Friday, April 29, 2011

"How To Understand Your Child's School Test Measurements"

What State Prescribed or National tests Will My Child Take?

Each State’s Department of Education decides which tests will be given in that state, although the "No Child Left Behind" act is a mandated federal law. Now, States must comply with Common Core Standards (CSS) that require that certain levels of subject matter be taught and subsequently achieved at prescribed grade levels.

Students receive multiple tests regularly in school. Not all tests are the same. Some are formal and nationally standardized which measure content knowledge with thousands of students taking these assessments in all geographical areas. These are typically administered at the end or beginning of the school year.

Reading and math Nationally Standardized Academic Achievement tests are given annually in grades 3 to 8, and at least once in grades 10 to 12 in all fifty states. Students are tested in science at least once during grades 3 through 5.

Many states give additional tests in social science, writing, and language arts in various grades. It will be up to you, as a parent, to discover what tests are given, and when; and where you can fill in by obtaining needed tests for your child.

What are Formative Tests? Other tests are informal measures of learned subject matter like classroom daily written assignments, a spelling test, or simple observations and checklists. These are ongoing on a regular basis to evaluate progress in learning. These informal measures are called criterion referenced and formative. Here is how a parent can be further engaged to help their child: 

How Parents Can Engage With Their Child’s Classroom:

1. Connect with your child’s teacher in the school.

2. Call the school office to ask for an appointment with the teacher.

3. Visit the classroom at the beginning of the year in September, and ask questions pertaining to your child’s daily classroom assignments and homework.

4. Ask to see samples of your child’s work, or request that they bring their daily work assignments home that were completed in class.

5. Ask when your State’s prescribed math and reading formative tests begin, how many will be given in the year, and what information is and will be available for your child.

6. Some interim tests may be called “testlets.” The purpose of the testlets is to guide future instruction to close gaps between current performance levels and target proficiency levels.

7. Although every state will design their own test schedules, generally, there will be two-four interim tests during the months of August, October, December, and February, and two final summative tests during February, March, and/or April. Ask when these tests are given at your school.

8. The initial August interim tests for grades 3-8 will show scores in the basic skill reading and math subject matter areas.Typically, all students begin with the same test level and receive baseline scores. Then, these test scores may be divided into three definitive ability areas: (hard, medium and easy).

9. Then, ask the teacher what test indicators are given and where your child fits into the criteria levels that have been assigned.

10. Ask to see the interim test results to define strong and weak areas, and also to help guide your student at home in weak areas with online learning applications.

11. Indicate that you would like to communicate with the teacher following each of the testlet time frames so that your child can show progress in closing gaps, and move up in the defined ability/achievement levels.

12. Ask, what can I do next to support and backup class work, and when can I visit and assist in the classroom next?

Now, you have begun understanding how your child’s class work is being measured and evaluated. This simple checklist is part of evaluating your child’s learning styles, strengths, weaknesses and personal interests. Once you determine these testing and measurement categories – you can begin identifying the right resources to help your child learn in just about every subject matter imaginable.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sharpen Your Problem-Solving Skill

Our work world is becoming ever more complex as we work in teams and problem-solve continuing workplace issues. Even our personal lives are complex. In facing problems, it is baffling why some of us can see them coming, and can diffuse them off, while others stay mired in a constant web of distress.

Although we avoid looking for trouble, we often wish we could be better at avoiding it before they appear as full-blown issues that we must cope with.

Unfortunately, we can stay locked into an analytical mode, do not recognize situational patterns, and miss the point. We become so engrossed with scrutinizing details that we fail to see the big picture. Missing clues that are obvious to others, we stumble along.

Concurrently, this is detrimental to our image and future as we can become pigeonholed at a particular skill level in our work.

It all boils down to having an ability to intuitively spot patterns going amiss with our work and daily life situations. How can we do this?

We need to reflect and understand our own mental machine and our information processing capability. It lies in our ability to encode right-brain patterns quickly and then recognize tell-tale signs of irregularities. This is referred to how "we see into situations," or “getting it,” and you probably know if you are adept in this area.

What can we do to see into situations with their web of inherent difficulties? We can become aware of insightful patterns and improve our encoding ability for spotting pattern breaks which alerts us that something is amiss.

What is a pattern break?

A “pattern break” is something different in routine thoughts, body language, wording, speech, routines, actions, individual’s appearances, or expressions. When you see something differently than expected, or out of the norm, you must become aware of your insightful realizations, and put yourself on “alert,” and react accordingly.

Avoiding Problems at Work: Observe the team members you work with. What are their attitudes, values, and hidden agendas? Are they sincere? What does their body language indicate? Do they appear positive and offer honest opinions? Are their contributions valuable to the project? Or, are they convoluted and too complex to be practical? Will their input create complications?

What are the drawbacks?

Do you see their work favorably, creatively, with an open mind? How does the team compliment each other in terms of work quality and input? How will I react to an impending obstacle? Will I remain level headed, as I notice irregularities? Can I systematically solve them by smoothing out the missing links?

Avoiding Problems at Home, ask yourself: Am I taking time to participate and listen to family members? Do I spend too much time "in my own world?" When I see a bad situation, can I work through it systematically, noting the attitude and reaction along the way? Do I hastily react, creating a deeper abyss of trouble? Am I willing to compromise and work the problem out before it intensifies?

Avoiding your Personal Problems, ask yourself: Do I continuously make the same mistakes, because I do not recognize self-destructive patterns? If I do recognize them, am I unwilling to change the pattern because it has become a habit (like smoking or drinking alcohol excessively)?

How to practice and speed up your encoding of patterns:

1. Learn a foreign language -- practice new vocabulary words with a tape recorder as a response system. Speaking creates sound patterns that activate the brain.

2. Learn to play a new musical instrument. Musical notes are symbolic patterns. Reading music involves rapidly encoding notes while scanning the measures and phrasing. It is excellent brain exercise.

3. Try repairing or installing something mechanical. Note the design or maintenance patterns. Many of us dislike and avoid reading technical manuals. However, noting technical patterns, as on Smart Phones, is good encoding practice.

Becoming aware of the evolving patterns in our world will keep us sensitive to things that are out of kilter and which create problems that we can do without.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jan's Brainy Insight: Blended e-Learning to the Rescue - 6 Available Models

Jan's Brainy Insight: Blended e-Learning to the Rescue - 6 Available Models: ""

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blended e-Learning to the Rescue - 6 Available Models

By Jan Kuyper Erland

Today's students eagerly welcome new virtual educational approaches, as new information is readily at their fingertips. To complement the vast amount of available curricula, even the high average and overly bright students can upgrade their cognitive skills beyond imaginable depths. Now, we can move forward without hesitation.

For slower students, the typical solution was in-classroom or pull out tutorial assistance of daily assignments. Teachers, not knowing how to implement advanced instructional strategies, remained instructing within this inefficient model. In many cases, teachers feared additional, cumbersome work in learning and implementing new methodologies.

In-class time remain at a premium. Tight budgets prevent ordering instructional materials. Even though grant and State monies pave the way, test scores stagnated.

Years of often poor and limited instructional content and video production on CDs-DVD's, hindered streamlined, high impact education. High tech-quality instruction will now make a difference for both the teacher and now “Screenager” student to achieve quality education meeting State policy Common Core Standards.

Now, the internet booms with educational innovation, paving its way into the emerging high-tech classroom. Teachers will no longer have to learn new methodologies, because Blended e-Learning will do it for them. Interactivity between the student and online lab will be key. Various forms of student engagement practice exist to interface with virtual learning.

A recent article (January 2011) by Horn and Staker of Innosight Institute, reviewed the current six available classroom Blended e-Learning models to relieve the teacher by offering new insights, and recharge all students to higher academic performance levels:

Model 1: Face-to-Face Driver; Supplemental Assistance
The physical teacher deploys online learning on a case-by-case basis to supplement or remediate, often in the back of the classroom in a study carrel, or in a technology lab.

Model 2: Student Rotation on a Fixed Schedule; Remote and Onsite – Teacher in Charge
Students rotate on a fixed schedule between online self-paced learning and sitting in a classroom with a traditional face-to-face teacher. The classroom teacher usually oversees the online work.

Model 3: Flex, as Needed, for Dropout - and Credit Recovery Programs
Flex model programs feature an online platform that delivers most of the curricula. Teachers provide on-site support on a flexible and adaptive as-needed basis through in-person tutoring sessions and small group sessions.

Model 4: Online Learning Lab Delivers the Entire Course in the Classroom
The online-lab model characterizes programs that rely on an online platform
to deliver the entire course but in a brick-and-mortar lab environment. Usually these programs provide online teachers. Paraprofessionals supervise, but offer little content expertise. Often students that participate in an online-lab program also take traditional courses and have typical block schedules.

Model 5: Self-Blend; High School Students Enroll in Online Courses
Blended learning among American high schools is the self-blend model, which encompasses any time students choose to take one or more courses online to supplement their traditional school’s catalog. The online learning is always remote, which distinguishes it from the online-lab model, but the traditional learning is in a brick-and-mortar school. All supplemental online schools that offer a la carte courses to individual students facilitate self-blending.

Model 6: Online Driver Platform and Remote Teacher; Home Schooling Option
The online-driver model involves an online platform and teacher that deliver all curricula. Students work remotely for the most part. Face-to-face check-ins is sometimes optional and other times required. Some of these programs offer brick and-mortar components as well, such as extracurricular activities.

These models have the potential to revolutionize education as we know it, offer excitement and learning nuances to the classroom, while additionally solving the budget crunches and raising student achievement performance scores.

Innosight’s 2011 white papers on Blended e-learning:

Horn, M. B, & Staker, H. (January 2011) The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning. Innosight Institute, Philadelphia, PA.

Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn, and Curtis W. Johnson, Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008).