It may seem strange that I am about to embark on the start of a new school year and I’m already having thoughts about the end of the year testing. While it may seem that I am jumping a bit ahead of myself in the planning game, these thoughts were actually ignited from a workshop that I attended this week.
I was recently selected along with other educators throughout the District of Columbia to participate in a standard setting workshop for the city’s comprehensive end-of-the-year assessment for second grade because it has recently been added as a new testing grade.
The standard setting process allowed us to make decisions about the knowledge, skills, and abilities that students should have in order to be classified in one of the performance levels. These performance levels are below basic, basic, proficient, and advanced. We also are spending time establishing the cut scores for three of those performance areas mentioned.
During this process, we have received training, signed many documents to ensure testing security, engaged in dialogue about the content standards and expectations of each performance level. Today, we had the opportunity to go through last year’s test that was administered for the first time to the second grade students. It allowed us the opportunity to review the content and see how the items align with the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that have been adopted by the District and were rolled out last year. I found this opportunity very exciting because I wanted to make sure, like many of my fellow special educators in the room, that children with disabilities were considered during the process.
As we looked through questions, I couldn’t help but place myself in my students’ shoes and see how it was for them taking this test even with their accommodations. It challenged me to really deconstruct the CCSS and look further into the skills that each of my students would need to grow and perform better.
The CCSS seem wonderful and a great addition to the District. It concerns me, though, that as the standards become more complex as students move along and they are expected to have acquired certain skills each year, what happens when students have not been exposed to these skills previously? Or students have not acquired the skills to build on?
Many of my students fall into these categories. How do I then align their IEP goals with these new standards? As a new teacher I want to ensure that my students have a solid foundation to build on so that they can reach their potential and be successful.
I would love hear from other special educators who are currently tackling the challenge of Common Core State Standards.