oranges when trying to see a student’s growth. For instance, if we did Narrative first quarter and Lit. Analysis third quarter, and the district looked at those two quarter assessments to trace growth, the student was being fairly assessed. Too many variables. So this year, we’re trying something else. All three grades are now taking only two Writing assessments, one at the end of 1st and one at the end of 3rd quarter on the same genre. 6th grade specializes in Narrative, 7th on Persuasive, and 8th on Lit. Analysis. That way we will get data back on a student writing to the same genre. We are experimenting with articulated portfolios as a means to make sure that all genres are still being taught at each grade level, even though the district is only testing each grade level on one.

    Whew. Does any of that make sense? I must say every year is back to the drawing board. Some things are working very well this year, and some aren’t. So in our department meetings, we are already trying to tweak for next year during our paid hours. Nobody wants to be working on this monumental task for free, after all.

    Thanks so much for your comment and I hope this long-winded answer helps you out. I don’t know where you’re located, but please let me know if there’s anything else I can do.

    Good to hear from you.
    aka Tweenteacher

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