'Tis the Season!

Not for snow and ice!

But for testing, of course.
And I would love to share my assessment mindset with you.

I will be the first to admit that state-mandated Benchmark testing was completely new to me just five years ago. During my ten years teaching at BHS, my assessment focus primarily consisted of the ACT and AP Calculus exam. Teaching junior high was my first experience with Benchmark testing and End-of-Course exams in the state of Arkansas. But my assessment mindset has remained the same.

My students' worth has absolutely nothing to do with my math class. Period. I love them for who they are...not what kind of math student they have become during our time together. I want my students to do well (by their definition of "well") simply because I know they are super smart and have learned so much this year. I tell them that. And I also tell them that I'm planning on them holding the top ___ (insert number of students I teach) spots on the spreadsheet of ranked math scores! I believe in them. And I never want them to doubt that fact. I get so excited about testing because my students have an opportunity to let their math knowledge shine. What about you? Not so much? That's okay...just remember...enthusiasm is contagious even if it is completely fake. Act the part!

I believe assessment scores reflect the progress made all year long. There's nothing new that I can teach in a Benchmark bootcamp to alter that reflection. We have communicated mathematically, both verbally and in writing, all year. That will show. We have persevered to grasp concepts rather than regurgitate process all year. That will show. And we have held each other accountable for putting forth the kind of effort that yields success ALL year. That will show! Now...I know...you must be curious...do I review for state-mandated tests?!? The answer is yes. My Benchmark or EOC Bootcamp efforts serve two purposes: (1) to provide knowledge of the testing routine, structure, and environment and (2) to build within my students a confidence of knowing they are beyond ready for the assessment.

To provide knowledge of the testing scenario, we review the schedule for testing...down to the specifics of which days are longer than others so we know to eat a bigger breakfast and bring a "happy" snack to keep us going. We look closely at the outline of the types of math questions that will be posed when and get a feel for the time allotted. We look at the five strands of math frameworks for all of the math questions. And we don't just look at this once. We look at the details 3-4 times over the course of a month until the students can tell me all about the routine of testing.

To build confidence, we look at sample multiple choice and open-response questions. Now the routine of review varies based on the course and/or students. I generally start with a broad overview and then target practice to the specific needs of individual students. Some years the broad overview has been a pretest of sorts, while other years I have used several quick informal assessments (see sample in the Benchmark Grade 7 post and Benchmark Grade 8 post). The practice has varied from problem sets to games used during MATHercise to coordinating Gizmos from Explore Learning. Know your students and choose a method that will build the most confidence. And then fist-bump your way through testing week because you and your students have rocked the math ALL year!

Happy testing to YOU!

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