So far in my quest for the best end of year test training ever, we played a game, enjoyed tropical refreshments, and laughed at one heck of a skit in which my administrators modeled “what NOT to do” during testing. Those things were some nice additions which hopefully made the dreaded end of year test training more bearable. To be perfectly honest though, those things although thoughtful, we’re much like the candy we often use to try to bribe our students to make an effort in the classroom. The recipients enjoy the treat, but in itself it isn’t powerful enough to cause the impact we need. I had 2 more plans in mind to make test training informative and less painful, but only one of them was something I had any control over.
Plan 4- Respect Profressionalism
This year the test administrators manual made it very clear, that administrators should read the manual BEFORE attending test training. Though I’m sure it has also said this in the past as well, I think prior test coordinators were afraid to hand out the manual early for fear of them getting lost. My thought was that if we trust teach ears with our community’s children everyday, they can handle a newsprint test manual. So a week or so before test training I handed out manuals and gave the directions to read before training. I realize it’s very likely that not everyone read it, but they are professional adults and should be trusted to take care of their responsibilities.
When training day came, what we had frequently experienced in the past 2 as someone going page by page reading to us and telling exactly what to mark. I think doing it that way is insulting to highly educated adults, especially those who have already read the manual. Instead I approached the task by going over key points related to security and procedures, spending the most time on details which were changes from the previous year. In this way, it was my intent to be responsive to the needs of the “learners” and make sure they were clear on procedures while at the same time respecting their intelligence and not wasting their time.
Plan 5- Attitude is Everything
The final way to make test training not suck, lies totally in the hand of each individual participant. While the leader of the training can add elements of fun and enjoyment and be sure to address the needs of the participants, the bottom line is that it will be whatever you make it. This was clearly evident to me as I saw completely opposite responses to the exact same experience from different people. Some left the training saying “testing still makes me nervous, but this is the only time I can ever say I had fun at test training!” While others spent the entire session and their walk out the door mumbling, and commenting with outrage at certain procedures. Interestingly, EVERYONE in the room would agree that some of the procedures we are having to follow are not in the best interests of kids (myself included). The difference came with the attitude people reacted to that with. Each person has the choice to see difficulties as a challenge they can work through, or as a tragedy they are a victim of.
If you want end of year test training to suck a little less . . . choose to be someone who works through the challenges – you can do it!
You may have heard that old saying that says something about putting lipstick on a pig. Well, in my last post I talked about playing a BINGO game during End of Year test training to add an element of fun. That is a nice touch, but I’m a realist – that is little more than “lipstick on a pig.” The faculty still ends up sitting throngh listening to essentially a lecture on material that a) is less than interesting, b) they are forced to participate in even though they don’t want to, c) many have already been through multiple times before, d ) they could figure out themselves by reading the manual anyway.
I do respect teachers’ time and intelligence, but the state requires me to do this training anyway. Needless to say, it’s going to take more than BINGO to liven things up!
Plan 2- Make it Tropical
To remind us all that the end (and summer vacation) is near, I arranged for some simple tropical refreshments. Lime punch, tropical fruit trail mix , a selection of cookies, and some cute “beachy” decorations were available as faculty arrived. I also found a great Hawaiian luau station on Pandora to play to set the mood before we started. Hopefully this reminded the faculty they were appreciated and helped take minds off some of the stresses of testing season.
Plan 3- Show Instead of Tell
One thing I hate about professional development is that so often we are instructed on great best practices and strategies to use with students, but when it comes to our own learning, trainers do the exact opposite and go right back to the lengthy lectures.
According to the test manual, teachers were to have read it prior to training . It really wouldn’t be respectful of their time to sit there and go through it page by page. (Yes, I know that a good percentage of the staff never opened the book prior to training. Another issue entirely I agree.) Rather than wasting valuable time and insulting the staff’s intelligence, I chose to spend time reviewing important key procedures and looking carefully at the few changes.
Rather than telling or reading what is expected of test administrators , my awesome principal, assistant principal, and guidance counselor assisted by doing some dramatic modeling in the form of a comedy skit. One dressed and played the role of “bad test administrator” another was “bad proctor” and the third was “bad test taker.” They acted out all the what N0T to do items to prompt our discussion.
Being something totally unexpected from them made this activity a hit. They did everything imaginable that you don’t want to see in a testing situation: teacher late with an inappropriate t-shirt and a soda, the proctor’s phone ringing, and the student taking a selfie.
This allowed us to go over all these critically important security issues, and have a great laugh about it instead of getting more stressed about testing. The faculty got to visualize what shouldn’t happen and they definitely won’t forget their principals acting so silly anytime soon.
One of the many (insert sarcastic tone here) wonderful duties I have inherited this year with my new role a school Test Coordinator is to provide training for staff to be test administrators for the end of year tests. All I can think of as I begin my planning is the numerous training sessions I have sat through, which were boring at best, and down right nerve wracking at worst. Add on top of that the fact that it’s something that teachers have to do that they don’t really want to, and I know the odds are against me in my attempt to always provide training that is relevant, informative, and respectful of teachers’ time. Sigh… I really want to avoid failing miserably which I would equate to having the faculty leaving training with their heads hung low dreading the testing days even more due to the confusion or stress I have piled upon them. As a result, my plan for “Test Training that Doesn’t Suck” was born. My next few posts will share my attempts to make our test training this year “not suck,” or at least, suck a little less!
Plan 1- Play!
A friend of mine told me about a game he and some colleagues play to amuse themselves during staff meetings called Buzz Word BINGO. Essentially they make BINGO cards with common education buzzwords, and unknowing to most of the staff at the meeting, listen for the words and play BINGO during the meeting. (funny and a little bit rebellious, huh?)
So I thought during our training session, we could play Testing Lingo BINGO! I made Bingo cards on a free bingo making site (http://bingo.saksena.net) using a word list I created. I included this list for you below. I have collected up a bunch of small items to use as BINGO prizes – I think I may hit up the PTO as well.
Now during training, folks will have a reason to listen in instead of playing Candy Crush on their phone, or grading papers …. they will want to win some of the great junk (err… prizes) I have to give away.
Administering the end of year tests is serious business we all know, but we don’t have to go at it like we are facing doom and destruction, having a little fun can go a long way to relieving some of the stress we feel at the end of the school year, and if it makes us pay more attention to the training too, then double win!
My Testing Lingo BINGO Terms:
administrator, bubble sheet, test manual, code of ethics, accommodations, testing site, proctor, irregularity, misadministration, misalignment, score, extended time, make up test, EOG, NCFE, Final Exam, retest, evaluate, security, confidential, modification, document, maximum time, count, paper clip, calculator active, reading selection, test form, test editing, assessment, mark in book, read aloud, procedures, roving proctor, testing environment, monitor, standard 6, teacher evaluation, IEP, 504, LEP, number 2 pencil, calculator inactive, gridded response, test training, testing session, responsibility, confidential, test coordinator