January 22, 2015

Instruction as Test Preparation

As the new semester gets under way there are many questions about the Next Generation assessments that will take place this spring. While Nevada high school teachers are wondering about the changes in store this Spring, what remains centrally important is the role of  high quality instruction to prepare students for the Next Generation assessments. To teachers who ask me what they should do to prepare their students for the assessments, I answer that they should continue shifting their instruction the the Common Core and using the instructional practice guides to provide feedback on teaching and learning in their classrooms.

At the 2014 Literacy Leadership Symposium, Dr. Timothy Shanahan gave a talk titled, 'What Not to do to Prepare for the Assessments?'. If the Next Generation assessments and centrality of instruction is something you are curious about, it t is worth the hour plus to watch the whole presentation. If time is of the essence, I suggest reading Aaron Grossman's post, 'Shanahan on Test Preparation - What not to do', copied below. 

Shanahan on Test Preparation—What not to do 
Posted on January 21, 2015 
In a presentation titled, “What Not to do to Prepare for the Assessments,”Common Core Work Team Member Dr. Timothy Shanahan share some provocative insights into PARCC and SBAC. Among these is his claim that test preparation likely does not work. This assertion begins at minute 12:00 and continues with his contention that practicing question types (e.g. taking practice tests) has no effect on student achievement. 

At minute 31:13, Shanahan addresses the focus on test preparation materials from publishers. Again, he shares the evidence that practicing question types, without a strong emphasis on the passage itself, does not boost scores. 
So what does work? Jump to minute 36:39 to hear his answer. Not surprisingly, the explanation involves having students practicing reading with rich texts. This is consistent with what’s been shared by the authors of the Common Core and even one of its detractors. Shanahan is specific in also noting that you have to build stamina with longer passages (42:50) and that this can only be accomplished if its part of the instructional cycle (47:00)

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