I recently took a new job at my school, in addition to teaching and serving as department chair. I now hold the title of Data Analyst. It sounds impressive, but all it really means is that I love looking at numbers and finding patterns. I started by looking at our TVAAS data for the State of Tennessee, but grew quickly frustrated. After looking at the formula and trying to make heads or tails of it, I can honestly say I have no idea how the state determines what a student should score in the future. My son is in fifth grade and he already has a projected ACT score, compliments of Tennessee’s value added system.
I had to take a break from Tennessee data, so I spent my time looking at ACT data. I love the ACT! I love it so much that I took it 6 times in high school and earned the same score each time. I think that is why I love it so much. If I can take it 6 times and earn the same score each time, it has to be consistent. In Tennessee, as in other states, our students take the Explore test in 8th grade, the Plan test in 10th grade, and the ACT during their junior year. That amounts to a lot of testing and a lot of data. Since every student in the state is required to take the ACT, our state average is not that impressive. I worked with our College and Career Counselor to try to find a way to help students on such important tests.
We decided to look at the Plan test data from 10th grade and compare it to the 8th grade Explore test scores for each student. If a student did not show growth during that time, then it was an indication to us that he or she needed intervention before the ACT. Most ACT test prep is done after the student takes the test for the first time and is unhappy with the score. We wanted to be proactive. We generated a list of ‘at risk’ students and offered them a free ACT bootcamp. We also opened the doors to any student who had already taken the ACT. We had over 100 students register for the bootcamp!
Our bootcamp was offered the Saturday morning before the December test date for ACT. We spent 10 minutes explaining each test and giving pointers as to how best to approach each section. We then divided the students into small groups and drilled ACT type questions. At the end of our time, we gave a mock ACT that was 1/4 the size of the original test. We sent the students home with flashcards and more free websites then they could ever use. The students left exhausted after our 9 – 12 Saturday morning session. It was a blast!
We are now planning on offering another session in March before every Junior is required to take the test. My hope is that the students will be familiar and comfortable with the test and not intimidated by it. I am so grateful to my school and staff members who helped with this event. It couldn’t have happened without them. The response from the community was tremendous. ACT test prep is expensive, and that our school would offer it for free was amazing!
I recently read this article on the Washington Post’s website. It is about a school board member who took the standardized state tests required by most public schools. The timing was perfect for me. I read the article on the same day I administered the Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 End of Course tests to my students. My students worked so hard this semester and learned so much and it saddens me that it is all culminates with a 65 question multiple choice test.
I woke up this morning and was reading my Twitter feed and was so excited to see that several teachers across the nation have started a grassroots movement. They are asking that all teachers tweet, call, or email their Governor, asking him or her to take their states standardized test and publish the results. If you are from Tennessee, here is Governor Haslam’s twitter name: @BillHaslam. I will be sending him a very respectful tweet, providing him with a link to this article, and asking him to take our Algebra 2 EOC and publish the results.