I teach high school and was sent to a meeting at the middle school this afternoon. I sat at a table with another teacher in my department, an English teacher from the high school and our principal.
Our district has adopted Achievement Net for K-8; they administer quarterly exams that align with the common core and deliver results within 48 hours. Today was results delivery day. The meeting started with specific accomplishments each grade level made and the data to back up their claim. Then each team chose one question to work on for twenty minutes. That wasn’t a typo, they did item analysis on a single question. There was no “which kids do we need to target?” or “which teacher did the best?” They spent time discussing exactly what the big idea, details, misconceptions and building blocks were for that one item. Next meeting will include action plans that may address the questions I just mentioned, but for today they really delved deep into deconstructing what students did. The facilitator acknowledged this, saying “this is hard work you’re doing, I know I’m pushing you.”
I was frustrated at my midterm analysis meeting earlier in the day. After observing at this meeting I realized why: since I didn’t write the test, and I didn’t grade the test (scantron did), I don’t feel like I have a good sense of how anyone did on the exam. We need time to really examine what the student thinking was rather than making lists upon lists of standards and names.
While the middle school teachers did item analysis we had a chance to chat about the template they were using, how the common core is organized and the benefits of using test banks. The conversation turned to how we wrote our midterms backwards: first we chose a bunch of questions, then we assigned standards. We should have decided what standards we wanted to assess and then chosen a few questions per standard. That’s how I write my quizzes and tests, but for big exams its been past practice to take last year’s test and edit from there. A test bank certainly isn’t a necessity for this process, but it wouldn’t hurt (so long as the questions are well written) and it would cut down on the time required to put the test into scantron (apparently that process is painful).
We also discussed how often what students get stuck on is notation or vocabulary rather than the big idea. We started brainstorming ideas that could come up in earlier classes, and that is the first “assignment” (call for help) from this blog. Before you click through to the google doc, take a moment to think about what you wish students were familiar with before they entered your class. I’m not talking about procedures or big ideas (although I will include a list of mnemonics we wish were struck from students lexicon), but anything that falls under the standard for math practice “attend to precision.”
Take five minutes to think.
Now compare and share!