Education column: Test preparations becoming more innovative

This is that time of year when murmurs of testing are heard throughout the district. During this week and the next you may walk down school hallways and see “Do Not Disturb” signs on doors as most grade levels starting with third begin the New Mexico Standards-Based Assessment (NMSBA). The outcomes of these tests will be reflected with the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) results.

All of our schools, from elementary through secondary, have been preparing students for the state assessments for some time now, honing skills and knowledge in the subject areas covered under state standards. Awaiting these results leaves many school districts in an anxious state, not only in New Mexico, but throughout the nation.

In fact, state assessments are one way to measure student academic success, but they are not necessarily all-encompassing. As Cindy Martin, Deputy Superintendent for Instruction at Clovis Schools said: “Students may have made great progress, but if one student in one subgroup does not achieve proficiency, this can result in the entire school not making AYP … we work with every child so that he/she can experience growth, and, while the test is important and we work very hard to prepare students testing, ultimately, the child and the growth of the child is more important than the test.”

Preparation for state testing is not just a black and white, kill-and-drill process. Each year, teachers are using more and more innovative ways of reaching and engaging students. This week we took a look at Clovis High School, whose juniors are testing.

Teachers and students have just completed a “21-Day Diet.” Using available data CHS teachers created the 21-day blitz specifically to help students prepare for the NMSBA. All the math teachers worked together to create hands-on, engaging reviews of algebra, geometry and data analysis lessons. English teachers, Joyce Probasco, Mary Southard, Jennie Piepkorn, and Ellen Gant created a series of tools to help students read nonfiction and fiction texts critically and provided strategies for answering questions and analyzing texts. All the “diet” activities were very dynamic and engaging, and CHS administrators noted that students have been notably engaged and positively involved in the overall process.

Cara Malone, instructional coach, in describing the process, believes that the level of teacher commitment has had a very positive impact on students. “This has not been worksheets and standard test prep, but innovative group and individual activities that were very engaging. Students really seemed to take the review seriously and enjoyed the activities for the most part.” The process seemed to have developed a momentum of its own and was consistently implemented from classroom to classroom.

As education scholar Wiggins (1997) noted, “Effective and appropriate school assessment should be aimed at helping the teacher become a better instructor and helping the students become better learners.”

Advice from educators to students: Get adequate rest; don’t panic; take your time; trust in the learning you’ve received and your instincts.

Good luck, CMS students.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at cindy.kleyn-kennedy@clovis-schools.org