A Reader Asks… The Timed Checkpoint

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A reader asks the following:

SC,

We are new to using the LYS Short-term Trend Analysis Form in our PLCs.  At our last meeting there was much debate over the time allotted to giving the quick 10-question checkpoint. We allow 30 minutes for the checkpoint, but the instructional leaders at campuses feel that many of their students need 40-minutes or more to complete.  They believe that taking up an assessment before students have had time to complete it is “demoralizing” to some of our students.  

Please explain the significance of keeping with the time limit, or is it okay to extend?

SC Response What you describe is common and predictable pushback.

First, let me line out an assessment schedule for you:

Week 3: Checkpoint (30 minutes or less) (campus use) Week 6: Checkpoint (30 minutes or less) (campus use) Week 9: Mid-term (45 minutes or less) (district and campus use) Week 12: Checkpoint (30 minutes or less) (campus use) Week 15: Checkpoint (30 minutes or less) (campus use) End of Semester: Final (90 minutes or less) (district and campus use)

Week 21: Checkpoint (30 minutes or less) (campus use) Week 24: Checkpoint (30 minutes or less) (campus use) Week 27: Mid-term (45 minutes or less) (district and campus use) Week 30: Checkpoint (30 minutes or less) (campus use) Week 33: Checkpoint (30 minutes or less) (campus use) End of Course: Final (90 minutes or less) (district and campus use)

Notes: (a) If a STAAR test is administered in the course the week before, or the week of a checkpoint, SKIP the checkpoint. (b) A practice STAAR test can be substituted for the week 27 mid-term. (c) If it is a STAAR tested class, skip the second semester final and replace it with a final checkpoint.

Second, ask just enough questions that can reasonably be answered in the time frame of the assessment.  Which means for: (a) Checkpoints, it will generally be 10 of fewer questions. (b) Mid-terms, it will generally be 20 or fewer questions. (c) Finals, it will be 30 or fewer questions.

Third, in the STAAR environment, test taking fluency and pacing are critical. Adhering to the allotted testing time hones student processing skills and gives teachers critical information on student problem solving fluency.  If the issue is too many questions for the time frame, reduce the number of questions.  If the issue is inadequate student processing speed, that is instructional information that is vital for the teacher.  

Additionally, the short, timed checkpoint protects instructional time.  Teachers argue that they do not have enough time to teach the required content.  If this is the case, then in the classroom the best solution is to teach a lot, assess quickly, adjust, and repeat. 

Finally (and this upsets teachers), demoralized students are more a function of the teacher, not the student.  If the teacher communicates that the uses of checkpoints are progress gauges and growth indicators, then the “grade” has less significance. If the teacher communicates that the highest score (grade) is the goal, then “low” scores are bad.  What are your teachers communicating?

Implementing the checkpoint process correctly is hard work.  If it were easy, everyone would do it.  It boils down to this question, “Do you want to use your checkpoints to sort kids (traditional practice) or improve adult practice (exceptional practice)?”

I hope this better clarifies the process.

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