Thursday, May 26, 2016

Notes For Next Year's Testing

Standardized testing was this past Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  I'm the testing coordinator for our elementary co-op, but it's open to the high school co-op associated with us, as well as really anyone else who hears about it and contacts me, lol.  This year we had 21 families totaling 37 kids.

Last year I found out that the Stanford test, which we had been using for years and years, was no longer going to be published or supported starting in June of 2016.  While we could have had one more year of Stanford, I chose to go ahead and make the switch to Iowa Test of Basic Skills.  We test so late, and I was afraid if there was any sort of hiccup, then we would be stuck.

Switching to ITBS did require a ton of extra work though.  We've always had 3 mornings of testing, with nice breaks in between sections.  The high schoolers finished in just 2 days, but everyone else took the full time.  With Iowa, however, there was really a big discrepancy in testing times.  The first and second graders were supposed to take about 4 hours 25 minutes (although the second graders ended up taking a lot longer), and the high schoolers had 4 hours 20 minutes.  But the 4th-6th graders took 5 hours, 26 minutes, and the poor 3rd graders took 6 hours, 11 minutes!  Those probably don't seem like vastly different times, but when you're trying to schedule all the grades so everyone ends around the same time each morning, it was just a challenge.  I ended up having the 3-8th graders only complete the core subtests on Monday and Tuesday, and then those whose parents wanted them to complete the extra subsections for the complete battery (science, social studies, and maps and diagrams, primarily)  came back on Wednesday.  We had 15 kids come back, so I'm glad I offered that option.  The 2nd graders didn't end up finishing the complete test on Monday and Tuesday, so 2 of them came back to take the extra subsections on Wednesday as well, even though that isn't how I had scheduled it.  But things happen, and especially with the younger grades, things can just take longer.  I'm glad it all worked out.

I ended up playing around with the schedule for a long time in April and early May.  When the big box o' tests showed up at my doorstep, I really wasn't ready to look at them, so I just ignored them.  They came right when I was leaving to pick Nathan up from Tech, so I definitely had other things on my mind!  Finally on the Tuesday night before testing, I got around to checking off the contents against my master list of who had signed up, to make sure I had enough tests for each grade.  My heart sank when I discovered there were only 2 second grade books, instead of 3, which is what we needed, and in fact was what the packing slip said was included.  I looked through all the books again, but the missing booklet was nowhere to be found.  I resolved to call BJU first thing in the morning, but I did not sleep well because I was so worried!

I called, and the lady was so nice, apologizing for their error and assuring me they would get a test booklet out to us right away.  She even thanked me for giving them more than one day's notice of the problem before we started testing!  So, feeling greatly relieved, I went back into the study and started on some other task.  I moved a big pile of papers around--and right there on the desk under the papers was the missing test booklet!  To say I was shocked was an understatement!  At that point I had a vague recollection of getting out a test booklet to look at the student information on the back so I could instruct the teachers on how they should fill it out (homeschoolers obviously don't have a school or district or whatever), but for me to a) leave the booklet out of the box, and b) completely forget about ever even doing that was so completely out of character for me, especially with such a high stress area like testing, where I am usually *VERY* careful with everything about it because I don't want to screw things up!  The only possible conclusion is that I am losing my mind, LOL.

As I stood there in the study, clutching the booklet, I was stumped as to what to do--if they had already sent off the extra booklet, they would be super mad (justifiably so) at spending money for rush shipping, but maybe they hadn't already sent it off?!  I stood there pondering . . . and then the phone rang!  It was not a number I recognized, but it turned out to be the BJU "solutions department" leaving a message.  I quickly found a phone and answered.  The lady said she had heard there was a problem with my order, and she just needed to get some more information so they could send off the missing booklet.  I was able to let her know that the missing booklet had been found, and that the real problem was that I was just a moron, lol.  She was very gracious and relieved to hear it was not a problem on their end, while I was mortified, but relieved that I didn't have to worry about not having one test booklet come Monday.  Whew!  That whole thing gave me some more gray hairs, for sure.

One other thing that was a little bit of a wrinkle was discovering in my big box that I only had one set of test administrator directions for all of 3-8th grades.  I had those kids divided into 4 different sections, so clearly that wasn't going to work.  With Stanford, BJU sent a set of directions for each grade, so ordering extra sets of directions wasn't even on my radar screen, since we never had more than 1 section of each grade.  I ended up making 3 photocopies of all the direction pages of the administrator book.  When we actually started testing, I realized I should have included copies of the table of contents, which would have made it much easier for my administrators to actually find the correct pages, since my schedule doesn't just go in order through the book.  (It is nice to break up the language and math sections.)  Ah well, next year . . .

The actual testing part went fairly smoothly.  There were a few small hiccups, like me scheduling 4-8th grades for "word analysis", not realizing that was one of the extra sections that only the 3rd graders too.  The 4th grade test administrator came out all puzzled, having searched the kids' answer sheets for a place to answer word analysis questions, and not finding any such section.  We couldn't find any section in their test booklets either, so it was a real conundrum until I got the bright idea to look at the master test administration page that showed me that "word analysis" for 3-8th graders had a little cross by it, signifying that only the 3rd graders had that section.  Oops!  And it took the 5th and 6th graders a lot longer to bubble in all their information than the 5 minutes I had allotted, so I'm mentioning that here in hopes that I'll remember to give more time for that next year.  Probably not, lol.

Anyhow, it's done, and the big box o' tests is on its way back to BJU as of yesterday evening.  I'm so glad to get that off my plate!

This is only my 5th year to be in charge, but I'm really tired of it!  Maybe next year it won't be so bad, since it won't be a new test.  I already don't like change, and I definitely don't like change that makes more work for me!  When I think that other TNT committee jobs are things like "answer questions for first-time moms in TNT", or "answer questions and show around prospective moms"--well, let's just say it makes me want to hand off testing!  But realistically no one would take it, I don't think.  The only reason I took it over from Leisa was because no one would take it 5 years ago.  I tested that year with newborn Micah sitting next to me that whole 3 days!  If people will let a mom who had her 8th baby just 6 weeks before take over testing, then I am not confidant anyone would jump to volunteer to take it over now!  It is easier now that I'm not having any more babies, that's for sure.  Again, maybe next year will be a piece of cake . .  we'll see!

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