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?


Common Core State Standards

There is full implementation of the CCSS in K, 1st, and 2nd in our district this year, rolling them out to the rest of the grade levels over the next several years.   We are also moving away from the standard measurement of NCLB and adopting a growth model.  The growth model requires pre-testing, and trimester testing on the standards, that’s 4 times during the year.  We also are being required to do Dibels testing, mClass Math testing and the Renaissance Learning STAR test (in kindergarten we will do the STAR Early Literacy test)  3 or 4 times for the benchmark testing and periodically for progress monitoring.  Then there are ELA unit tests, and Envisions Math unit tests, etc, etc.  There are 8 pages to the CCSS ELA test, and 4 pages to the CCSS Math test. Almost all of these assessments need to be given either individually, or in small groups.  It is just mind-boggling how much time this is going to take.  And as it stands right now, we should top out around 30 students in each of our kindergarten classes.

I want to log just how much time is lost from direct instruction this year due to assessments.  They keep adding new assessments, but don’t take any away.

Dibels, Wireless Generation’s mClass Math, and the Renaissance Learning Star Early Literacy test……..

I thought I was a teacher, but apparently not.  I thought our school was losing the battle with NCLB and that TEACHING would be important, but apparently not.

In one week the window opens for the middle of year benchmark tests in all of the above assessments.  Four Dibels tests, Four mClass Math tests, (ALL administered individually to each of my 32 students, and then the Star Early Literacy test administered on the computer (for which they want me to sign up for a 50 minute block of time in the computer lab).   Funny that, I wonder how long it will take me to login 32 kids in the lab into a program they have never used before, and how many will actually finish it……..

The mandated testing window for ALL of these assessments is two weeks.  The same two weeks. 

And I have pacing calendars that mandate specific lessons for Voyager Learning intervention groups, Trophies Reading Lessons, and Envision math lessons, all of which give specific dates when specific lessons will be taught.  If an observer comes into my room, it is expected that I will be on the specific lesson at the specific time.  Funny how all this testing wasn’t built into that schedule……….

My wife suggested that I get the “two-week flu” since I have enough accumulated sick days……….

It’s tempting.

Dibels and the 7th day of school

Tthe testing window for the beginning of the year dibels benchmarks opens tomorrow.  I have all of the kids uploaded to my Palm so I can begin the testing.  Now, I just have to figure out how to keep the rest of the kids busy and out of trouble while I’m doing it. 

The problem is, that while they make improvements daily, they still don’t have routines and procedures down pat yet, and they really can’t do much, only about a third of my kids can write their first names good enough for me to be able to read them, and they can’t do much else.  Most of them haven’t grasped the idea of phonemic awareness yet,  and they aren’t very good at sorting beginning sound pictures for the letters Bb and Cc (the only ones we have done so far).   So I hate to interrupt the routines and procedures for a week while we do dibels.  About the time that the dibels window closes the mclass math window opens……….

I know it’s the beginning of the year and I say this almost every year but, this group sure seems low this year.  And I know for a fact that I thought that last year and they turned out to be my best ever class at reading by the end of the year.    I’ve got some squirrelly ones this year…….


According to our computer tech who has been crunching the numbers,  we are 1/10th of a child off  in one category from making safe harbor in NCLB.  That’s stupid.  Most at-risk schools that I know are struggling to make near impossible gains to satisfy NCLB requirements for improvement.  Each year that you don’t make it in our state you progressively fall under more and more state control.  That’s the theory anyway.  One form of state involvement has been to hire consultants from out of district to come in, shadow the principal and make “suggestions”.  Suggestions my foot!  What principal in their right mind would ignore such a “suggestion” under the circumstances?  I guess if you were independently wealthy and didn’t give a crap……  At my other school, the “consultant” (a retired administrator) was flown in once a month from another state, stayed a week, visiting one school a day.  Paid some where in the range of $1000.00-2000.00 per school.  Retired, and making that much a year, pretty good.  Near as I can figure, (we aren’t privy to everything that goes on) we have two of these mentor types currently.  One of them “suggested” that each grade level have a bulletin board in the halls that they post writing on, rotating  between classes each week.  While looking at the first grade board the other day, she told the principal that the displayed work wasn’t “quality” work, and only “quality” work should be displayed.  There was some phonetic spelling on some of the papers.  See, the thing is, she doesn’t know the kids, the specific kids she was singling out had made HUGE progress, and it was fantastic work for them.  

We have to turn in writing samples weekly from all the kids.  Principal told one of the other kindergarten teachers that, “Well, at least they are trying…….”  I looked at the work, for kindergarten it was fantastic.  The teacher doesn’t want to make a big deal about spelling right now because if she does they will quit trying to sound the words out.  It was a HUGE effort to get them to take those risks, ding them on spelling and they will shut down.  Guaranteed.

So,  let’s take a look at this week.  I’ve radically changed my literacy centers.  The kids are still getting used to the idea that they are supposed to read during this time.   Before it was all worksheets.  About 1/3 of my class read well enough to read Accelerated Reader books and take quizzes.  The rest read other books, write  the title and some words from each book they read, and they rotate through Ticket to Read on the computers.  I have NEVER in all my years teaching kindergarten had this many readers reading this well.  I’m so proud of my class this year.  I gave a unit math test this week, a unit literacy test this week and then Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were set aside for District math and literacy assessments that are given every three months.  Oh, and we are also doing mClass Math and Dibels assessments.  Anyway, all that to say that Thursday afternoon, after  lunch they were tested out.  And pretty out of control.  But I understood that, they had been working really hard.  But at the moment things were about as chaotic in my room as they had ever been, there were kids everywhere.  We were winding down to do math, but the transition was pretty bad.  In walks the Principal, the State mandated “mentor” and the AP, each with their clipboard in hand.

Yeah, it wasn’t pretty at all.  What do you do?  You can’t just act quickly and suddenly change directions, that is SO phony.  So we muddled through.   20 minutes later I got an email from the principal indicating that she wants to “meet” with me on my prep time early next week (she was off campus today or it probably would have been today).  I figure by Tuesday there might be enough distance that it won’t be too bad.   One can hope……

Given all the testing, which was clearly blocked out on my plans, I’m not too worried.  The “mentor” is the loose part of the equation.  If I have to, I’ll stop the meeting and call in Union representation.

Nacho Party


So a couple of weeks ago I created a prize package for my kids.  I wanted something motivational going on that would be kind of fun for the kids.  I told them I would place a colored marker star on the white board every time they did good in specials (art, music, P.E. Library), or if they won for best behaved class in the lunch room, or any other thing where they got recognized for good behavior within the school.  I told them that when they got 10 stars, they could have a nacho party.  Things were going kind of slow for a week or so.  They only picked up 5 stars in two weeks and I was beginning to worry that it was taking too long for them to win.  For young children having the reward out there too far for too long  sort of defeats the purpose.

But today they blew the top off the reward.  At the monthly schoolwide awards assembly they were recognized for two things, they had the highest percentage of attendance on the grade level, and the Specialists collectively recognized them as the overall best behaved class in the school.  Then at lunch they were selected as the best behaved class for the day.  They got a “5” (best number of points) at Music and they had a sub for the day while I did Mid-Year Benchmark DIBELS testing.  I told them that if the sub gave them a “5” I would give them a star.  They ended up with 5 stars for the day and got to 10,overall  so now I have to do the whole Nacho Party thing with them.  They were pretty stoked.

Three days back and counting……

Let’s see,  on Monday, one of the first things I heard after almost 5 weeks out, “Mr B.! You got new shoes!”  They don’t remember what an Aa or a Bb is or how they sound, but they DO remember what I wear.  My wife says that’s because they are down there by the shoes………

The next thing they asked was, “What’s that thing on your arm?”  I said that it was for when I go to the gym (without getting too specific,  it’s a BodyBugg, that monitors my caloric burn and activity).  They were divided between the ones that said, “My mom (or dad) does that.” and the ones that said, “What’s a gym?”  I said, “A gym is PE for grownups.”

Now, so far this week, Reading First in my room, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (she ended up coming into my room EVERY DAY this week, it’s like, WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?  You may not really like the WAY I do things, but I have the highest scores in the school in kindergarten….so what ever I do, must work……..).  Staff meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, and two of my three 50 minute preparation times taken for meetings.    During one of the meetings during my preparation time, we went over trimester district testing results and the Reading First lady was there.  Later she was giving me a little grief over how I do some things.  I pointed out that of the 5 kindergarten classes at our school my class scored the highest on that skill…….   Oh yeah, and mClass math assessments on all kids this week and dibels progress monitoring on all kids this week.   Please, just let me TEACH…………

Monday and Tuesday next week I have a sub both days so that I can go to two different trainings.  One of them is supposed to be a two day training (I’ve already done a previous two days of it) and the other one is a one day training that they happened to schedule on Tuesday —AT THE SAME TIME.  Of course they BOTH think they are the most important one for me to go to.      Again, just let me teach…….