Testing Continued…..

So one of the problems with testing kindergarten kids is that so MUCH of it has to be done one-on-one.  Which leads to the problem of what to do with the rest of them.  The admin kind of frowns on a lot of videos….. so you usually have to come up with some kind  work that they can do at their seats….. by themselves.  They can rotate through the computers, and they can silent read-to-self, but they can’t do either for very long and you can’t have all of them doing it at once.

So one of the other teachers had a four page project that looked fun and involved a  lot of cutting and gluing that I decided to try.  It was a giraffe, with the head on one page, and pieces of the neck on each of the other three pages.  The alphabet went down one side of the neck in upper case letters and they then cut out spots for the giraffes neck with the corresponding lower case letters on them to glue on.  Really kind of cute.

Oh my heck.

Even after demonstrating and posting examples………  if they could find a way to mess it up,  they did it that way,  each child in a new and original way.  It SHOULD have used 120 pieces of paper.  I finally cut them off when we got close to a ream of paper………

I couldn’t stand it.  So naturally I had to supervise……..

Which meant that I got NO testing done.  Which sort of defeated THAT idea.

You’d think that I would have learned by now, if it looks like a good idea, look again.

And wear your glasses.



New Kid

I wasn’t thrilled to get him.  I’m at 30 kids now and 17 of them are boys.  Boys are just so much more ACTIVE than the girls.   This one came from the school down the street, and the grade level chair there used to be a kinder teacher at my school.  So I sent her a text.  I guess they had a lot of problems with this boy.  Stealing, lying, hitting……  He’s doing the same in my room.  The other children are constantly complaining about him hitting, touching, messing with them.  Today I moved him to a desk by himself.  He chopped his phonics paper into confetti, ate his glue stick and drew a picture of Sponge Bob on the wall in the boy’s bathroom.

Mom says he never had ANY problems at his other school.

Why do they do that?  I KNOW he had problems there, I talked to his former teacher.

29 kids and the Common Core

At least a third of them are behavior problems. Some of that is acerbated by there being 29 children and one adult in the room. With a smaller class size some of them might behave better due to receiving more individual attention and help. I have two kids from Special Ed Pre-K who are still special ed. in that they can not seem to get anything done without LOTS of individual attention. I have two that get pulled for Speech. I have one who I think is undiagnosed but could be in the Autism spectrum and another who started 4 weeks late, has a late August birthday and knows NOTHING. He’s ruined two glue sticks in two days by twisting the glue all the way out and then mashing it. Probably 60 % of my class is considered as non-English speaking, or very limited.

They have revamped the Common Core assessments that we do (AGAIN) and they are much more difficult to administer. They have changed our electronic grade book again (for the third year in a row). We had a meeting on Tuesday, and grade levels were discussing some of the assessments we were supposed to be doing, (new ones, with no training).  We used to have a 50 minute “intervention” time in the morning when we did Tier 2 interventions for those children who needed extra help to make progress.  This year they changed the intervention time to “whole group focus skill time”.  Alternating weeks between Language Arts and Math.  We are supposed to use the gradual release model of teaching.  I do, We do, You do together, and You do by yourself.  Then on Friday we are supposed to administer a 5 item quiz on the focus skill.  On the following Tuesday, we turn in our compiled results.   It’s just truly amazing. On Tuesday we were trying to figure out just what that would LOOK LIKE IN KINDERGARTEN and were a little frustrated. Near the end, our instructional leader mentioned to the whole staff that we (kindergarten, without actually naming us) were complaining too much and weren’t being productive. And it’s CLEAR that they have NO concept of what the issues that we are facing really are.

Here’s a sample of what the Common Core Math exam has on it for Kindergarten, (items changed slightly)

Make a group of ten ones (students do this on their own) Now using that set of 10, compose a group of ten ones and some more to make 16. Draw a picture or write an equation to match your work.

Using a set of 10, you cannot make 16. Yet that’s the way I read it………

Second example:

Make a set of 14. Now decompose that group of 14 by making a group of 10 ones and some more. Draw a picture or write an equation to match your work.

I know they use the words compose and decompose in the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) but they are stupid terms, they aren’t in any of our math materials (I’m sure they will be in the NEW math materials that reflect the CC, but they are dumb terms. I could just see going into the grocery store and asking a checker or even a bank teller to “decompose” a $20 bill into smaller bills……. I’m calling it Zombie Math.

One of my friends over at Kindergaten Today wrote a nice post today……..

Universal Breakfast

We offer “universal” breakfast this year at our school (a Title One school), Kindergarten eats last.  They begin the breakfast when the bell rings for school to begin.  So, breakfast occurs during “instruction time”.  All other grades pick up their breakfast and take it to their classroom.  Kindergarten gets theirs and eats it in the lunch room.   Prior to this week, the bell would ring to line up at 8:45, and by the time we dumped our backpacks and got across the school to the line we didn’t have to wait much.  They had four lines going for breakfast pickup.  Someone from the district visited and decided that there wasn’t enough accountability with the kids moving through so quickly, so they made the lunch lady cut it down to two lines.  We found that really slowed us down and had us waiting in line for too long so we started doing more things in the room prior to going to the lunch room.  After some trial and error, we found that if we waited 10 minutes before leaving the room, we wouldn’t have to wait in line so long.  But now, instead of getting back to the room around a quarter after, we get back to the room 30 to 40 minutes after 9:00.

We were losing maybe 25 minutes of instruction, now we are losing 40-45 minutes.  Of course they do expect us to somehow teach the same amount in a day…………..

The first five weeks of testing

Yeah, five weeks.

I hope to be done by Friday.

Dibels, mClass Math, and Common Core State Standard baseline testing.  All of which is done basically one child at a time.  And they are all given multiple times throughout the year, the CCSS test with the same content, will be given 4 times throughout the year to measure growth (and whether or not the teacher is a good teacher…….)

Besides duplicating much of the same stuff in each of the tests, the CCSS test is particularly difficult for them because it basically is meant to show end of year objectives.  So we are basically testing at the very beginning, what they should know at the end.

For the ELA portion, we test letters, upper and lower case, and sounds (78 items).

We test recognizing rhyming words (5 items), producing rhyming words (5 items),  segmenting syllables (5 items), blending onset/rime (5 items), initial sounds (5 items), medial vowel sounds (5 items), and final sounds (5 items)

Then there are 100 sight words

Reading comprehension – read a short passage and then ask 5 questions about major events. Read a short passage and then ask 5 questions about key details.

For the first trimester they have to write an informative passage about their families with the pretest now and the post test on the same topic at the end of the trimester.

There is a 4 part rubric to grade the writing sample on.

To get a 4 on the rubric and be rated as exceeding the standard their passage must

  • Provide a clear topic (name what a student is writing about)
  • Include 4 or more supporting ideas (supply information about the topic)
  • Include a closing

To get a 3 or to meet the standard

  • Provide a clear topic (name what a student is writing about)
  • Includes 2 or 3 supporting details
  • includes a reaction
  • uses a combination of drawing, dictating and writing)

To get a 2 and be approaching the standard

  • Provides a topic (names what the student is writing about)
  • attempts to write words: drawing is easily recognizable

To get a 1 and be rated as Emerging

  • off topic
  • random words or letters
  • unrecognizable drawing

the second trimester writing is for a narrative topic

and the third trimester is for an opinion piece.

Then there’s the math part of the test.

Count to 100 beginning at 0

Count to 100 by 10s beginning at 0

Write numerals 0-20

count 10 different groups of objects and write the number to represent the number of objects (0-20)

compare 5 sets of numbers, identifying the greater, lesser and equal numbers.

5 addition or subtraction to 10 story problems students are to draw the story problem and write the number sentence,students may use manitpulatives.   Credit is given for either the accurate drawing or number sentence.

Name 8 shapes, 4 of them 3 D.

Show understanding of 8 position words by moving an object to the correct location, behind, under, over , on, beside, etc.

Five weeks of testing, and very little direct instruction.

And they are having a hard time transitioning to regular instruction.  Because we haven’t been doing any of that since school started…………..When do we teach?

This Year

We are in one of the area’s of the country hit the hardest by the economic down turn and things are recovering very slowly if at all yet.  Things seem to be more difficult at work, less money, more expectations, more kids,  more testing etc.  Most teachers at my school seem more harried, less happy in their work environment, more tired, there are fewer smiles, etc.   We are facing the 4th year of extensive cuts in education and there isn’t much else to cut.   The district is putting together its budget for next year and staffing projections come out soon.  Everyone is worried about that.  Rumors fly thick and fast, and that has everyone on their toes.  One of the rumors is that all full day kinder programs will be cut to half day.  This would eliminate half the kinder teachers in the full day programs.  It would also nearly double our work load.  My first 4 years teaching kindergarten (some 20 years ago) was half day and it burned me out.  That was before they pushed down all of the reading and math into kindergarten.  Before all the testing and assessments.  The at-risk kids I work with will not benefit nearly as well from a half day program.  At the very least we can expect larger class  sizes and less supplies, and if they can get the union to re-negotiate, cuts in pay and benefits.  For the last 4 years they have expected us to do more with less, and now no matter where the cuts come, it will get worse.  All of this and still do better with NCLB (No Child Left Behind).

This year kids seem  lower, and to be  struggling more. I feel frustrated that I don’t seem to be making much of a difference with some of them.  If you are in education, have you ever noticed how some years are so different from the others?  All across the grade level all the teachers are saying the same thing about this year’s crop.  Was it sun spots or something when their moms were pregnant?   I was looking at my blog and noticed that I have posted less lately and that’s just one of the symptoms as well. I seem to have less time and less energy.  If nothing else, I usually find more humor in the day-to-day goings on in my class.  It’s like the kids aren’t even as funny as usual.

Don’t you love parents who think “their” child is the “smartest” kid in the world?

If you are one of these parents, I’m sorry.  I know, EVERY parent, thinks their kid is special……….. and every kid is, in their own way.

First off, let me say that while their child IS wonderful, she’s no standout academically in my class.  She’s been a bit of a behavior problem of late.  I would be one of the first to admit that both the under- challenged, and the over-their-head challenged can both be behavior problems (and some of the middle kids as well).   And I have some of each this year.  So much so, that I have really had to tighten up my discipline plan this year (as in, I actually have had to implement a mechanical progressive discipline process, something I have been more relaxed about in the past).  I have a three card system, which consists of a warning, two stages of yellow and one stage of red.  The warning carries no consequences, the first yellow is a timeout, the second yellow is loss of play time at recess, and the red is a call or note home.   Each day students take home a Monopoly money size green, yellow or red card.  I’ve printed out most infraction types on the cards and only need to check one or more boxes on the card.  They need to get the yellow and red ones signed and returned.

Samantha’s problem is that she is easily distracted, has a kindergartener’s natural exuberance at being around a bunch of other kids, and is impulsive.  Nothing bad there really.  But she does take the occasional yellow card home.  Which from the way she gets almost hysterical when it happens, you would think they beat her, (hopefully that’s not the case) but I do know that they do take a yellow or red card very seriously when she gets them.  I have hinted, that while I want the child to think it’s very serious, that perhaps they might not attach quite so much significance to the  occasional yellow card when she gets it. 

Yesterday, mom brought me a note from the doctor,  she knew class was starting, and didn’t want to take my time……. but did anyway……..

The note is written on a doctor’s prescription pad and reads,  “Please discuss with mom testing Samantha for advanced I.Q. since she has advanced knowledge for 5 yrs old in face of behavioral difficulty.”  I’m not even sure that’s grammatical…. but who am I to be picky, the doctor pulls down more income than me I’m sure. 

Yeah, I have some kids this year who are learning well and doing well on various assessments as they are given.  But I do NOT have any kids reading Magic Tree House books in the first trimester like I did last year.  This years crop of kids is AVERAGE, and she is in the upper half of the class in that respect.  But she doesn’t stand  out.  I have very few who can consistently decode CVC words.  She isn’t one of them.

I find it interesting that parents rationalize their children’s behaviors back to being the teacher’s fault.  She is apparently bored, or not being challenged and that’s why she is getting in trouble.  If she is SO smart, maybe she could figure out how to stay out of trouble……………..