Saturday, April 28, 2012

SFC April Educational Tip by Alice Knisley Matthias

April Showers Bring Standardized Tests
Can you hear it? That is the sound of the sigh of relief for many students as the standardized tests in English Language Arts and Math come to a close. Each test required students to be tested for three days in ninety minute sessions. That’s some serious time to be filling in those tiny bubbles with Number 2 pencils.
This year, the preparation for the tests required teachers to use specific language to engage the students in the large amount of time they spend in class focused on the readiness of the students preparing for the tests administered in the spring. Some teachers expressed frustration at these tests, which reflect on the students as well as the teachers, and the alternate language used in the reading comprehension passages. It may not seem like a big deal to the overall scope of the process but for some students to hear the word “entertain” used to describe it is a real stumbling block when that same essay is now asking if the reading passage is one that would “excite” a reader.
By using a different word a 9 or 10 year old test-taker is being asked to understand the inference of a different word meaning the same thing. Some children can make the leap that the words “excite” and “entertain” essentially mean the same thing. But for a struggling reader to hear a teacher ask over and over “Is this an essay that would entertain a reader?” to suddenly silently read the question on your standardized test as “Is this an essay that would excite the reader?” can be a major stumbling block. It highlights the disparity of what goes on in a classroom boiling down to being held against a standard of an outside party. Some students can read a sentence, with a word that is different than what they have heard the teacher use in her test preparation, and move on. Yet, for those who are struggling with reading comprehension, an entirely different word used in a comprehension passage can, not only add to an incorrect answer, but a blow to their confidence for every answer that comes after it.
Why would a test, that is supposed to be a fair and accurate assessment of a child’s reading comprehension, not use the exact same language that was used for months of preparation with students? Maybe next year.

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