I used to hate April. Which is weird, because there’s so much I should have loved about it; better weather, longer days, spring break, BASEBALL!
Yet despite all those goodies, I hated April for one reason: Testing. I’m old enough to remember the ITBS, I clearly recall the WASL, and I even know what MSP stand for. Yes, I’ve seen them all come and (thank God) go. And I hated them.
It wasn’t so much the tests that I hated. What I despised was the preparation for those tests. I’ve always felt that I owe it to my students to prepare them to do their bests on standardized tests. And besides, whether I agree with it or not, I’ve always been held accountable, whether formally or informally, for their results.
So I’ve always felt compelled to spend a considerable amount of time every April on pure, unadulterated test prep. And by the way, when people (including the president) talk about “time spent on testing,” they’re not talking about the rest of the iceberg. Most of the teachers at my school – and probably yours – spend hours and hours on test prep for every hour of testing.
All of this is to reiterate that I’ve always hated April. I’ve always felt like I was putting teaching aside to engage in something completely different; something that wasn’t teaching.
And frankly, I was right. Prepping my students for the ITBS, the WASL and even the MSP was anything but teaching. For a very simple reason: those tests weren’t aligned to what I was really teaching. Maybe they were supposed to be, but they weren’t. Sure, there were similarities and overlaps, but when you teach something one way and your students master it, re-teaching it another way just so they’ll look good on a test is not sound instructional practice.
But those days are behind me. Since the Common Core has become common and since Washington has switched over to the SBA, I don’t feel bad at all about getting my kids ready for the tests. That’s because the tests, and the tools we use to get students ready for those tests, are perfectly aligned to the curriculum we teach all year.
My favorite tools are the SBA Interim Block Assessments. Yeah, I know; they’re supposed to be used throughout the year, but I’ve found they’re a great way to review our learning and get ready for the SBA. And frankly, the kids love them! I like to mix it up; sometimes we’ll do an Interim together, sometimes they work on them in pairs and sometimes I’ll assign them for independent work.
And here’s the beauty: everything they see on the Interim Assessments is something they’ve seen throughout the year. Why? Alignment, that’s why. For the first time in my 32-year career we finally have an assessment system aligned so well to our curriculum that I actually feel like a productive teacher when I’m getting my students ready for their standardized tests.
I love April!