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.



Common Core Trimester Exams

The testing window opened today for our Common Core Exams.  The test is much more time consuming this year than last.  They allocated some money for us to help with the testing,  We could use it for subs while we test or we could be paid for testing outside of our contracted school day.  As a grade level, we opted for working after school to test.  So this week we are each staying after school for an hour and a half and testing kids.  I have 5 kids each night.  I’m testing one on one and the others can play on the computers, or the Smartboard while I’m testing.  We won’t get all of the testing done after school, but I think it is really going to cut down on the class time that has to be taken away from instruction time.

So far, I’m really impressed with the growth my students have made from just the beginning of the year.

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……..

More on the Common Core Exam

So here is the breakdown of how the District explains my problem with the scoring in the math portion of our Common Core Exam.


Emergent                      Approaches                   Meets

.00-120.49                  120.50-161.49                161.50-169.00

Those are points possible on the test and how they broke them down.

Counting to 100 has a point value of – 101 (since we start at zero)

Skip counting to 100 from 0 equals – 11 points

Writing numbers from 0-21 equals – 21 points

Counting objects – 10 points

Comparing numbers – 5 points

Addition and subtraction –  5 points (listen to a number story, and correctly write a number sentence and do the math)

Recognise and name 2 and 3 D objects in the environment.  -8 points

 Use correct terms to describe objects location – 8 points

Clearly someone with a math background did not decide how to score this test.  Do they REALLY want to disproportionately value rote counting that much over the other standards?  Counting by ones to 100 and skip counting by 10’s to 100 is 122 of the points or 72% of all possible points.  Two of the eight standards assessed account for 72% of the score.  That’s not right.  Next year I should allocate 72% of my math time to those two standards.

The girl in my previous post scored a total of 119 points because of only counting to 49.  She would still have had to count to 92 to meet the standard.  In my experience, if they can count to 92, they can count to 100.

And they scored it differently for ELA .  There were 15 standards evaluated in ELA.  If a student got maximum points on all standards except words, and they met the standard with words at 50 words they would earn 179 points.  If they miss 7.51 points out of 179 points, they drop from Meeting the Standard to Approaches the Standard.  That is such a narrow margin.

Common Core State Standards and Merit Pay

Our district, along with the rest of the country, is inching towards merit pay.  One of the steps they have put in place this year is a Common Core State Standard assessment.  In kindergarten, since there is no baseline data, we have to administer the assessment four times a year.  Once at the very beginning of the year, the first week, before we even have routines and procedures down.  Then we do it three more times at the end of each grading period.   Testing.

We have just finished up the final, end of year CCSS exam.  Our principal wanted us to pull a report from the program where we record our results.  The data became available over the weekend and I looked at it.  Basically, the “Big Picture” report takes all of the math standard results, and all of the ELA results and condenses them into one math “grade” and one ELA “grade”.  The grades are, Emergent, Approaches, Meets, and Exceeds.

Fine,  except for this, and it’s only one example.  I have one little girl, who “meets” the standard on EVERY Common Core State Standard in math except one.  She can’t count to 100 yet,  she  only counted to 49.  She is rated as Emergent on this one standard.  Eight standards tested, 7 out of 8 meeting the standards but that’s not enough.  Because she was rated Emergent on this ONE standard, she is rated Emergent on ALL of math.  That’s not right.

In reading, they have to know 50 out of 100 sight words to meet the standard, 49 is approaching the standard, 50 meets the standard, and 51 exceeds.  There is no wiggle room.  Knowing 35 words is still Emergent and knowing 35 words gets the same rating as knowing 6 words.

Winter Break

I’m right in the middle of our winter break, and I must say, it’s nice to not have to get up and go to school.  This year has not been fun, or nearly as fulfilling as teaching has normally been for me.  Generally, I love the kids and my job.  But between the effects of the slow economy and the “reform” that’s being pushed down, the job is changing and I don’t think in a good way.  More kids, less help.  Always more testing, like that will somehow fix everything.  I said that I wanted to keep track this year of just how much time is taken away from actual instruction by all of the testing.  In kindergarten there are few tests that can be given whole group, or even in small groups for that matter.  Most of what I need to evaluate needs to be done one-on-one.  So any test, is going to take away from instruction time.

The main test we have to give is aligned to the Common Core State Standards and is given this year four times in kindergarten, and three times in each of the other grades.  We have to give it at the beginning of the year in kindergarten because they want a base line.  Ultimately this is leading up to individual teacher accountability.  In theory.  Other grades have previous year data to compare to.  Kinder does not.   We have been in school now for about 75 days. Administering the test along with Dibels, and mClass Math, took about five weeks at the beginning and at the end of the first marking period the CCSS test took about two and a half weeks.  So in 15 weeks of instruction, I’ve tested for about half of the time.  In January, we do Dibels again and start progress monitoring.

It wouldn’t be so bad if we had aides, or even some help with substitutes while we tested, but the economy has cut out any funding that might have paid for the help.  I could get so much more done with my class if I didn’t have to spend so much time testing.  They didn’t add the testing time onto our time, they took it away from instruction time.

Common Core

It’s all Common Core now.  Just 4 years ago, we were monitored to make sure that we were teaching our math and Language Arts material with “fidelity”.  Basically we had to follow the teacher’s guide exactly and parrot everything.  This year, it’s “teach the standards, use the commercial programs as resources”….  I’ve finally got my head around this with math.  The enVisions (Pearson) math program that we are using has been really frustrating to follow.  Now, with the Common Core mandated, I can justify moving away from the enVisions, and focusing more on depth of knowledge aligned to the Common Core.  I  use more outside resources.  Common Core in kindergarten seems to focus much more on number sense and manipulating number than enVisions.

There have been some significant changes in what we teach.  We don’t really teach time, money, calendar, and patterns much in kindergarten now.  At least not with nearly the emphasis we formerly did.  But they have to know much more about the topics that we DO teach.  Counting for example goes from counting to 20 to counting to 100.

The Common Core in math starts with 8 basic standards. These standards each start out with, “a mathematically proficient student will….”

  •  Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  •  Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  •  Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  •  Model with mathematics.
  •  Use appropriate tools strategically.
  •  Attend to precision.
  •  Look for and make use of structure.
  •  Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

The second part of the Standards are the strands by grade level.

Common Core has a deeper emphasis on math discussion and math journals(at least as they want us to teach here), with the students sharing their thought processes.