A Reader Writes… Ten Surprising Things You Learn While Implementing 3-Week Checkpoints – Part 1

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In response to the 12/4/2013 post, “10 Surprising Things You Learn While Implementing 3-week Checkpoints,” a reader writes:

Too much testing doesn’t allow for re-teaching or mastery.

SC Response I’m glad you made this observation because it brings us to the 11th surprising thing that is learned (though not the case on campuses with purposeful training and support). The staff (both teaching and administration) doesn’t understand the basics of an effective formative assessment program.

The most common misunderstanding is that implementing a 3-week checkpoint system increases testing.  It does not. Done correctly, testing (both in number of tests administered and time expended) is actually reduced? How? I’m glad you asked.

1. Multiple, big “release test” benchmarks… Gone. They are a waste of instructional time.  If you have to do one (which I would argue that you do not), administer it at mid-year.  The value received is far outweighed by the cost of the loss of instructional time. Note: These benchmarks usually are administered four times a year and take 60 to 180 minutes to complete.

2. Regular use of statistically invalid, individually made teacher test… Quit doing them.  About the only thing these measure accurately is, well, nothing.  And before anyone gets angry and claims I’m being anti-teacher, I’m not. Just take one graduate level assessment course and you will understand that teachers can either plan for instruction or build valid assessments; no one has time to do both. Note: These tests usually are administered every week or two and take 30 to 60 minutes to complete.

3. Irregularly scheduled unit assessments… Quit doing these also.  The 3-week assessments take their place.  Just understand that on some assessments, you’ll have material from the end of one unit and the beginning of the next unit. Note: These tests usually are administered every two to six weeks and take 45 to 60 minutes to complete.

So take the typical class on the typical campus.  In this class, students will take:

A. Four (4) Benchmarks and use approximately 480 minutes of instructional time.

B. Fifteen (15) teacher made tests and use approximately 450 minutes of instructional time.

C. Eight (8) unit tests and use approximately 360 minutes of instructional time.

This adds up to 27 tests and 21½ hours of instructional time (per class).

Now take the same campus and implement the 3-week checkpoint process that is used by a number of LYS campuses. In this class, students will take:

A. One (1) Benchmarks and use approximately 120 minutes of instructional time.

B. Eight (8) 3-week checkpoints and use approximately 200 minutes of instructional time.

C. Three (3) cumulative tests and use approximately 135 minutes of instructional time.

This adds up to 12 tests and 7¾ hours of instructional time (per class).

So who exactly is doing too much testing? Not the LYS campus. And with 13¾ hours of additional instructional time (per class), which equals 16 extra days of instruction, there actually is time to teach, re-teach, build mastery and stay on pace. 

All it takes is letting go of inefficient tradition.   Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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A Reader Writes… Senior Elementary School – Part 1
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