As a first grade teacher, I do not give NYS ELA and MATH exams. (YET!) I expect that I will be giving some sort of STATE or NATIONAL exam before I retire in 5 years.
I do give “tests” in my classroom – I have always assessed my students. But now, my first graders – some of whom were 5 years old when the year started are tested 3 times a year using the following:
STAR TESTS :They take either Early Literacy or Reading depending on how many sight words they know which means I had to assess their sight word knowledge in September. They also take the Math test.
DIBELS: Keep in mind that the DIBELS tests are timed – they have one minute for each of the following portions on which they are tested: Initial Sound Fluency, Letter Naming Fluency, Phoneme Segmentation Fluency, Oral Reading Fluency, and Oral Reading Retell.
RUNNING RECORDS: My students are expected to be reading at a LEVEL K by the end of first grade, and a LEVEL D and the start of the year. We use the Fountas and Pinnell leveling system, and got our benchmarks from Lucy Calkins’ Reading and Writing Project.
Sight Word Knowledge: They are expected to know 75 words by November, and 175 by June.
Math Fact Fluency: They should be “fluent” in addition and subtraction to 10 by June.
This year, also for the first time, I am REQUIRED to give letter grades to my students in ELA, MATH, SOCIAL STUDIES, and SCIENCE.
I dutifully put my grades into the electronic grade book (of course, that DATA is being compiled into a state-wide and possibly nation-wide database) and the report cards are printed. Three times a year, I send home a separate report with all of the above mentioned testing DATA on it.
So, when circumstances present themselves, and I need to meet with parents, what do I talk about? Well, it’s NOT that TESTING stuff! All that data tells me is what that child did at one moment in time. When I talk to parents, we talk about the WHOLE CHILD. In fact, that’s the only time they’re going to hear about social and emotional growth and development because that is no longer included in any report I send home. We talk about our shared hopes and concerns.
I watched all three of my children take NYS exams in ELA, MATH, SCIENCE and SOCIAL STUDIES. Every summer we would wait and wait to get the test report in the mail. While my children typically scored a 3 or 4, I usually threw those reports out and told them “I’ve seen your report card, I know how you’re doing. Don’t let one or two tests define you.”
Now, I’ve watched as my two oldest have applied to and been accepted at the universities of their choice. I’ve watched them both take and retake the SAT. I once again told them “Don’t let one test define you.” Interestingly, the NYS Regents Exams, which we’ve always been told are so important, aren’t even considered on college applications! I’ve listened at University Open Houses and always asked “Are the SAT and ACT OPTIONAL?” For the most part, I’ve been told yes.
So, PARENTS, about that test………….it doesn’t matter!! There is no one test that should EVER EVER define your child! Your children, my children……..all children are so much MORE than a TEST SCORE!