I was at an elementary and a middle school on Tuesday, and even though it was only the first day back from winter break, the M word hung heavily in the air. What's the M word, you ask? Oh, you know it: MCA. Still months away, but once winter break is over, the pressure begins to mount as the date looms in the future. I am not an advocate of abandoning good instruction to "prepare for the test." Most of the research out there says that though kids need some refreshers and a small amount of time to practice good test-taking strategies, they don't need weeks and weeks of practice tests. That doesn't help.
But what can you do now to get kids thinking about the MCAs and their progress in your courses? Ask them to do some reflection.
Have students take a look at their recent assessments or assignments - recent MAP scores, a test, a paper they wrote, a lab report they worked on - and share the standards and objectives the assignment was designed to assess. Have students evaluate themselves on their work. Have them think about:
- What are my strengths relative to the standards?
- In what have I seen myself improve?
- Where are my areas of weakness?
- Where didn't I perform as I wanted, and how might I make those answers/areas better?
- What does this result mean for the next steps in my learning, and how should I prepare for that improvement?
This type of reflection can help you prepare for what you may need to review to make sure students are proficient and/or where you can go deeper. Also, it can inform upcoming conferences, end of semester report cards, or simply in your regular communication with students and parents.
One thing new teachers are often afraid of doing is being honest with students about their scores on assessments. But in order for students to feel some ownership and responsibility for their assessment scores, they need to understand them and know what to do to improve. Part of that improvement can be uncovered in their self-reflections and students will appreciate frank discussions of their progress. Instead of focusing on test-prep, focus on assessment for learning through formative assessments and reflections.
Reference: Chappuis, S. & Chappuis, J. (2007/2008). The best value in formative assessment. Educational Leadership, 65(4), 14-18.