Redesigned SAT – Essential Language Progressive Skills Alert

80dfc343-4711-4bb0-90df-ea0f5de34427A number of weeks ago, I wanted to answer a question related to the SAT Practice Tests – those tests the College Board made available for us to help teachers and students become familiar with the redesigned SAT. I personally wanted to check the alignment between the SAT questions on the Practice Test and the Common Core State Standards. As I worked through every single question on the tests, I discovered an interesting piece: Every single standard on the Language Progressive Skills list in the Common Core State Standards is tested. Every single one.

We need to make sure everyone knows this!

If you’re a curriculum type, you may want to use this information as you tweak curriculum in your district. If you’re an assessment type, maybe you’ll consider talking about this when you’re making connections between the SAT Content Dimensions and the Common Core State Standards. If you’re a principal, perhaps you’ll share this with your teachers because they are likely still learning about the redesigned SAT. If you’re an ISD/RESA person, perhaps you’ll want to include this in some of your training materials.

Download the Progression of Language Skills.

It’s up to teachers in multiple grade levels and content areas to help students learn important language skills, so I do hope you’ll consider sharing this with others.

Know Data, Know Answers

I want to share a piece I wrote a number of years ago.  I love the rubrics designed by the fine folks at Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, but I wanted to unpack the rubrics.  By unpacking the rubrics, I can get to data that allows me  to see the specific parts of the problem-solving process in mathematics for which students need help.  I hope you’ll read the article and add an idea or two to your assessment toolkit.  Download the article here.

Download a copy of Northwest’s Mathematics Problem Solving Grid.

Content Card, Parallel (Elementary Level)

Our younger students learn about parallel lines in different grade levels in different states.  But there is some key content that students need to know related to parallel lines.  This content card provides key content.  (If you see other things that need to be added, please leave a comment and I’ll update this.  All of my content cards are a work in progress.)  DOWNLOAD THE CONTENT CARD FOR PARALLEL.  I’ve included a piece that is not in most elementary programs – and that is how to write a math sentence that shows two lines are parallel.

Remember that in curriculum development world, we still need to work on things students must be able to do with this content at the elementary school level.  Do we want students to identify parallel lines in everyday things?  Do we want students to distinguish between a parallel line and a perpendicular line?  What about explaining what a parallel line is?  What about explaining why a line that is not parallel isn’t?  Do we want students to explain the difference between parallel lines and intersecting lines?  These kinds of things become objectives in your curriculum.

For those of you in charge of developing curriculum, there are a couple of questions you’ll want to answer:  What core content do you want at each grade level in relation to this concept?  What do you want students to do with the content at each grade level?  By the way, content cards are a good way to check vertical and horizontal alignment in a curriculum at the district level.

If your role is that of designing assessments, the content cards are a big plus as well.  When everyone works from the same core content – and the same objectives, you support tight alignment at the classroom level – which is where alignment really happens.

Counting Sort

This is a sort in which students count to answer “how many” questions with up to ten things.  This is for Kindergarten and goes with my Content Cards for Counting.  DOWNLOAD THIS ACTIVITY for a tool that willl help students sort pictures as well as their corresponding numbers and number words.

Corresponding Content Card – Counting 1, 2, 3.

Content Card – Counting 1, 2, 3

One of the things I do to determine the quality of a curriculum is to review the actual content the curriculum will include.  This is the content card I developed for the common core’s DRAFT grade-level kindergarten standards that deal with counting.  I’ve also reviewed the the corresponding standards for the State of Michigan and the Commonwealth of Virginia.  See what you think!  DOWNLOAD THE CONTENT CARDS.

Setting Achievement Bars

With the end of the school year comes time for district and school staff to determine how well students have learned.  School Boards do this also.  If you want to measure student achievement at higher levels, one way is to look at how your state sets its achievement bar on the state tests your students take.  By law, the state tests must measure what it is the state determined that students will learn.  I know, I know – that is a novel concept.  But let me share with you what we’ve learned and how that impacts student achievement in your school, district, and state.

I’ll use an example from Michigan here.  Michigan gives its state test in the fall of each year.  One of the things the state determines is what constitutes proficiency for each test – in other words, how many questions a student must answer correctly in order for a student to be considered proficient.  In 7th grade, a student has to answer only 34% of the questions correct in order to be deemed proficient.  Do you think that’s a problem?  I certainly do.  If we have students who we report as proficient when they are performing well on only about one-third of the test, how are we preparing them for high school?  For college?  For work?

Look at the graph on the left.  The blue line on the graph shows the percentage of questions a student must answer correctly in order to be proficient in mathematics on the MEAP test for grades 3-8.  The bar is set lower than most would like.  (I have yet to talk with an educator in Michigan who thinks the bar is just right or too low.)  This can be an issue in terms of school improvement because we can have 90% of our students proficient, but if the bar is so low, what does that really mean the students know?  Are they really showing proficiency?

District staff, building-level staff, and school board members can step up to the plate here and raise the bar.  How do you do that?  In addition to keeping a check on the percentage of students who are proficient on the MEAP test by the state’s standards, you can raise the bar and add another measurement that reflects your own higher standards.  The red line represents a bar in which a district says that to show success on the MEAP test, students must answer 75% or more of the questions correct.

So consider raising the bar and expecting more from the students for whom you are responsible.

Word Sort – Money, Money, Money

I’ve just finished a card sort to go along with the money content cards.  You may want to consider using both.  I’ve also included four idea sheets for using the content cards with students.  The idea sheets are designed to align with Virginia’s Standards of Learning (3rd grade), but if you teach the basic money concepts, they’ll work for you as well.

Download a set of the money sort cards and enjoy using them!  Don’t forget to come back and share your own good ideas here!

Unpacking Standards – Measuring Length

I’ve been working with a few different ways to unpack standards so that they are easily accessbile to teachers.  This is a grade-four standard for measurement.  Actually, this is PART of the standard for measurement.  For this part of the “test”, I’ve focused on just the measurement of length in U.S. customary units.  (The part of the standard dealing with the measurement of length in the metric system will be a different post.)

Download a copy of the entire document, which includes links to other documents I’ve created or found for this part of the standard.

Here’s what you’ll find:  (1) The first “cut” of unpacking the measurement standard, (2) a link to the content card I designed for this part of the standard, (3) a link to analysis questions for the content card, (4) links to downloadable rulers, (5) links to sample released test items for parts of the standard where they exist, (6) a link to a foldable for that can be started with this part of the standard, and (7) a link to a record-keeping sheet entitled, Estimate Then Measure, that I created for one of the objectives in the unpacked standard.

You’ll find my unpacking results (which I’ll continue to tweak), a set of beginning ideas for instructional strategies and assessments, and a vocabulary list with definitions/descriptions.  When you look at the vocabulary list you’ll notice that I’ve included the core terms for the whole standard – and not just what is represented in this part of the unpacked standard.  So while this document deals with U.S. customary units, I’ve included vocabulary for the metric unit as well.  My reasoning for doing this is to provide the core vocabulary in one place.

So I’ve got the idea started.  What would you suggest to improve this?  Anything goes!

Word Walls

There’s a lot of information related to the use of word walls – it’s one of those topics where you can never have enough ideas.   I’ve included some of my own in an eight page downloadable handout.  Check it out to see if there’s a new idea or two for you to use.  In this piece, I focus on word walls for MATHEMATICS.

Unpack the Content

Here is an example of a standard that needs to be unpacked. 

W.PS.01.01 Michigan

Develop personal style in oral, written, and visual messages in both narrative (e.g., natural language, specific action, emotion) and informational writing (e.g., sequence, specific vocabulary, visual representations).

Remember that part of unpacking a standard is determining what it is you want students to learn.  The standard provides insight as to what to include in the unpacking.  For the narrative writing, the standard states to develop personal style using natural language, specific action, and emotion.  For informational writing, the student is expected to develop personal style in sequencing, specific vocabulary, and visual representations.

 Here’s how I unpacked this piece after brainstorming with a wonderful group of first-grade teachers.  If you’re like me, it helps to see the big picture of the standard – which includes the content.

Once you’ve unpacked the standard, you have a content tool to use throughout the school year.  The list of actions gives you words at your fingertips you can use when talking with your first-grade students.  The list of emotions does the same.  In the sequence list, you’ll see starter ideas for the good things you’re already doing with your students; intentionally use sequencing words with students.  As for the column that lists visual representations, remember to pull out those sequence words and use them again and again and again.