Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Lessons From Testing

Today we finished another year of standardized testing for our homeschool co-op, and I for one am quite happy to be done!  As the coordinator, it's like running around like a crazy person for the actual 3 days of testing, plus all the legwork beforehand.  I got to see the Lord work in a very special way this year, though, and that really made it memorable!

Last year we used the Iowa test for the first time, since BJUPress said that Pearson, the publisher, was going to stop supporting the Stanford test after June 2016.  It took a lot of time, but I finally worked out a schedule for all the grades, and I figured we were set.

But then sometime in the fall or winter, I was reading a thread on the Well Trained Mind forums where a lady said that she would be using the Stanford test for her kids this spring.  I asked how that could be, and she replied that Pearson had decided *not* to stop supporting the test after all, although it wouldn't be updated (read "bought into compliance with Common Core", which I don't think anyone in my circle cares about), and Pearson still might stop supporting it "at any time".  Hmmm.  The benefit with the Stanford is that it is untimed, as long as the student is progressing, and that takes a lot of pressure off the kids, especially in the math sections.  I decided we would go back to using Stanford for as long as we can.

But with all my playing around with the schedule last year, I decided to tinker with the Stanford schedule that we had always used as well.  The lady who had been the coordinator at our co-op for years and years before me had set it up for 3 days of testing, but I wanted to see if we could do the required math and language sections in just 2 days for all the grades, and then just have the optional science and social studies sections for those who wanted them on the third day.  I worked it out, but it highlighted the discrepancy in testing times for the various grades.  First grade needed so much more time than any other grade!  Plus, they only had one extra section, and "environment" one, that was suggested to be 30 minutes long, so a third day just for that seemed silly and should have been my first clue that maybe this grand plan would not work so well, lol.

In the meantime, I received the "big box o' tests" for BJUPress almost 2 weeks ago.  I opened it weekend before last to make sure I had all the tests people had ordered.  I realized, as my heart sank to my toes, that I was missing a first grade test and a seventh grade test.  I  compared my sign-up list with the student roster in the box, and I realized that Christine's tests were the ones missing.  What on earth happened?! I printed off her confirmation email and called BJU last Monday.  They were apologetic but said that there was a problem with her credit card, so her order didn't ship.  They had tried to contact her, but not very hard apparently, not leaving messages and not trying email!  I immediately called her, and she called them. It turns out her card had been compromised after she had ordered the tests, so she had to get a new card, but BJU doesn't charge your credit card until the tests ship, which was several weeks later.  Who knew?  Anyhow, BJU express-shipped her tests, and I got them, along with a set of directions for both grades, last Thursday, in plenty of time for this week's testing.  Whew!

For some reason, we had a much bigger than usual number of first graders--11.  First grade is the hardest grade to do a standardized test for, since there is such a wide range of perfectly normal.  On the one hand, you have the (primarily older) kids who have been reading for awhile, and then you have the ones who are technically reading words and sentences, but for whom paragraphs are way too much.  I think the Stanford 1st grade test is actually pretty hard--there are 7 paragraphs at the end of the reading comprehension section, with questions after each paragraph.  Some of the kids breezed right through--and others didn't.  There were tears and frustration, and the class ended up over an hour behind my "schedule".  In fact, by the end of Monday, they hadn't finished 2 of the sections I had scheduled for that day, and obviously my plan of only leaving the optional part for Wednesday was not going to work!

I called Christine to vent my frustration, and she wondered if it would be possible to split the 11 first-graders into 2 groups.  She was a qualified test administrator who wasn't scheduled to test on Tuesday, so she was willing to help out--but we would need a second book of test directions, since they are so scripted, especially for first grade.

But wait!  We HAD a second set of directions . . . because her order, which included a first grade test, hadn't gone through the first time, and so it had to be sent out separately, with its own set of administration directions for each test.  Isn't that amazing how the Lord worked out what we needed, even before we knew we needed it??  So we split the first grade up into 2 groups for Tuesday and today, and it worked much better.  Some kids did have to come back today that weren't planning on it, but everything worked out fine.

Next year I am definitely going back to the original 3 day schedule for both the first and the second grades.  The second grade tester said she thought the days were too long for the second graders too.  For everyone else, doing the required sections in just 2 days worked out just fine, and it was a nice option that they didn't have to come back on Wednesday if they didn't want to.

Now, I am just so glad to be done.  This stress and responsibility really takes it out of me!  I will be very glad to mail that big box right back to BJU Press tomorrow.  Good riddance!

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