Very hard test with extra credit opportunity OR less hard test and no extra credit...

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Mathemagician, Jul 23, 2012.

  1. Mathemagician

    Mathemagician Groupie

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    Jul 23, 2012

    I am debating this right now. I don't like the idea of giving easy tests. During my student teaching, I had to use department made tests and they were a joke. 90% of my honors kids had As and only 1 student had below a B. The tests were all almost identical to things we did in class, but with different numbers. Obviously some of this is necessary on a test (I don't want every problem to be super challenging), but I think it's important to test the problem solving aspect as well. That is, give them something novel that they've never seen before, but have all of the tools to approach it....this is how college exams are and I think the term "college prep" should be taken seriously.

    As it stands, I have written my first two tests for geometry and algebra 2 this year. They are all CP classes...no honors, but no low track either. Looking at them, they are quite difficult...the students will have all of the necessary tools, but it will still definitely take some thinking. I am a little worried about giving such a test as the kids are probably used to the regurgitate method of testing mathematics (and yes, I did put some of that on there so they aren't totally discouraged), but the Common Core really emphasizes problem solving and critical thinking. At the same time, I don't want them to have really bad grades because I give hard tests so I am thinking about giving extra credit with each test. It will be some assignment (research or a tough problem) to be done at home and brought in test day for 5-10 points. It will always be related to the topic of the test, and it will always be challenging (none of the bring in soup cans extra credit deal). What do you think? Make tests easier or offer extra credit? (This is all hypothetical in the sense the kids may come in and knock the tests out of the water making them less hard than I thought.)
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think you need to find a middle ground.

    If your tests are too easy, your class quickly becomes a joke.

    But if your tests are too hard, it's the same joke with a different punchline. There's no need to try, because the only way to get through the test is to ace the Extra Credit. Kids become demoralized and stop trying if their efforts don't bring about the desired outcome. (And let's not even talk about the issues you'll have with administration and parents, because at its heart, this should be about the kids.)

    Personally, I make up new tests each year based on what I've covered and how it went. One class might have more trouble than you expect on Order of Operations, so their test might need to reflect the extra time you'll be spending on that. Or your sophs might struggle on remembering the algebra they need to solve a vertical angle problem, so that might need to be incorporated.

    But I think that the level of difficulty should be a happy medium-- I aim for a median grade in the mid 80s on my tests.
     
  4. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Jul 23, 2012

    Tests should reflect what you've taught. Include a few questions to 'push' thinking...
     
  5. Mathemagician

    Mathemagician Groupie

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    That's true...I guess the quizzes will have to help guide the tests. I think I'll hold off on making any more of them until I get to know the kids.

    Although the admin did tell me during the interview that they expect some student's grades to go down with the new standards (and then to pick back up in future cohorts as students are more accustomed to the thinking piece), I definitely don't want to tick off any parents.
     
  6. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Jul 23, 2012

    Exactly! I plan my tests before I begin any of my lessons. I think about what I want them to have mastered and what it should look like in a response from the students. I don't want a "gotcha" situation on the test. If they are easily passing, then I'm not pushing them enough in my curriculum. If they are all failing, then I'm setting unrealistic expectations OR (more likely) I haven't taught the information well enough.
     
  7. geoteacher

    geoteacher Devotee

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    Jul 23, 2012

    I agree! I edit my tests each year based on changes in the class.

    As to extra credit, I always tell students not to expect it. The expectation is that students do the work required for the class - not that they depend upon "extra" points to pass or to make a grade.
     
  8. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Back when I made up all of my tests by myself I used the grading scale as my guide. I think classes should run so that everyone who was attentive and did their work should have no problem passing. Thus 70% of my questions were basic, lower-level type questions. I believe that one should work hard and really know his stuff in order to get an A. So ~7% of the questions are higher-order questions. The remaining questions fall in between the others.
     
  9. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    Jul 23, 2012

    When I was in HS/college some teachers/profs would give us like 5 mins with our books...so if there was something that we forgot we could go back to it...

    One prof let us make index cards and would give us 5 mins with those... I think that worked the best because you are writing them out and learning it at the same time.

    I have the worst test anxiety... so I would try to prep in many different ways and was always happy to see a few xtra credit problems (didn't expect them)!!!
     
  10. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    Jul 23, 2012

    Tests should cover the standards, not punish students. My tests are mostly written out and some drawings. They require thought, but any student can expect a solid C if they have tried, but As and Bs are not at all out of reach for most.

    I save the real challenges for our labs and classroom activities. I do give extra credit, but strongly disagree with hard or challenging extra credit. What I do is randomly give a few points to anyone who does something extra or makes connections between our class and other subjects or current events.

    Truthfully, my extra credit is something of a scam. In the scheme of things, the added points don't add up to more than 1% each quarter, but the kids never figure this out so it motivates them.
     
  11. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    Molly... agree... our teachers just used for the extra credit portions something that may take a little longer for you to figure out with the stuff we've covered. In some cases it was something that may have been in a portion of a text like the little extra texts that were in a box or even an article the teacher had given us...
     
  12. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Jul 23, 2012

    Have your kids seen any of these application type questions before? I would rather see an "easier test" than a difficult test that requires regrading and extra credit; particularly for the first test of the year. May I suggest you seek someone out (either here or at your school) to look over the tests to see if they are too difficult.
     
  13. Mathemagician

    Mathemagician Groupie

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    Good call. I just went back and toned them down a bit. I will run them by my mentor teacher when I start unless someone here is willing and able.
    Yes, they will have seen some application questions in class and in the homework.
     
  14. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I would definitely include a challenging question or two to show the A student from B or C students, but most of the test needs to be similar to what you covered in class.
     
  15. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Jul 23, 2012

    I'm willing and able. PM me.
     
  16. Aussiegirl

    Aussiegirl Habitué

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    Jul 23, 2012

    I teach 8th grade, so it is a little different than HS, but I do give extra credit on many of my tests. Usually there are a few questions that deal with work previously covered. They are only worth a point or so, and I rarely tell them which questions are for extra credit because so many kids will skip the extra credit.:confused:

    I like my tests to run the gamut from a few easy, basic questions to a few more challenging application questions, and the rest fall in between.
     
  17. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Jul 23, 2012

    A math teacher I work with made up an exam of 20 questions and let the students choose the 10 they wanted to answer. I really like the idea of giving the students a choice. You could also add a few challenge questions as extra credit and let the students choose one of those, too.
     
  18. Catcherman22

    Catcherman22 Companion

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    Jul 23, 2012

    I'm a math teacher and would be happy to help as well if you pm me.
     
  19. TechnoMage

    TechnoMage Companion

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    Jul 25, 2012

    Test what you teach, teach what you test

    A test should never be about how "clever" you are about writing the test.

    It seems that all testing is going that way. How clever you can be about writing a question. The kids know you are clever, you should not have to prove it on the test.

    Tricky questions with double meanings should never count. If you want to ask one then put it in as extra credit. If you teach one way, it is only fair that you test the same way.

    Students are not experienced enough to "read between the lines".

    It should not be their responsibility to "get into your head" to figure out an answer, unless the class you are teaching is Logic or Philosophy.

    Teach what you are going to test and test the way you have taught.

    Children are not "self actualizing", most adults aren't either.:thumb:
     

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