TN DOE Prepares New Assessment

I have spent the last 2 days in Nashville serving on a committee to check questions on a new Constructed Response Assessment being prepared for 3rd and 7th graders in TN.  The test is scheduled to be piloted next Fall.

The bias committee had the privilege of reading all of the questions from all of the subjects.  No, I can’t tell you what the questions are.  I like being on this side of prison bars.  But, I can tell you that they are preparing assessments for 3rd grade Math and Language Arts, and 7th grade Math, Language Arts, and Science.

These assessments are currently not slated to be counted toward AYP. Whew!  However, they will be given in the Fall (as opposed to the Spring).

Each area to be assessed requires students to respond with short answers.  There are no multiple choice questions.  Each question is scored on a rubric with scores ranging from 2 to 4 based on the rigor of the question.

There are two driving forces behind the development of this assessment.  First, there are some SPIs that are just more completely assessed with student constructed responses (No, I can’t tell you what they are either…you will have to read them for yourself).  And second, Tennessee has historically done very poorly on the NAEP, and it appears that the main reason are the constructed response questions included in the national assessment.  By testing 3rd and 7th graders, we will get an idea of how they will do on the NAEP in 4th and 8th grade.

I will not take the time on this blog to speculate as to the future of constructed response questions on assessments in Tennessee.  We were not given any definite answers at this meeting.  In fact, the entire roll out of the assessment is based on budget restrictions, but right now everything has a green light for the Fall.

Here is my one word of wisdom.  It doesn’t matter if you are a Language Arts, Math, or Science teacher.  Your students need to write in your classroom.  They need to explain their thought processes about how they got certain answers.

Since the beginning of the semester, we have been doing this very thing with our 8th graders in our computer labs using the DE Streaming Writing Prompt Builder.  We have looked specifically at math word problems (a big problem with kids at our school).  While we have asked them to find an answer, we have also expected them to write a complete paragraph about the process they went through to get the answer.  We still get responses like “I guessed,” or “I asked the girl sitting next to me and she told me the answer.”  But we are making progress.

So spread the word.  Many schools in the state are not aware that this assessment is coming.  Be the bell ringer at your school.  We will post more here later as we get more information from the state about the particulars of the assessment.

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