Here is a classroom case based on authentic teacher experiences. Read the case carefully. Then answer the open-ended questions that follow by applying the theories and research discussed in this chapter.
Mrs. Rodriquez teaches math at Navarro Middle School, located in the Rio Grande Valley of southern Texas, where 91% of the students are Hispanic. Under the accountability provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act, Navarro is annually evaluated for making adequate yearly progress (AYP) for all subgroups of students. Mrs. Rodriquez knows state testing policies can be confusing for new teachers, students, and parents, so she works closely with her colleagues to create a supportive school environment that prepares students to perform their best. At Navarro, a large subgroup is designated as limited English proficient (LEP). In Texas, LEP students take both the Reading Proficiency Test in English (RPTE), which is designed to measure their annual growth in English reading proficiency, and the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test, either in English or Spanish, to provide a comprehensive assessment of their skills.
For the past two years at Navarro, students designated as LEP have been struggling to meet AYP in math on the TAKS test. In Texas, like many states, LEP students can receive accommodations, called linguistically accommodated testing (LAT), based on their needs. LAT accommodations include the teacher reading the test question aloud, providing an oral translation of a word, using a bilingual dictionary, and using pictures so students can understand what the test question is asking.
Upon analyzing the TAKS test data from the previous schoolyear, Navarro math teachers discover that LEP students performed well on computational problems but consistently scored low on higher-order problems. The teachers conclude that these low scores are due not to students’ lack of comprehension but to their lack of practice with problem solving in the classroom. They decide to make higher-order problem solving a focus for the schoolyear and start planning how to incorporate daily practice into their curriculum.
The math teachers are aware that successful problem solving involves a series of cognitive processes. These include reading the problem for understanding, paraphrasing it, planning how to solve it, estimating the answer, computing the math, and checking to make sure the plan was appropriate and the answer is correct. Mathematical problem solving also requires self-regulation strategies. As students solve problems, they must tell themselves what to do; ask questions; and evaluate, monitor, and verify what they do. The teachers’ goal is for students to independently apply these cognitive processes and strategies to problems they encounter. To begin the problem-solving initiative, the teachers create student-friendly assessment tools to use in their classes. From experience, they know the TAKS test will ask students to write constructed responses to explain their thinking and to show their calculations.
To answer constructed-response questions, students will need to practice not only how to calculate answers but also how to explain their thinking. Therefore, teachers create a simple rubric so students can easily self-evaluate their answers. A typical problem may be:
To give students practice with this new problem-solving format, teachers plan to start all of their math classes with a “Solution of the Day” lesson. In the beginning of the year, teachers will use this time to explicitly teach students how to solve
problems and guide them step-by-step through the process. The teachers plan to model both correct and incorrect problem-solving behaviors. Modeling of correct behaviors will help students understand how good problem solvers use specific processes and strategies, while modeling of incorrect behaviors will encourage them to monitor the problem-solving process and correct errors.’
As the year progresses and students become more proficient and independent problem solvers, the instructional goal will be to present more complex, multistep problems. The teachers want students to practice solving a wide range of problems in various formats so that students feel prepared and confident when it comes time to take the TAKS test. Like most state tests, TAKS is untimed, so teachers encourage students to take plenty of time on each problem and to recheck their work. Teachers realize regular progress checks will be important to determine whether the strategies are helping students’ performance. It will also be crucial to give students corrective feedback so that students know whether they are effectively using the problemsolving routine and finding correct solutions. They hope that by the spring quarter students will automatically monitor and evaluate their work as they answer questions.
For the past three years, Navarro Middle School has implemented a schoolwide support plan to prepare students and parents for the TAKS test. The plan has four major components. First, teachers and administrators ensure that the school’s instructional calendar is aligned with the state testing schedule. They align the scope and sequence of the content standards in each subject so that important concepts and lessons are taught before the test is given.
Second, Navarro offers a range of after-school enrichment programs, such as sports, arts, and music, which motivate students and involve them in meaningful cooperative activities. Teachers observe higher student attendance rates and better focus on academic learning during the schoolday with the introduction of the after-school clubs.
Third, during the spring quarter, the school institutes an hour of “Yes! We can do it” test-prep on Friday mornings. During this hour, students review test-taking strategies, apply them to a short practice test, and then review the test and their use of strategies as a class. Students complete the practice test in the same classroom with the same teacher and group of students with whom they will take the TAKS test. Students who are designated as LEP and those who have IEPs receive accommodations, so both students and teachers are familiar with how the TAKS test will be administered.
Fourth, the school communicates all testing-related information to parents in Spanish and English. They provide translators at parent–teacher conferences and school meetings so parents are well informed about the test and feedback on their child’s progress. Faculty at Navarro find that this comprehensive support plan helps all their students, and particularly their LEP students, be prepared to demonstrate skills they have mastered.
Please answer the following questions using information taken directly from the case. For each response, make sure you base your answer on relevant educational psychology theories and research.
1. What types of standardized tests were discussed in the case (aptitude, achievement, diagnostic, readiness) and what are their respective functions?
2. How did the teachers implement each one of the assessment cycle steps (preparation, administration, evaluation, communication)?
3. Which of the standardized testing principles from Classroom Tips: How to Support Effective Standardized Testing were applied in the case and how?
4. Did the teachers demonstrate an awareness of students’ diversity?
5. Evaluate the overall effectiveness of the teacher practices by including both strengths and weaknesses.
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