Let's Talk Assessments
Lindy Johnson is the Elementary Literacy Coordinator at the Barre Supervisory Union. Lindy has been an educator for 25 years and held a variety of positions. She has been a classroom teacher, Title I, Reading Recovery, district literacy coordinator, and spent 5 years working for the Vermont Agency of Education. Her work at the AOE focused on assessment and meeting grade level expectations in the classroom. She continues to try and find a balance between assessment, instruction and engagement to ensure educators are able to meet the needs of all students.
In the spring of 2014 the Barre Supervisory Union participated in the Smarter Balanced (SBAC) Field Test with students in grades 3-8 and 11. By Vermont standards our schools are rather large; we had approximately 1200 students in the two elementary/middle schools to assess during the window (mid-March to early June). Our first hurdle was figuring out how we could do this with our current technology in the least intrusive manner.
We started assessing in late March and continued until late May. It was a long window but we were only able to accommodate one grade level (75-95 students) per scheduled 75 minute time period. We used desktops (computer labs), laptops, and Chromebooks in classrooms. Each grade level was scheduled for seven sessions to complete the reading/writing/math components. Overall, the technology issues were minor (other than needing more equipment) and participating in the Field Test has better prepared us for the real thing in 2015.
I found the students to be very motivated by the computer model of testing. They were comfortable scrolling around, checking the information tools and reading from the screens. We clearly need to give them more experience composing on the computers and building stamina to read and compose for longer periods of time. Something that was interesting was that students initially didn’t utilize paper and pencil to work out their math problems even though the problems were not designed to be solved in your head. We had to remind students that the paper and pencils should be used when working out problems. Once they got into the computer mindset they seemed to forget some things still needed work on paper to get the answer.
The directions students needed to read to answer both reading and math problems seemed more complex than what they encountered on the New England Comprehensive Assessment Program (NECAP). Scrolling between prompts and multiple part questions was another task that was new to them and some students had trouble simply identifying the question and understanding the task. By the second session most students seemed comfortable with the technology and were willing to work for the entire scheduled period. Overall they did seem to be more engaged using technology and entered each session willing to try.
Page Last Updated on December 4, 2014