Monday, August 13, 2007

Testing or Teaching?

A cartoon in the new Scholastic Administrator magazine pictures an interviewer behind a desk asking a new recruit how high school prepared him for the job opening. Instead of words, the student's balloon shows a picture of a scantron sheet with bubbles colored in. Testing is a big part of education today.

Keystone is implementing a new program this year in both the elementary and high schools to help prepare our students for the PSSA testing. This program, called 4Sight, is:
"a benchmark assessment tool that enables you to predict your students’ reading – and in some states, math – achievement multiple times throughout the year. These predictions allow you time to take action in the areas in which students need help. No prediction is perfect, but 4Sight provides a useful guide to help teachers focus instruction." (from the 4Sight web site.)

4Sight is aligned to the PSSA tests and predicts how students will score on the high-stakes tests in the spring.

Several of us attending a training a couple of weeks ago and then met again today to figure out how we will implement the program and train teachers. The elementary school will use the pencil-and-paper test, and they have a pretty good handle on how they will roll out 4Sight. Students in both buildings will be tested in reading and math.

Those of us working on the KHS implementation decided to look into the online version of the program. We also struggled with how to most effectively use 4Sight to gather essential student data while giving up the least amount of instructional time for testing.

Do you give up instructional time to TEST in order to gather data to determine what to teach to prepare students for the PSSA tests? Or do you use the time to TEACH the skills the students will need to score well on PSSAs? There's a fine line . . .

On a related note, an article from eSchoolNews discusses the changes to the "No Child Left Behind" legislation that the chairman of the House education committee will propose when the bill is renewed this fall. Rep. George Miller is proposing rigorous standards that more effectively address the 21st Century skills that many say students will need to be successful beyond high school.

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