Reflection 4- Assessments/Tests
I have been procrastinating, I admit, about writing this last reflection. Finding many household chores, lists of to-do’s, and yard work sounding better than sitting writing a reflection. This is not usual for me. Then I began to really think about why? I started questioning why this reflection so difficult for me to complete while the others flowed so easily. Is it that I have nothing to write about? No there is plenty, maybe too much that I still have questions about. Is it that I am not interested in the subject? No, in fact I find this subject and this class fascinating and engaging. Is it that I am shirking my responsibilities? No, well maybe a bit but not intentionally, I really have been racking my brains trying to come up with something to reflect on that is still unprocessed for me. Then what?
Then a funny thing happened. Today, I went to visit the class I will be student –teaching in this spring and I was asked to give the DRA assessment to few students. That’s it, I thought, I will write about assessments. I realized I am left with many questions unanswered in regards to assessments. Which one is best? Which one is the right one? What are teachers meant to do with all that assessed information? Does every school in the district, state, country use the same tests? What do I do with a new student if they arrived with/without assessments? What if I have never seen an assessment before? Do I get to choose which assessments are right for me? Which assessments are right for my students? Should I teach solely for the student to perform well on the assessment? How accurate are assessments, really, anyway? Ugh! I was really overwhelmed. In class we had reviewed so many assessments: DRA, DIBELS, Running Records, Phonemic Awareness assessment, phonics inventory, phonological awareness screening tests, counting phonemes, CORE phoneme deletion test, Z-test, CLOZE tests, and simple timed reading tests; I felt I was even unsure, looking back over all of these tests, which was which.
I felt panicky. Then I realized the panic I was feeling was, most likely, normal. This was new for me. I took some time to review the student reading and the questions I would be asking them. I then watched a “live” assessment and then moved to my appointed assessment spot feeling confident that I would be able to do this. I sat down in a quiet room with a 3rd grade student, one-on-one, and realized that she was more nervous than me. In fact, what I understood in that moment was that it was not so much my responsibility to get caught up in the assessment results, but instead to focus on the culmination of skills that the student had to access so she could successfully complete the assessment. Each assessment is, in fact, a bit different and therefore will produce different results. Just as each student is different…there is no norm. What I appreciated was these assessments are not a final judgments but another way to better serve the students individual needs. These tests should be an opportunity, not only to evaluate student’s academic strengths, but their academic opportunities. Assessments evaluate student progress but should also be a tool for reflection so the teacher can more carefully evaluate gaps in his/her own teaching. It is my charge to see this too, as an opportunity to evaluate my personal challenges for teaching.
What this means for me is to have a clear understanding of what each assessment is looking for. By carefully, and methodically, taking time to review what is being assessed so that I am confident that I have taught students the skills and they have practiced them before the assessment. This is not as small statement. This will required continued education for me and countless hours for my first few years of teaching with continued planning and adjusting for each new school year. I found myriad of supplemental websites explaining what tests are looking for and each assessment will no doubt have its own explanation. One I found that was really helpful was called SEDL.org and they explain each reading assessment technique, what it “looks” and “sounds like”, and a link that correspond with each assessment.
It has been a while since I have taken a test like the DRA, but since we were given the opportunity to explore what it was like to take these assessments during this class, I felt that I had a better connection with the students I was testing today. Student and teachers will be forever be involved in this dance of taking and performing assessments but I think the bigger test for teachers is to remember what it is like. There is anxiety, fears, and pressures that goes hand-in-hand with testing and assessment. It is important to create an environment where learning AND testing are supported and executed with as little tension for all students. Although, we have a responsibility to administer these tests and evaluate the outcomes I feel there is a bigger implied and often overlooked challenge: teachers must see past the tests scores to understand and appreciate each student’s individuality and different learning ability and style. My goal is to approach each day with new vim, vigor, and a clean slate for all students.
Lectures on Assessment. (2011) Fall Quarter. Seattle Pacific University. EDRD-5529 Teaching Reading Strategies. Dr. Scott Beers.
SEDL:Advanced Research, Improving Education- Reading Resources. (2011). Reading Assessment Techniques. Retrieved November 30, 2011, from http://www.sedl.org/reading/framework/assessment.html