Okay, so I’m going to cheat this week. I haven’t been feeling well, so I know I missed my Monday/Tuesday blog entry. However, the Buckeyes pulled out the win in a thriller in Happy Valley on Saturday, so I want to reward all my followers with a freebie. So the “cheating” is that I’m going to combine my football freebie with my blog post.
I’ve been planning a line of products for my store that will specifically target preparing students for the new assessments many states have adopted as a part of Common Core. A huge number of states have adopted either the PARCC or the Smarter Balance, and Florida, of course, has the FSA, created by AIR. I want to eventually have products for grades 6-11 (since I don’t think there are any states in which 12th graders will be taking these tests). I envision having an FCIM line, a full-lesson line, and a practice-assessment line. I’m also toying with the idea of having a separate chunk of products to help expose students to new question types like the multiple response, “hot text,” etc.
I’m going to describe them here and you can (hopefully) give me feedback on what sounds good, what sounds like it won’t work (or be useful) and what I’ve forgotten but you’d like to see.
The FCIM (which, by the way, for those of you who don’t know, stands for Florida’s Continuous Improvement Model) is based on a traditional “I do,” “we do,” “you do” type of instruction. Each week, there is a very narrow focus. For example, one week might simply focus on standard RL.6.1 (for grade 6, obviously – the other grades would focus on their respective levels’ standard). The teacher would demonstrate/model how to cite strong evidence to support an explicit statement or inference from the text for 1-2 days, then would walk students through the process for another 1-2 days, and finally, would have students attempt the process on their own for 1-2 days. Many teachers count the independent student work as a grade (a bell work grade, a small quiz grade, etc.). I envision having an FCIM for every standard – at least 1 FCIM per standard (RL/RI 1-9). I could see several of the standards having more than 1 FCIM, depending on the grade level and how the standard is worded. I would like to have the FCIMs for the RL and RI standards. Ideally, I would like to have different FCIMs for different item types. For instance, have an FCIM for RL.6.1 that uses standard multiple-choice items, but then have an additional FCIM for RL.6.1 that uses multiple-response items, or open response items, so students are exposed to the new items they may see on the new assessments.
Additionally, I’d like to have a full-length lesson available for every standard. This might be as short as a single class-period or it might be slightly more in-depth and function as a mini-workshop. Again, I would like to have these for every RL and RI standard (1-9) at grades 6-11. In this product, I would have a longer excerpt with a much wider variety of questions related to the focus standard. It would still follow the show/help/do model of instruction, but would go more in depth and have a much broader scope than an FCIM for that standard. As a part of these full-length lessons, I’d like to include question types that are as close as possible to the new item types students will see (like multiple response, 2-part questions, etc.).
Finally, I’d like to have 3 practice tests per grade level that would model what the new assessments might look like, based on the information released by the testing companies, the states, and other professional resources I have access to. The idea would be for teachers to give the first practice test before any targeted instruction, then look at the results to see which standards need focus. The teacher would then use the FCIMs and focus lessons for those needed standards, and then would administer a second practice test after the instruction to measure student improvement. Then, the teacher would look at which standards still needed focus and repeat the process, ending with the 3rd practice assessment, which would hopefully demonstrate that the students have mastery of the standards/skills/concepts.
This is the model that many AP programs follow. Great AP teachers make sure their students take multiple practice tests and use those results to inform instruction. Current testing SHOULD allow teachers to do this, too, but it does not (or it certainly doesn’t make it easy to do so). My system would be created specifically for the purpose of marrying instruction with assessment, with the goal of students performing well on the culminating state assessment (much like the AP test in the spring, for AP students). I know not every teacher needs or would even want this type of resource, but it seems to me that in the conversations I’ve had with teachers across the country, the current curriculums and districts aren’t doing enough to prepare students for these new types of assessments that will not only test mastery of new standards, but will look very different from the old assessments students are used to.
I do want to emphasize that I’m not advocating a “teach to the test” mentality. First of all, no one has even seen these tests, so saying that I’m encouraging teachers to “teach to the test” makes no sense at all. Instead, what I’m encouraging teachers to do is begin with the end in mind. Teachers know that these standards are what will be assessed. They teach the curriculum all year so their students can master these standards, and then the student are tested on their mastery. All I’m trying to provide is additional instructional materials that focus on the standards, and a way to assess whether or not students have mastered them or need further instruction. Everyone certainly has their opinions on Common Core, standardized assessments, the current testing culture/climate, etc. I’m not saying I even agree with everything that’s going on, but I am acknowledging it. Kids are going to be tested. Teachers are going to be evaluated based on the scores. Why not do everything in our power to make sure students master the standards and can pass the tests? It’s living within the parameters of reality.
Does this sound like something you would find useful for your classroom? If so, please let me know! And of course, if there is something you think would be helpful in this line that I didn’t mention, please please tell me! Thanks!
Here’s the freebie I created – it’s a mini (3-day) FCIM for grade 6 standard RL.1.