Which Comes First, the Procedures or the Testing?

I’m in need of advice, like I so often am.

My school (and district) implements The Sisters’ Daily 5 for both reading, and now math. The first 20 days are essentially written for us in order to help successfully launch this classroom management tool. It’s great, because it does set up the system for the entire year. There are anchor charts to refer to when students need reminding of what is expected. We practice and hone our stamina to prepare ourselves for the lengthy periods of time when we’re working in small groups. It really does work.

Today was our third day of school. My students are still trying to get used to me and acquainted with the higher expectations in 2nd grade, etc, etc. We’re supposed to benchmark our students in order to obtain reading levels and also give a K-2 assessment that is based on the Fountas & Pinnell assessments. This takes A LOT of time. We’re talking at least 20-25 min. for each kid to read and discuss the book afterward. Not to mention an additional 45-60 min. for the K-2 assessments that involve high frequency word lists, pairing antonyms and synonyms, etc. I wanted to get started on all of this right away so that I could start teaching and actually doing things rather than testing for the first 3-4 weeks. So, I planned to begin Tuesday afternoon.

First thing Monday morning, I was informed that my para had her baby and commenced her maternity leave on the first day of school. I quickly started brainstorming other ways to complete the testing without her assistance. We have two wonderful teachers in our Literacy Lab who are not working with kids yet this week, so they agreed to come in and cover for me with various activities while I pulled kids in the hall. I need to take advantage of their offer to cover while they are available. However, I am left feeling like everyone else is settling in and establishing routines and procedures, while my kids run amuck. Herein lies my problem. I would so much rather work on the procedures and the correct way of doing things for the complete first 20 days before I even touched content or testing. But how would I then be able to assess without anyone to help out?

I know this might seem somewhat trivial. I should go with the testing option because I have to do it and I have people who are willing to help me out in order to do it. But will my classroom’s productivity in the sense of its ability to function like I want it to, and like it to, suffer because of my desire to get testing done? I’m just not sure. If you were in my situation, what would you do? Please give me some ideas or feedback!

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5 thoughts on “Which Comes First, the Procedures or the Testing?

  1. test later-the procedures you lay and routines you set are the ground work for the rest of the year…testing can wait…in 2 weeks trying to lay the ground work will be little too late!!!! i totally feel your pain and wish you luck!!!

  2. This will be the first year that we will have an assistant (to be shared among two 2nd grade teachers). We have thought a lot about having this person do some of the assessing, but at the beginning of the year, those assessments tell you so much about a student.

    In the past, I have gone through the setting up of routines and procedures and grabbed a few minutes for assessing whenever possible (as they get to work on a project, for example). This has let me stress the importance of being independent and focused during their work. Sometimes I pull a kid out of the first few minutes of specials.

    I start with the students who were not at our school the year before, because I have no baseline info for them. The others I have a rough idea and if they don’t get tested until my centers are in full swing, that will be okay.

    I feel like what I’ve written counters the decision you had made, but the important thing to remember is that you are a good teacher. You will create a strong classroom culture and the students will know what to do, even if you are testing more than you’d like. Do you think the Literacy Lab teachers would be willing to do some of the assessing for you?

    Keep us updated!

  3. This won’t help for this year, but look at going to computerized assessment such as the MAP test (look up NWEA MAP on Google). Feedback is immediate and is quite thorough. I think you have to do assessments early on because you need to know where the students are. Waiting is not good. I would just thank everyone and let the students know that you appreciate their cooperation – also letting them know why this information is going to be very helpful.

  4. I can’t believe you’re having to do all this testing, is my first thought, but that doesn’t help you. Were the students coming to you tested at the end of the year? If they were, it doesn’t make sense for teachers to do the testing again. The next years teacher would just use last years results with maybe a little modification because sometimes students don’t read or retain everything from the last year.

    I would continue with your classroom routines and test later or in whatever time you can find. I know how difficult it can be to find time to test. Is it possible to ask your administrator for a paid day to help you get the testing done? If not, then I would recommend getting the two teachers who don’t have students to help you with testing.

    The routines and relationship you build with your students is far more important than the testing. I found once my routines were established I could then take time out of Daily 5 to do the testing I needed to do. It’s very hard at the beginning of the year to have the “quiet” in the room when they are still very needy. Another thing I’ve done is to put on a video, I know it seems like a cop out but I’ve done it. I know other teachers have combined classrooms, with a video, that way the two or three of you could test. You could have them play games, etc and then you could also test. I’m offering up a bunch of ideas, they are really just brainstorming ideas. They may or may not work.

    I am familiar with the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessments for reading level but not familiar with the K – 2 Assessments. My questions to you are:
    1. Are the assessments used to help guide your instruction and give students feedback on how they can improve in grade two? Do students understand the criteria by which they are being assessed?

    2. Or, are the assessments given, which take up valuable time at any time of the year, to be compiled and then sit on your desk or sit on an administrators desk to never be looked at again?

    I ask these questions not out of judgment to you but perhaps for us all to think about the reasons why we do this to children. Is all the assessing we do with children really worth it in the end? Or could something so much simpler, like a conversation with a child, be far more worthwhile than a 20 – 40 minute assessment? Or perhaps, have them write a short story or something of interest. You’ll be able to tell a lot from what a child writes. At some point, doesn’t our professional opinion and our experience have something to do with it?

    If you are mandated by your school or division to do these assessments then you have to do them. But if it’s for you, I would really consider the purpose and reasons for them. If it’s a school wide thing, I would imagine others are feeling the exact same way as you. Perhaps talking with others might help.

    I hope I’ve offered up some suggestions you could use. I agree with you that the test are VERY TIME CONSUMING. They take far too much time and time is always precious in school. Establishing a rapport and classroom climate is so vitally important at this time of the year. Good luck with your decision. Please let me know what you decided and how you planned on solving your dilemma.

    April

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