by Sara and Ellen
As the end of the school year approached, I thought it best to allow Sara and Ellen to finish their years without my asking for another article. But alas, they wanted one more opportunity to pass along some new teacher wisdom to others. They decided to write about testing, both the CST experiences at their sites and how finals were handled. What you see below are their thoughts about CSTs and final exams.
California Standards Tests
Sara: Our school year started at the beginning of August, so by the time the CST’s came around in mid-April, I had already taught my students 95% of the material they needed to know. This was great because my students came back after the test feeling very confident and told me that the test was actually very easy. Of course, I will need to wait until I see their scores to see if that was really the case. The students were scheduled for four days of testing: Tuesday and Wednesday in two consecutive weeks, one test each day. This seemed to work out fine; but we did not have any shortened days. Instead, the students tested in the morning, then had to go to each class. By the time they got to class, they were exhausted, and getting through any material was impossible. I feel like everyone would have benefited from having minimum days during testing.
Ellen: Because our school is on the 4X4 schedule, the students take four classes in the fall and four different classes in the spring; our schedule was very weird. The students in the fall had already learned 100% of the material by early January. However, they hadn’t seen any chemistry since then. The students in the spring were about 70% through the material, and that was rushing them along. So, I decided to hold review sessions after school for three days. I sent notes to all my students from fall and made the sessions worth extra credit points for those who attended. Surprisingly, I had a lot of students show up from both semesters and we were able to review all of the material. I do not know how much this actually helped the students, but at the very least, the students said they felt better about taking the CSTs. I am looking forward to see how the students do on their tests, and hopefully will see a positive pattern for those who turned up at the review sessions.
Sara: Our finals schedule was a bit hectic because we had to make sure that seniors took their finals early. Since my classes are mixed grades, I gave my final early to all of my students, which then gives the students a couple days after to do all the yearbook signing and relaxing that they have been longing for. All of our finals are written by the district, so all I need to do is make sure the scantrons get to the district office. Then, the district posts the scores online so that I can enter them into my grade book. This makes final week go by very smooth for me because I don’t have to do much work. However, the common assessments are terrible because cheating runs rampant and I lose all of the freedom to give my own final.
Ellen: As for the finals schedule at our school, we have two-hour final blocks on two minimum days. So, the last three days are minimum days. Day one are periods 1 and 2 final blocks. Day two are periods 3 and 4 final blocks. Day three, students go to all of their classes for less than an hour. This serves as a way to have any students who were absent take their finals and to wrap everything up. While it is a “throw away day” I love it. This day allows for teachers to tell students their final grades, allow yearbook-signing, and some goodies to be shared. while this might seem a little elementary, it is a really fun day for teachers and students to wrap-up the school year.
Rick: I want to thank Sara and Ellen for their willingness to share their first year teacher experiences with us this year. As we move forward in our careers, we need to remember what it is like to be at the beginning of our careers. There are so many things to remember, lessons to plan, students’ names to learn, procedures and policies to implement, and the entire culture of the school to adopt. It is not an easy task. Sara and Ellen have done an admirable job of sharing their thoughts and questions with us. I look forward to following their careers as they mature into the outstanding teachers that I know they can be. Please take a moment and add a comment at the bottom of this article or send an email to SaraandEllen@gmail.com. I am sure that they will appreciate your encouragement as they move into year 2.