Quiet moments in my office are to be cherished in the summertime, but I must admit that I also miss the controlled chaos of the school year when five people (some of them teachers) need five different things in the next five minutes. Therefore, I enjoy the fact that my job as curriculum director is not limited to finding new textbooks. I know that I am not alone. Curriculum directors in faith-based schools likely have a very broad job description, and the longer you have worked in one place, the bigger that description grows! Curriculum is a broad umbrella under which many related academic tasks may shelter. Educational testing is a natural fit. In a recent post, I referred to how gleefully our principal passed this enormous task to me.
Schools need a testing philosophy, whether it is written or just understood. What are your goals in testing? How will you use testing scores? What do your board and constituents expect concerning testing? Does your state require specific testing? What is your policy as to the amount of testing you want to require? Additionally, it is important to regularly evaluate the tests you are administering to determine their effectiveness in meeting your goals for formal assessments. Evaluating the value and purpose of each test may even lead you to reduce the tests you give.
The words, “Fold your test booklet back so that only page one is showing. Read the directions to yourself as I read them aloud,” launched thousands of students into achievement testing for decades. Today, however, many tests are on computers using a secure browser. This may require your school to increase its number of laptops or Chromebooks. If this is the case, hopefully your school employs an IT person who can head the technology component of testing. A knowledgeable specialist is needed to prep devices with the testing protocols and schedule how carts of computers can be shared to accommodate testing.
Another factor that influences choice in standardized testing is whether your school accepts state tuition reimbursement (or scholarships) for students. Mandated testing to monitor student progress is typically a requirement for scholarship students. In any case, most schools need to give more than one type of test. These are the standardized tests we use annually.
Grades K-2 – STAR reading and math – beginning, middle and end of the year
Grades 3-8 – Ohio standardized tests – April
Grades 9-11 – Ohio End of Course tests – December and April
We use Chromebooks for STAR and Ohio testing except for the third grade. In Ohio, the Third Grade Reading Guarantee is given in October and April; this is a high stakes test that determines promotability. We do not feel that our students are mature enough in their computer skills to simultaneously focus on keyboarding skills and reading skills. Therefore, all third-grade testing is done with traditional test booklets.
At the high school level, additional tests are needed to help students prepare for college and careers. We are currently administering the following:
PSAT – optional for sophomores who may be eligible for National Merit Scholarships or who want to take the SAT
PreACT – for sophomores
State-funded ACT – for juniors
ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery)
The curriculum director who handles testing is responsible for overseeing test prep, preparing and publicizing the testing schedule, troubleshooting in all classrooms during testing, scheduling make-up testing, shipping testing materials, and interpreting testing data.
Testing is mere busywork if your school does not do anything with the data it provides. As an ACSI member school, we are expected to disaggregate testing data, use it to inform instruction and share the results with our constituents, which include the board, faculty, and parents. If you had the blessing of taking a course in quantitative analysis, you know that statistics can be manipulated to say anything. As a faith-based educator it is paramount to remember James 3:1. Educators will give an account before God for the way in which they lead. Integrity, honesty, and full disclosure should characterize our handling of test statistics. If you give a test, you should be willing to share the results – for all subjects and all tests – announcing the good news as well as acknowledging the disappointments.
Faculty meetings should be held to train teachers in how to interpret test scores and use the information. Disaggregation of testing data is not taught in teacher preparation colleges; this is something that your school needs to provide as professional development. The goals of disaggregating test data should include identifying the needs of individual students, determining how lesson planning should be altered to allow coverage for areas of deficit within a subject and grade, and evaluating the possible need for curriculum revision in an entire content area.
Teachers may discover they need to change the order of units so that key material is adequately covered before testing. This may require them to skip a unit that is not tested or teach chapters in a non-chronological order; they need to be empowered with the freedom to make these changes! Of course, you will want your curriculum maps to reflect the changes made after test data has been analyzed.
Curriculum directors may be expected to prepare testing reports for the board and provide information for admissions and marketing. It is beneficial to obtain online testing data from your local public school districts to create comparison charts. Disaggregation also includes longitudinal studies in which you show five or more years of results. At some point your school may decide to change its major form of standardized testing. State tests, Iowa and Terra Nova tend to be the big three for faith-based schools. As with curriculum changes, you do not want to make this decision on a whim. When you change testing providers, you will lose the ability to compare year-to-year statistics until you have several years of data from the new tests.
The world of testing includes the pre- and post-activities of how to prepare students for tests and how to remediate those who fall short of required score thresholds. These are topics for another discussion but should be a part of your school’s overall testing plan. The curriculum director sets the attitude about testing for the school. If you treat it as a necessary evil, teachers, parents and students will have negative attitudes. Be positive and encouraging. Be organized so that everyone feels comfortable about the process. Help your faculty and students to “Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go; keep her for she is thy life” (Proverbs 4:13 KJV).