Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Making Sense of My State Test Scores and How They Will Drive Instruction

I timidly opened my emailed yesterday with the subject "State Test Scores."  Unfortunately I pay attention to my gut feelings, and my gut was feeling like I had just eaten jalapeno poppers with the seeds baked in.  Yikes.  I knew my students had struggled with the test this year.  I felt like the vocabulary was tough, and New York had definitely upped the ante in what they expect kids to do to score well.

Ugh.  Gut feeling right.  I've never seen so many 2's in my life.  Of course I scoured through my own students first, only to find that none of my remedial students scored a 3.  Very few special education students scored higher than a 2.  To make it worse, even my best and brightest readers and writers (you know the kids -- the ones who seem to be born with a book and pencil in hand) only scored 3's. To make it even worse, grades 5-8 looked about the same.  What happened?  Where did I, we, go wrong?  I now have some data, but how can I use it to drive my instruction?

I know I need to evaluate the data I have, but this is where the brick wall pops up.  New York State does not give us access to the test.  I can't look at the questions my students were asked, let alone which questions they missed the most.  I don't have access to where they went wrong in their reading or writing other than general performance indicators for the multiple choice questions:

--  Interpret characters, plot, setting, theme, and dialogue, using evidence from the text
--  Recognize how the author’s use of language creates images or feelings
--  Identify the author’s point of view, such as first person narrator and omniscient narrator
--  Determine how the use and meaning of literary devices, such as symbolism, metaphor and simile,    illustration, personification, flashback, and foreshadowing, convey the author’s message or intent
  • --  Evaluate the validity and accuracy of 
  • information, ideas, themes, opinions, and 
  • experiences in texts: for example, -identify 
  • multiple levels of meaning
  • --  Draw conclusions and make inferences on the 
  • basis of explicit and implied information
  • --  Use knowledge of structure, content, and 
  • vocabulary to understand informational text
  • --  Condense, combine, or categorize new 
  • information from one or more sources
  • --  Use text structure and literary devices to aid 
  • comprehension and response
  • --  Determine the meaning of unfamiliar words by 
  • using context clues, a dictionary, a glossary, and 
  • structural analysis (i.e., looking at roots, 
  • prefixes, and suffixes of words)
  • --  Recall significant ideas and details and the 
  • relationships between and among them
  • --  Respond appropriately to what is heard
  • --  Write accurate and complete responses to 
  • questions about informational material
  • --  Present clear analyses, using examples, details, 
  • and reasons from text
  • --  Make, confirm, or revise predictions

  • Where do I go from here?  Even though I have limited data, are there ways it can be useful?

    Yes.  I can use these performance indicators as foundation pieces in my reading and writing workshops.  When I plan questions for my read-alouds, I can focus my questions around these indicators.  During reading conferences, I can focus some conversation around these indicators. When students respond to texts in writing, these indicators can drive my minilessons, especially the indicators my students did poorly on.  For word study, I can concentrate on the indicators that reflect vocabulary. I will be the first to admit that indicators such as "respond appropriately to what is heard" and "write accurate and complete responses to questions about information material" make me say HUH? but data is data, and it is our job to use it as much as we can.

    For my students who scored a 1 or 2 on the test and are assigned "Additional Instructional Support" (AIS) I have access through NYSTART ( https://www.nystart.gov/nystart/u/index.do) to student reports that can support individualized and small group instruction.  These indicators can also support guided reading groups in my remedial classes.

    Although these reports are pretty general, they are a starting point.  They don't force me to "teach to the test," but rather can influence the skills my students need to be working with anyway.  Yes, I'd rather be able to look at the test and pour over the questions with a student's individual test by my side.  But, something is better than nothing, and we need to use every bit of information we have to move our kids forward.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment