My students have just completed the first round of testing for English Language Arts using the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Test (SBAC). Another round of testing in May for the math portion looms ahead of us. What did I take away from this round of testing? What can I legally share with other teachers?
Below are 10 facts that are some things I tried before the test, and things I wished I hand known before the test.
- Reading on screen is hard work: Imagine if you sat at a computer all day long with essentially no breaks. Your neck and shoulders start to get stiff and ache. Your eyes begin to squint and you may even get blurry vision. Can we expect 8 year olds to sit at a computer (not playing games or watching YouTube), but scrolling through endless passages, split screens, and trying to make sense of it all to answer some questions? Unless, students are used to this type of work, I believe it actually will affect score outcomes.
- Composing on paper is easier: Yes, I had prepped my students to write down their constructed responses on paper FIRST, before typing them on the screen. I asked my students if this was beneficial to them, and pretty much 90% of them said YES!
- Taking audio/video notes is essential: Again, I had practiced with my students taking notes of audio or video segments. Your students may encounter these segments on their test and if they are not aware of how to take notes, it can be frustrating then to answer questions. Make sure students understand that they can listen or watch as many times as they need to. Use the pause button to pause audio or video to write down notes.
- Testing takes longer than you think: My students were allotted 2 days to take the ELA portion. Out of a class of 28, I still had about 1/3 of my class that needed more time. So we had to test on other days in the afternoon, or I sent them to the next teacher who was testing so they could continue with their test. (Any teacher can test any child on the SBAC….which is a good thing! The teacher who began testing after me, had room for 3 of my students). BTW, it was not the struggling students who needed more time, it was actually the more capable students because they were really taking the test seriously!
- Students can pause the test: Yes, if it is a short restroom break there is no need to pause the test. Just send the student. If the student must take longer, you can pause the test BUT the student will be logged off and CAN NOT return to that section of the test. So just make sure that breaks or pauses are not longer than 20 minutes.
- Don’t wear the earphones during the entire test: On the first day of testing, after about an hour into the test I noticed a lot of kids fidgeting with the earphones. Apparently, they thought they had to wear them the entire time! Please remind your students to only wear them when they need to hear audio or they will get red ears!
- Review the answers: Once a student has reached the end of the test, the student can review the answers before submitting. Most students are reluctant to do this because they are exhausted. But do encourage them to do so by first taking a short 5 minute break, then go back and review the answers before submitting.
- Take stretch breaks: No chair is comfortable enough to sit in for 1 hour! I periodically stopped the students to take stretch breaks to get the blood circulating again.
- Use the universal tools: the SBAC has many tools for the students to use such as, highlighting, notepad, mark for review, pop up glossary, etc. Teach your students how to use them.
- Keep them motivated: Students are initially excited about using the computer. But after about 1 hour of testing you can seen they’d rather be sitting in a dentist’s chair getting root canal. It is tiring, exhausting and daunting. Keep them motivated with praise and rewards (extra recess, playtime, etc.).
Since my class was the first class to be testing at my school, I have been sharing these tips with every teacher at my school. It’s important we set a positive and supportive environment for testing so that our students can show what they know.
I’d love to hear tips and ideas you have for SBAC Testing. Please comment below and let’s start a conversation!