High Stakes Testing and Low Level Tests

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High Stakes Testing and Low
Level Tests!
Guest Post by: The Teacher
                As a teacher of 6+ years, a Master’s degree in
Educational Leadership, and a year as a grade chair, I have come to realize a
few problems with the way we are willing to test our students in reading
comprehension. Generally we do what I did for a few years, when it comes to our
basal in reading: We begin day one with building background knowledge,
introducing vocabulary, spelling work, and read some of the story. By day five
of the school week we have read the story at least 3 times in class out loud,
once with partners, once independently, and if we have a book on tape listen to
that once. After all those experiences with the text, we then use a pre-made
comprehension test. Sound familiar? Well I found this is common practice across
America, but is it best practice for preparation for our State’s Assessment
which has impact on Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), or our States School Grade,
or however they assess our schools? 
                The truth, NO!! Think about your State’s assessment
before I go into the reasons I do what I do to prepare my students for their
State Assessment which is the FCAT in Florida. How many State’s assessments are
pre-read by teachers? How many students have time to gain background knowledge
on the articles they are tested on, or vocabulary, or spelling from those
stories? How many students can have the articles read to them multiple times
before they are required to answer the questions? NONE right!! Well my point
exactly. We spend all this time teaching a story for a student to take a test,
but is this the pattern they will have to follow on their states assessment? I
don’t think so. So what should you do to prepare them for their states
                This is easy, I look at it as a simple 3 step
process: First, continue to teach background knowledge, vocabulary, and
spelling integration. Next, take a good look at your Pre-made assessments and
ask yourself, are they higher level thinking, are they simple questions, are
they in line with your State’s Assessment specs? If they are not, why use them?
I know you paid thousands of dollars and even have the great opportunity to not
to have to run copies because they are in a workbook, but do they prepare your
students to take an ever changing, higher level thinking assessment? I would
venture to say no. Secondly, create your own teacher made test, 10 questions
only using the Stem questions from your states assessment. In Florida we have
specific ways we ask questions on our assessments and this is public knowledge,
so I use them. 
Third, require your students
to read something cold turkey without any help on Grade level. Then assess them
on what they read with a teacher-made assessment. I know this seems time
consuming, but it is well worth the practice.
                First, I will just encourage you to continue what you
currently do in reading; it really helps the students to gain background
                Secondly, this is where I will spend some time. In
our basal we have the story The Enormous
, a wonderful story. I usually spend time with sequencing on this
story because of how is it is written. But take a look at two questions that
are asked from our basal workbook for the assessment:
The farmer went into his field to make sure the workers have ___________ all their seeds.
a.      Grew                    b.   planted                         c. turnip                           d. enormous
2.      In the story who called the mouse?
a.      Cat                b. old woman                 c. dog                         d. granddaughter
Are these questions above
really that helpful in preparation for a State’s Assessment? I know the answer
in our state in NO. We would never see a cloze sentence question because they
are not higher level thinking. Now look at the questions I have created below:
          1.    What was probably the old man’s job?
a farmer
a teacher
a writer
a blacksmith
          2.    What sentence best describes the Author’s purpose in writing this story “The Enormous Turnip”?
To teach people how to be lazy.
To learn about farming.
To teach people how hard work and teamwork can fix large
To read a story about large vegetables.
Notice that the questions
above are higher level thinking, for instance question one is never found in
the story it is implied by reading the story and looking at the pictures. The
second question is extremely difficult because it asks the students to find
something that is implied and then apply it to why an Author may have written a
story. If you like the questions above you can go to
The Enormous Turnip and find a free
download of the test I have created. The reason you don’t find higher level
thinking questions in your basal is because they are created generically and
then each regional or state representative takes the same book and makes it a
“Special Edition” for YOUR state, which really only has a few things geared
towards your state, but is quite the same book if you look from state to state.
Thirdly, find grade level
text, maybe your science book, social studies books, and or a magazine, place a
paragraph or two into the test and ask 1-5 questions. Do this for two separate
articles and ask around ten questions. This will really help you gage if your
students can handle grade level text and comprehend what they have read. The following
link will help you if you live in
to find the Stem questions found on FCAT, the next link is where you can also
purchase five stories for the 
Trophies Theme 2 Helping Hands

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