Warning: This is a test

It is interesting being at the front of the classroom, wandering between the desks and watching the students as they complete the latest round of data collection. Having completed the beginning of the year testing to determine levels and first directions, pre-testing on content to find the gaps in knowledge, the mother of all testing NAPLAN and all of the run of the mill end of unit testing, and so this week, in celebration of National Literacy and Numeracy week, we have gone through the ACER testing. Yay!

The students all ask the same things… “what is the point of this?” … “does this count towards my grade?” … “what did I get?” … to these questions come the answers…

“what is the point?”

I use the data collected here to assist me in determine what it is that I teach you and the level it is. For example, in the data analysis I am able to see that there is some weakness in a particular part of your comprehension, and in Math if there is a problem with a particular content type.

“does this count towards my grade?”

Short answer no. Longer answer, it is more important than that. This testing helps me know where is it that you are at, and then I get to compare it to the tests you did last year and the year before… we keep the data so that we can do that.

“what did I get?”

This is a hard one, there are raw scores and then there are the error rated ones. But I will give you back the test and you can see which ones you got wrong, or which ones you got right so that you know what it is that you need to work on.

Testing is not without its problems and limitations. There are the obvious… student perhaps having a bad day, not understanding test conditions, the format of the test can also be problematic. It is one source of data which can be analysed. Put this against the rubrics and marking criteria and you have a more rounded picture of student achievement.

But what is the point of this general rant?

I think that data collation and analysis needs to be included in teacher training. My workload relating to the collection and analysis of data has increased by a significant amount over the past three years. This year I will spend about 2 hours per week inputting data for analysis which has to meet specific requirements set down by the school or the department…  which is fine, just give me the time to do it properly. This quantitative approach is something which I support, and is coming to an education system near you (but hopefully it won’t lead to more league tables or discussions of performance pay, improvements can occur in all sorts of domains – including effective – and there is too little recognition of that – I see a rant about this soonish… I appear to be doing that a bit at the moment, must be something in the water).

Irony… setting a test to give myself the time to mark a different test…

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