Preparing Students for a Test - Crossing Line?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by luckyal29, Mar 27, 2011.

  1. luckyal29

    luckyal29 Companion

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    Mar 27, 2011

    I'm having some internal debate as to whether I'm preparing my students or crossing the line for upcoming district tests.

    So I'm reviewing, a lot of the concepts that will be on the test and forgoing stuff that isn't. For example, there will be subtraction of fractions with unlike denominators. So for HW, I assigned some subtraction review sheet and went over subtraction in class. Then a student asked "Will there be multiplication of fractions?" I responded no because they're won't be. I thought to myself, they need to know that as well but I'm ignoring it since it isn't on the test.

    I know I need to review concepts that we're done in the Fall but by giving sample problems, am I tarnishing the results? Am I unfairly tilting the test results by concentrating on certain topics.

    It's mainly the math test that I think about. I'm not worried about the Language Arts as to me that is plain cheating as I can't read the passage with them. Another example, they have to find a misspelled word and I wouldn't being doing a spelling lesson for those words the day before the test.
     
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  3. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Have you seen what is on your test? We don't get to see the test or know what is on the test beside the objectives and assessment frameworks of our state standards....
     
  4. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I think you're doing what many teachers across the country are doing because so much rides on that particular test. I think the most ethical thing to do would be to teach what kids need, whether or not that corresponds to what's on the test, but that isn't the reality in most places.

    One thing I think is important to note is that even if a skill isn't on the test, it may still be important to doing well on the test. Some skills are foundational, and while they may not directly be tested, they are essential to doing well. Not sure if that applies to anything in your particular situation.
     
  5. luckyal29

    luckyal29 Companion

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    Yes, we get the tests for about 2 weeks because that is how long the testing window is.
     
  6. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    So, when the tests come in, you get to look at them before the kids take the test?

    We have a two week testing window, but the tests are sealed and we do not get to look at the test questions even when the kids are testing.
     
  7. luckyal29

    luckyal29 Companion

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    Yeah, they aren't sealed and the teachers look at them.

    Another thing, we had cumulative practice to review concepts. Now I go over the problems that students had trouble with, but I spent particular focus on the ones that are similar to the problems that will be on the tests.
     
  8. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

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    If you look at the test and then only re-teach skills/concepts that are on the test then I will consider it cheating...:blush:
     
  9. smurfette

    smurfette Habitué

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    We don't have district testing. Do you have state testing, too? For our state testing, we're not allowed to look at the tests until we give them, and they could cover anything in our curriculum, so we go over everything.

    I think your school administration should hold onto the tests until you give them, to prevent these kind of dilemmas from arising. You should probably review everything, to at least reinforce concepts they will need for the next grade. If you were supposed to teach multiplication of fractions, the next teacher in line is going to expect them to have mastered it.
     
  10. luckyal29

    luckyal29 Companion

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    Just to clarify, I did teach all the concepts. I'm just not reviewing all of them.
     
  11. smurfette

    smurfette Habitué

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    Oh, just saw your last reply since I typed. Is the district expectation that everyone looks at the test and is allowed to focus those problems, or is the district expectation that the tests are secure? If the district expects them to be secure, then you should treat them as such.
     
  12. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    If you see the actual test then I do think it is unethical. When my students ask about what is going to be on the state test I answer them the best I can. I know some of the material I teach will not be because it has been dropped from the standards. When asked about that material I tell them "no, it won't be on the EOC but it will be on my tests!"
     
  13. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I'm really surprised that you get to look at standardized tests ahead of time. In my district we are expressly forbidden from doing that. At no point are we allowed to look at a test, even after the kids have taken the test.

    We all know what types of questions will be on the tests and in what quantities, because that information is published by the testing company. For example it might be something like 10% of the questions are about earth science, 25% about chemistry, 15% about physics, and so on. I think that's enough information to ensure a healthy review session or two.

    Back to your original question, to me it seems inappropriate to use specific information from the tests to tailor coursework towards very specific topics. If a topic is in your standards, it needs to be taught, regardless of whether it's on the test. You owe it to the students and to their future teachers.
     
  14. donziejo

    donziejo Devotee

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    Mar 27, 2011

    Since I am a sped teacher I read aloud the parts of the test that can be read to students. So, I know what's on the test but I sign a confidentiality agreement.
     
  15. Joyful!

    Joyful! Habitué

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    In answer to your original question, I believe you have crossed the line. Do your students a favor and review everything from the year and let them lean upon the knowledge they've retained, not a cram session with you. The point of the tests is that they are to be under the same circumstances as everyone else--standardized. You have tilted the process. Also, you are sending a message that you only need to know what will be on a test. So, imho, you are creating a bad learning environment, not on purpose I'm sure, but bad nonetheless. No offense, please, you did ask, and I commend you for your openness in examining your procedures.
     
  16. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I know of many schools who have elaborate review sessions for the test. And I mean big...as in, drop all subjects except for the tested subjects a month prior to the test to cram, review, cram. When a school is being told X, Y, and Z will happen if they don't obtain a certain score, people do what they feel is necessary...
     
  17. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Our school has "proficiency camp" for students who previously failed proficiency tests by a very small margin. These "bubble students" spend about a week prior to the tests spending each day practicing and reviewing the material they're going to be tested on. In this case, I don't see a problem with this type of cram session because in most cases these students are ones who just need a little extra push and some individualized attention and instruction. I do not, however, think that they should be doing this sort of cramming for a month or more.
     
  18. Joyful!

    Joyful! Habitué

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    But the constant cramming, previewing the test just waters the test down. It was designed to measure achievement, not the teacher's ability to prepare a class for questions 1-10. Unfortunately, these tests are being misused on so many levels. I'd rather not compromise on this issue despite the risk to my career. Testing should only be a tool of evaluation, not the entire evaluation. Just my view. We are really sending the wrong message. Only be honest on your taxes if you are going to be audited. Only obey the law if an officer is near by. Only work if the boss can see you. Only study if the material is on the test. How about do your best always? How about do what is right because it is right? How about give your best effort in everything because putting your name on your work signals your approval of the quality of work you did? Just sayin'. It is my opinion, nothing more.
     
  19. luckyal29

    luckyal29 Companion

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    Can you elaborate how you find this practice acceptable compared to my original question? I'm trying to find the line on what is acceptable and what is unethical.

    In both cases, material is being reviewed. I guess it might differ in that the review I conduct is more skill specific. But in no case do I spend an entire week prepping the students.
     
  20. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Well, our students need to pass the proficiency tests in order to graduate from high school. They're extremely high-stakes tests, and the students were extremely close to passing them last year.

    The major difference between what you've described in your original post (as far as I understood it anyway) and what happens in my school is that proficiency camps at my school are basically group tutoring sessions that focus on the subject of the exam. Students are 100% focused on math math math math, instead of only getting an hour of math per day. The student will spend an hour doing Algebra, another hour doing Geometry, and so on. At no time has any teacher hosting the proficiency camps seen the exam, so the teacher isn't teaching specific skills that s/he knows will be on the test. Instead, the teacher is reteaching and reviewing general concepts in line with the state standards for that subject area. It's a small difference, perhaps, but I think it's an important one.
     
  21. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    I am personally surprised that you get to see the tests beforehand, but that is irrelevant. You do, and that's that. (I would love a peek at ours, but alas...)

    I'll tell you how I am handling the next month, and you can take it for what it's worth. I have indicators that come from the state of NE that tell me DOK of areas that may be on the test. So for example, I know that the 8th graders are going to have to be able to find the area of trapezoids and circles. But we are reviewing the area formulas for all quadrilaterals, triangles, and circles. And not only the formulas, but why they are the way they are. I am also having them do lots of applications of formulas to real world situations. I want them to understand the "why" behind area formulas, in the hope that synthesizing the information will make the comprehension/applications questions seem like a piece of cake.

    I am also doing a "Countdown to the NESA" every day. We will have a daily number, which we will use to create a fraction, decimal, and percent. Then we will take each of those and add, subtract, multiply, and divide with it. We'll also throw in some probability, and have a daily shape, which we'll have to find the perimeter/area/volume of. The point is to keep all of those essential concepts fresh in their minds.
     
  22. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    kcjo and others, do you not see the test as you monitor your students during testing? We are to make rounds around the room and check to see that students are giving an "honest effort". This translates to me seeing portions of passages, multiple choice questions, and open response prompts. I don't have time to read these things...but in glancing over things to ensure students are working honestly, I obviously see some material. I've noticed, for example, the same reading passages for the past few years. It truly hasn't at all influenced what I teach them. That said, I think every teacher should be given a test booklet of purely example passages and questions. As a new teacher, I remember having very little knowledge about the test my students would take. Testing was not covered in the least during my teacher prep program, and the school didn't introduce me to things either. Heck, I had to do a lot of research just to understand the language adminstrators and colleagues used during meetings and such. Sure, I had seen released questions from the state (thanks only to my personal research), but I think something is to be said for "experiencing" something similar (not exact questions, of course) students will be using.
     
  23. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    JustMe-this will be our first year taking a math state test (second year for reading, and pilot year for science). EVERYTHING'S new! :eek:

    Last year, we piloted the math test, and I had to read the test to 2 of my students...and I did take mental notes. Plus we get practice tests, and the indicators as I...indicated. :p I'm viewing the whole thing as an adventure. So far our illustrious state legislators haven't decided what exactly will be done with the results of these state tests...
     
  24. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    These are some quotes from a document sent out to all the teachers in my district regarding proficiency testing. The bold and underlining is part of the original document.

    Test Booklets
    • Do not review contents
    • Do not copy contents
    • Do not take notes on contents
    • Do not take the test
    • Do not circulate materials to anyone
    • Do not test ineligible students


    Students MUST NEVER BE familiarized with actual questions or reading passages from the test. Test taking skills must be taught with materials unrelated to the actual test and developed from various components of the regular instructional program.

    Actual or modified test items or test vocabulary MUST NEVER BE used for classwork/homework assignments.

    Instruction in skills outside the scope and sequence of the district delineated curriculum or the state standards merely because those skills are included on a standardized test MUST NEVER BE provided.

    Knowledge or review of actual test content is not necessary for valid test administration and is strictly prohibited.
     
  25. smurfette

    smurfette Habitué

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    Justme -- We do see the test as we monitor. We also have to read math, science, and social studies aloud to our SPED and low ESOL students, so we see the whole test if we have those students in our testing group. My state (again, not district) doesn't reuse the tests, so it releases old tests for teachers to work with. They are posted on the state website, so they are fair game to be used for review by anyone. That way, everyone has a general idea of what to expect. We aren't allowed to do test review the morning of the test, and we don't get the test booklets until just before the test.
     
  26. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I used to see the test when I had to read it aloud to my students in the special education world. However, now that I am a regular education sixth grade teacher, I know longer even look at the test for more than a few moments. I basically walk around the room and ensure that students are on the right page in the answer document and in the right section of the test. But again, I do not read the questions and am not allowed to look at the test prior to the students actually taking the test.

    But my state does release practice test questions and sample passages for teachers and students. We also are given the break down of last year's test as well as the assessment frameworks for this years test. So, I know what I need to teach and I teach this.

    I do not spend longer than a day or two reviewing but I build my review in daily. We have warm ups to teach concepts that won't get taught before the testing or to review concepts that were already taught. I build in a few homework questions that review concepts that were previously taught and our textbook builds in a few questions that look like our state testing questions.
     
  27. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    There is so much to cover and not enough time already! Why take the time from teaching what is going to be on the test to trying to review what was already taught when the review should have been taught well and built into the program anyway.
     
  28. rbschreiber@gma

    rbschreiber@gma Rookie

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    Seeing the test while monitoring or proctoring the actual administering of the test is not at all the same thing as looking beforehand. California realizes old tests and they are not used, so seeing them the day of is no problem.

    But looking beforehand and literally specifically reviewing the exacts of the test? That does not at all seem kosher to me.
     
  29. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    If you don't mind, what state are you in? I just can't imagine that would be legal! In the state I'm from and the state I currently work in you'd probably be fired for that. Believe me, I understand the pressure that comes from standardized tests. In the district near my college where I did a lot of field experiences, they usually scored low (it was a low ses district) and they would spend literally the entire year doing test prep. In 3 years of doing field experiences in that district, I never once saw the kids reading real books. They only read practice test passages. In math, they did practice test questions. It was the saddest thing- and what I would say is overall the biggest problem with education today. All those kids are going ot know is how to take a test! Ok off my soap box now...back to the orignal question, yes I do think this crosses a line.
     
  30. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    It seems our practices are less strict than others...
     

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