All the Cool Kids Are Stressed

Notes from the Classroom

shutterstock_176141129
It’s testing season and stress is at an all-time high. But the past few years, I’ve started to notice an alarming trend. The students aren’t stressed about their stress; they celebrate it.

On test days, an AP student will drag into class and proudly proclaim that he was up until 3:00 a.m. studying. Not to be outdone, a fellow student will counter that she slept for three hours–midnight to 3:00–and then got up to continue studying. And they’re not lying.

I get more emails from my students between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m. than any other time. They chug coffee and Red Bull. They give up activities they truly love in favor of more studying and more test prep.

Happiness and a balanced life? Totally lame. Stressed and miserable? Badge of honor.

A Culture of Overworking

I know it’s not just my school. The other day a fellow English teacher in another school tweeted this to her students:KV

On the same day I saw her tweet, I read this New York Times piece about how a high school in Massachusetts is working to combat stress among its students.

And it’s not just high school students. In my Twitter feed, this opinion piece about our culture’s celebration of overworking popped up. Why wouldn’t our kids wear stress like a badge of honor? We do.

I think English teachers have a unique opportunity to do something about the stress we see in our students. We can’t change the culture of overwork and stress completely, but we can set our students up to better manage it.

Writers’ Notebooks

One of the easiest places to open the conversation about stress and workload is in the students’ writers’ notebooks. I think we need to be careful about how we frame those writing invitations, though. Inviting students to write about their stressors might be an opportunity to unload and unburden themselves, but it might be just one more chance for them to glorify their stress. Instead, frame reflective writing opportunities around stressors, successes, and plans.

Recently, my AP Seminar students returned to school on a Monday after a weekend of completing drafts of a major essay. The stress in the room was palpable when they entered. We started with our notebooks:

What’s something you’re happy about with your writing?

What is something that’s stressing you out about your writing?

What is the next step in your plan?

Verbally, I urged the kids not to skip a question or respond with one-word answers. As they wrote, I walked around and encouraged those who were struggling to find something good, and engaged those who couldn’t see a next step.

By the time we were done with our notebooks, the tension had eased and they were ready to dig into their drafts. If we are mindful about creating opportunities for students to work through their stress, hopefully they’ll be able to do it independently, too.

Standards-Based Grading

A broader consideration for reducing stress is in how we grade.

Though we are all eager to focus on the learning and to discount the letter grades, many of our students (and often their parents) are most concerned with their grades. As English teachers, we are uniquely situated to move toward standards-based grading because so much of our curriculum focuses on skills rather than content. If our students begin to see our classes as opportunities to practice skills and grow over the course of the year, perhaps individual assignments will begin to feel less like a hammer drop.

For example, in AP Language and Composition, I needed to prepare my students to write three different styles of essays. Throughout the second semester, we probably wrote four or five of each type. We conferenced about them, we self-assessed, we peer reviewed, and the writing improved over time. Through it all, students knew they would have multiple chances to improve and show me what they could do. When it finally came time to make one “count,” the pressure was significantly lower than if I had been counting them all along.

Modeling

One final way we can help our students manage stress is through our own modeling.

English teachers are notorious for dragging home bags and bags of essays. And, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably guilty of telling your students how buried you are in papers.

However, do we share enough of the ways we find balance in our own lives? Do we find balance in our own lives? If we do, we should share it with them. Tell them about how we pushed the stack of papers aside last night and stayed up reading–not a required novel but something we loved. Or even better? Tell them how we pushed the papers aside and played outside with our kids. If you don’t do those things, it’s time to start.  

On that note, it’s a beautiful day. I’m going for a run.

Hattie Maguire (@TeacherHattie) is an English teacher and Content Area Leader at Novi High School. She is spending her sixteenth year in the classroom teaching AP English Language and Composition, AP Seminar and doing Tier 2 writing intervention. She is a National Board Certified Teacher who earned her BS in English and MA in Curriculum and Teaching from Michigan State University.

Easing M-STEP Stress

Notes from the Classroom

M-Step-Logo_473059_7While all eyes are on spring break, just behind it lurks the dreaded, gray fog–the time when the use of technology in our building becomes dedicated to one purpose: M-STEP.

Our online standardized testing begins right after we return from a much-needed respite. However, as we are frantically wrapping up our informational unit of study and preparing for parent-teacher conferences, who has time to prep?

Thankfully, most of the “prep” for my students has already happened, thanks to our use of online reading and writing resources. Still, though we’re just two school weeks out, there is much that can be done in terms of online practice.

Reading 

Early in the year I created an account at ReadTheory for all of my students. This is a great online program that provides students with an experience that is very much like the M-STEP format: students read a passage and answer multiple choice questions.

What I love about ReadTheory is that it is computer adaptive when students pretest. It also gives them an explanation as to why an answer is incorrect. ReadTheory also offers free, printable assessments that can be used in the classroom if paper-and-pencil practice is needed. (Blogger Jianna Taylor describes how Edulastic addresses many of these goals as well.)

Newsela is another great resource for leveled passages. With Newsela, students can read passages online and answer questions. There are abundant resources on this site, which is also searchable by topic and grade level. (For more on Newsela, check out Amy Gurney’s post from 2016 about the site.)

Often, I find inspiration on other teachers’ sites. Mr. Nussbaum is one of them. His site is full of resources, and the reading passages are not only leveled, but they look very much like the screen that students view when taking the M-STEP.

Between these three sites (and in addition to the actual M-STEP prep site) students should be well prepared for the format, and comfortable with reading and answering questions in this online format.

Writing 

These days, there are many resources available for online writing. Many students at the elementary level are using Google Docs–sometimes even in kindergarten. Other online story creation sites have exploded over the years as well.

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hOne of my favorites–and, for my students, most beneficial–is blogging. Blogging is something we do all year long, but in the spring we also participate in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Classroom Challenge. This challenge changes the game because now there are real people–not just teachers and classmates–reading our writing. Students begin to care more about how they write, what they write, and what other people think of their writing.

This lends itself very well to M-STEP. I tell my students to imagine they are writing for their blog audience. The feedback, I tell them, will come from your score. So use everything you know about good writing.

Bottom Line

I am so fortunate to teach in a district that does not place great emphasis on these tests. Our superintendent is very clear that this is one score, on one day, and does not begin to tell the story of who the child is as a learner. We all know that the true “prep” is in the good teaching that we do day to day.

However, ease of use with technology will allow my students to relax and get down to the business of showing what they know, the best that they can. To me, this is the perfect combination.

beth croppedBeth Rogers is a fifth grade teacher for Clarkston Community Schools, where she has been teaching full time since 2006.  She is  blessed to teach Language Arts and Social Studies for her class and her teaching partner’s class, while her partner  teaches all of their math and science. This enables them  to focus on their passions and do the best they can for kids. Beth was chosen as Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014 in her district. She earned a B.S. in Education at Kent State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology at Michigan State University. 

 

 

Rooting Myself in “Why”

Notes from the Classroom

sinekIt’s that time of year. Second semester is in full swing. The hope of snow days is waning. And for high school teachers in Michigan, this time of year also means that assessment season is quickly approaching.

We, as teachers, often struggle with how to best prepare our students for high-stakes assessments like the SAT. No one likes to teach to the test, but we also recognize its importance both for our schools and for our students, and we want to see our students achieve success. So, how do we find that balance?

To answer that question, I’ve come back to a favorite resource of mine, Simon Sinek’s “golden circle.” In this TED talk, Sinek argues that, in order to inspire change, we must “start with ‘why.’” To prepare my students for success on the SAT, I’m starting by rooting my practice in “why.”

As a teacher, questions are our job. In this case, I’d argue that “why” is the one that we should return to with consistency–both in planning and in instruction.

Here are a few questions that I’m trying to integrate into my daily instruction.

1. Why do you say that?

In daily instruction, this question can inform me and help guide my instruction. If students have an answer, but it sounds like they might not quite have the understanding that they need, I’ll ask this question. It illuminates their thinking and identifies where I need to redirect.

If they are on the right track, this question can extend thinking to the next level of supporting analysis with evidence. This type of question even appears on the SAT.

2. Why might this author…?

You could finish this question in a lot of different ways:

Why might this author include these details?

… use this particular word?

… start her essay like this?

… structure her paragraphs in this way?

… write this in the first place?

These questions help to make that ever-important connection between reading and writing. And they help to make a habit of analysis, which is a crucial skill on the redesigned SAT both in multiple choice and essay sections.

3. Why are we doing this?

shutterstock_373931644We’ve heard this question a million times from our students, and it’s an important one. If our purpose is to more authentically teach students to write by studying the craft of mentors, then we should make sure our texts and our writing are aligned, and that we are asking these questions when it makes sense to do so.

There’s a very real human element to the craft of writing, and we can’t forget that. Here, we’re asking “why” with the lens of what we, as writers, can learn from these mentors.

The same question can be asked of test prep. If you teach juniors, you might be especially frustrated this time of year that your unit work gets eclipsed by frequent practice tests. Again, it would be worth asking, “Why are we doing this?”

The biggest advantage to giving practice exams (and I’m talking full-test- or whole-section replicas of the test) is to expose students to the format, the wording, and the nuances that come with different tests. Yes, of course this is important, but it shouldn’t trump good instruction.

If the goal is to practice a format, wouldn’t that be most effective within our good instruction in manageable chunks? Or by assessing in a variety of formats–including those that will give our kids exposure to the wording and format? If we’re replacing a lot of our valuable class time with practice tests or are letting them drive our curriculum, we should step back and re-ask ourselves “why?”

Rooting our practice in “why” through planning and instruction can help us make the necessary shift from surface-level understanding to purposeful, thoughtful analysis. And if this is done throughout the year and beyond just the typical “test-prep” time of year, it can shape our students in ways far more meaningful than just preparing for a score.

MKortlandt2Megan Kortlandt (@megankortlandt) is a secondary ELA consultant and reading specialist for the Waterford School District. In the mornings, she teaches Language Arts at Durant High School, and in the afternoons, she works with all of Waterford’s middle and high school teachers and students in the Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment department. Additionally, Megan works with Oakland Schools as an instructional coach for AARI. She has presented at various conferences including the Michigan Council for Teachers of English and Michigan Reading Association annual conferences

Finding Joy in a “Free Day”

Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project

shutterstock_358897601It’s that time of year here in Michigan: the dreaded standardized testing window we now call M-STEP. My 5th graders just endured five days of this testing over a two-week period. The first two days were ELA tests–hours of online reading and writing. Needless to say, after the second afternoon my kiddos were in need of a break.

We did a little bit of our read aloud, which is something that even at 10, 11, or 12 years old my students still truly love. We had a conversation and then it was time for independent reading and writing.

They’d already had hours of it that day, so I decided to let them be in charge of their literacy that day. I told them they could read and/or write in whatever way they chose–they just had to be involved in literacy in some way. The result was not what I expected.

Questions came firing at me:

“Can I write poetry?”

“Can we write a story together?”

“Can I write fiction?”

“Fantasy?”

“Can I do more concrete poems?”

“May I quietly read in the hall?”

Yes, yes, and yes. Then I watched something I haven’t seen in a while: true joy.

Enjoying Literacy

My students were happily engaging in worthwhile activities throughout the room. Even those who are usually off task found this freedom liberating and inspiring. Books were being created (and are now several chapters long). Concrete poems have been published in large numbers and are hanging in the hallway.

shutterstock_344859035This day really got me thinking about workshop and curriculum. We power through what we need to teach: mini lessons, teaching points, big ideas. We give kids lots of independent practice within the unit we are teaching.

Yet there are always those kids who don’t like the genre, who don’t really engage during independent time, who are just going through the motions waiting for the time to be over. This “free day” was just that for my friends: freedom. They weren’t constrained by what they “had” to read or write or do. This freedom allowed them to enjoy literacy.

Clearly, this is something I need to build into my year, not just at M-STEP time, but all year long. Though I’m not sure how to make it happen, I will. The evidence is clear. This is the outcome we want for our students: to find joy in reading and writing.

Now, when my students ask if we are going to have a “free day” soon, I think back to those smiles and enthusiasm and answer, “Yes.”

beth croppedBeth Rogers is a fifth grade teacher for Clarkston Community Schools, where she has been teaching full time since 2006.  She is  blessed to teach Language Arts and Social Studies for her class and her teaching partner’s class, while her partner  teaches all of their math and science. This enables them  to focus on their passions and do the best they can for kids. Beth was chosen as Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014 in her district. She earned a B.S. in Education at Kent State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology at Michigan State University. 

Good Teacher, Bad Data

Literacy & Technology Notes from the Classroom Professional Learning

shutterstock_268996268I think it’s safe to say that there’s a bit more mathematical calculation in your normal English classroom pedagogy than there was, say, five years ago.

And you know what? That’s a good thing—a great thing if you’ve found meaningful ways to use the data gathered from formative and summative assessments.  

But data can also be pretty misleading.

The idea of using data to improve instruction has always been presented as a simplistic and elegant solution: gather data that shows which students miss which questions and, voila!, you know  where to direct differentiated instruction, to help every student reach mastery of the learning goals. 

To wit: An easy question about the tone of an author yields 90% of your students who correctly identify and explain the tone, but the second tone question on the same assessment—testing the same learning goal but providing a much more challenging passage—reveals that only 50% of your class can really decipher tone when the going gets tough (or the tone gets subtle).  

This is really fantastic information to have! Ten percent of your kids need to go back and review their notes and probably do some formative practice. But there’s another 40% who need to work on applying their newfound skill. They clearly know what tone is, but at some point when the tone isn’t smacking them in the face, they actually aren’t that great at recognizing the trait in writing. The needs of these two groups are different, but now you know whom to direct to which formative task!

The Signal, The Noise, The Headache

51Ui-zv3m7L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_The funny thing about data, though, is that numbers aren’t as clear and objective as all those charts and bar graphs would have us believe. If you don’t want to take an English teacher’s word for that, get ahold of Nate Silver’s excellent book The Signal and the Noisewhich reveals just how difficult it can be to get data to tell you the truth.  

Or, for that matter, believe your own experience, since I’m fairly certain you’ve also experienced the sort of data debacle I’m about to describe.  

A few years ago, my professional learning community rewrote all of our assessment questions so that they were clearly labeled by learning goal. When we tested a student’s ability to support an argument using textual evidence, the question might look like this:

Using Evidence: Using at least one quote, explain how Jon Krakauer establishes Chris McCandless’s desire to live a more primitive lifestyle in Into the Wild.

Now everything should be clean and easy to parse—if kids get the question right, they have mastered the use of textual evidence. If they get it wrong, they have not. And if they can explain Krakauer’s methods but fail to use a quote, we can presume they’re halfway there.

So would it surprise you to learn that my PLC ended up getting incredibly muddled data from this question? And that we eventually had to rethink how we were interpreting much of the data? Here are some of the issues that we encountered:

  • How can you tell when a student lacks a skill versus when they lack vocabulary? Three of my stronger students asked me what primitive meant—in my first period alone!
  • Did all the students recognize the implicit meaning of the verb explain? Have you been clear about what various verbs (contrast, analyze, challenge) demand of them in an assessment?
  • How do you decide whether a student just hasn’t written enough? And what should the takeaway be when students can vocalize an answer that is thorough and accurate?
  • How much should you be concerned when a student’s example is the one you’ve already used in a class discussion? What if that brand of example shows up on every single assessment a student takes?
  • If you give the students one passage to focus on, is a correct answer an indication of mastery of this skill or only partial mastery (since on their own they might not have been able to select the relevant part of the text from, say, an entire chapter)?

Any of these are good reasons to have a careful data discussion in your PLC. But let’s just take that first one—lacking a skill versus lacking vocabulary—as an example. 

I couldn’t write off as a trivial minority the students who asked the question (what primitive meant)—these were the grade-concerned kids who were good about asking questions. If they didn’t know the term and said so, then there was a good chance that A LOT of the other kids also didn’t know the meaning of primitive. They just didn’t bother to ask.  

Is Data Doomed?

All of a sudden, our data about this fundamental writing skill seemed really murky. And this was a learning goal we thought was pretty transparent and objective!  There was a sudden temptation to go back to the more instinctive, less numbers-driven approach to gathering feedback about students.

Even though gathering good data in English is tougher than it seems, it is both possible and essential for effective instruction. I’ll revisit my own case study in my next blog post, in order to elucidate a few of the counter-measures my PLC took to help avoid “fuzzy” data points.

In the meantime, think about the next assessment you give to students. Whatever data you take from it, ask yourself whether more than one “theory” about the kids’ performances on it would fit the data you’re staring at.

Michael Ziegler

Michael Ziegler (@ZigThinks) is a Content Area Leader and teacher at Novi High School.  This is his 15th year in the classroom. He teaches 11th Grade English and IB Theory of Knowledge. He also coaches JV Girls Soccer and has spent time as a Creative Writing Club sponsor, Poetry Slam team coach, AdvancEd Chair, and Boys JV Soccer Coach. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan, majoring in English, and earned his Masters in Administration from Michigan State University.  

Authentic M-STEP Preparation

Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project Professional Learning

M-Step-Logo_473059_7Recently, I facilitated a webinar about preparing students for the ELA M-STEP. (You can access a recording, slides, and a handout online.) Preparing our students for the M-STEP, I believe, doesn’t have to be a tedious task, one that we scramble to find the time to do. Rather, it can be embedded into our daily practice, helping make it more authentic and more relevant for our students.

Before we can prepare our students, though, we need to prepare ourselves and have a clear understanding of the types of tasks students will be engaged in, and the skills they need to complete those tasks. To help in this work, sample-items sets for grades 3-8 are available on MDE’s website. This is a great resources for familiarizing both teachers and students with the task types and browser.

A careful analysis of the 7th grade sample-items set shows that students will be engaged in the following types of tasks:

    • Annotating
    • Choosing multiple options in multiple choice questions
    • Constructed response
    • Multipart questions (Part B contingent on Part A)
    • Writing samples, using information in the prompt
    • Editing a writing sample
    • Reading across texts
    • Choosing reliable sources and evidence

Many of the tasks above are different from the format of the MEAP test, so it’s very important that we take the time to carefully think about what students need to know and be able to do.

Sample 7th grade item

For example, in the 7th grade item to the left, students must be able to first distinguish between the content of the question and the directions. (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

Notice that the item begins with directions to the students. Then there is some content that the students need to understand and use. Then, below that, there is the task. It is all in the same font and formatting, so students must learn to read carefully, to ensure they are not missing important information.

Practice Assessments

In addition to the sample-items sets, MDE has created a set of documents called the ELA Crosswalks. These documents were created to help teachers create classroom assessments that would be similar to those that students might see on the M-STEP, use the same kind of language as the M-STEP, and ensure that teachers are teaching and assessing particular standards.

ELA Crosswalks

The image to the right, also clickable, shows a claim, targets, and standards for reading. These have been created for reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language.

Although there are now only performance tasks at 5th and 8th grade, it is worth preparing all students for different types of writing tasks of various lengths. Teachers College Writing and Reading Project has put together performance tasks for grades 3-8 that include readings, videos, writing prompts, and rubrics.  

While the first and best way to prepare for the M-STEP is through good instruction, we can help students do their best by ensuring that we understand what they will be asked to do, and help them develop ways to navigate various tasks.

Screenshot 2014-09-26 at 12.44.07 PMJianna Taylor (@JiannaTaylor) is an ELA and Title 1 teacher at Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield.  She is a member of the AVID Site Team and Continuous School Improvement Team at her school, among other things.  She is also a MiELA Network Summer Institute facilitator and member of the OWP Core Leadership Team.  Jianna earned her bachelor’s degree from Oakland University and her master’s degree from the University of Michigan.  She also writes reviews of children’s books and young adult novels for the magazine Library Media Connection.

 

Finding a Balance with State Testing

Notes from the Classroom

shutterstock_334073204As I write this, January is nearly over and we are starting to hear a little buzz about our state’s standardized testing. This buzz will likely turn to a loud roar as we get closer to April. In many districts, this testing is like a heavy weight that sits on the shoulders of students and teachers alike. Though I am blessed to work in a district that does not pressure us at all, I too feel the weight.

This year I am working on a webinar for Oakland Schools about Elementary M-STEP (our test), and it has caused me to think deeply about all of this: testing/not testing, prepping/not prepping, and my responsibilities as a teacher to my district and to my students.

First and foremost, I am here for my students. I need to provide the best education for them in ways that meet their needs as a diverse group of learners. I have a wealth of resources at my disposal, and I feel generally well equipped for the task at hand. I am able to teach my students about reading and writing in ways that push them to think deeply about text, and that move them to better understanding.

All of that comes first. Then I look at the test.

Here’s what I don’t do: I don’t consistently have my students read long passages of text online, where they have to scroll and scroll and scroll to complete it. I don’t have them read and answer questions by choosing the correct bubble. I don’t have them answer questions from screen to screen that connect to each other.

But maybe I should.

Why? It’s simply not fair to teach my students how to read and respond to text in long passages, but to never teach them how to read online and answer questions that are inferential. It’s not fair to give them copies of articles that they can read and highlight, along with graphic organizers to help them create a piece of writing, and then throw them into a test where they read everything online, and where they have a blank piece of paper to use in whatever way makes sense to them.

The teacher in me says I need to offer the best instruction for my students. But the teacher in me also says I need to give them exposure before test day to the format they will experience.

Prepping for the Format

shutterstock_142403371A colleague got me thinking about metaphors for all of this. The one that comes to mind for me is that we need to get students’ feet in the water, to ease them in before we throw them in alone and ask them to swim.

So, this year I will keep teaching our units of study and engaging my students in rich text. We will continue to have great conversations and write about our understanding and thinking.

But we will also go online and read and write. We will experience formats that are new and different.

On test day my students might not know everything, but when they look at the format, they will think, “Oh, I know about this. I can do this.” That’s the mindset that will unlock their best thinking.

To view the recent M-STEP Test Prep Webinar that Beth facilitated and to access the resources she shared, click here.

beth croppedBeth Rogers is a fifth grade teacher for Clarkston Community Schools, where she has been teaching full time since 2006.  She is  blessed to teach Language Arts and Social Studies for her class and her teaching partner’s class, while her partner  teaches all of their math and science. This enables them  to focus on their passions and do the best they can for kids. Beth was chosen as Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014 in her district. She earned a B.S. in Education at Kent State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology at Michigan State University. 

M-STEP Prep Webinars: Test Literacy & ELA Curricular Connections

Grade Level(s): 3-5 & 6-8M-Step-Logo_474451_7

Description: Get your students ready! These hour-long, interactive webinars presented by teacher leaders will provide ready to use strategies for addressing test literacy, item directions and format, and MSTEP navigation with students. In addition, presenters will address how to integrate the content of M-STEP preparation organically into MAISA unit instruction.

SCECHs: no

Who Should Attend?: Elementary teachers and middle school ELA teachers interested in contrete ideas for addressing test directions, item formats, and test navigations as well as strategies for integrating M-STEP test prep into the MAISA units.

Dates & Times: 

Elementary Session – January 28, 2015  7-8pm

Middle School Session – January 26, 2015  7-8pm

Location: virtual, participants receive room link once registered

Event Contact : delia.decourcy@oakland.k12.mi.us

Presenter(s):
Beth Rogers, Clarkston Community Schools (elementary) & Jianna Taylor West Bloomfield Schools, (middle school)

beth cropped

Beth Rogers is a fifth grade teacher for Clarkston Community Schools, where she has been teaching full time since 2006.  She is  blessed to teach Language Arts and Social Studies for her class and her teaching partner’s class, while her partner  teaches all of their math and science. This enables them  to focus on their passions and do the best they can for kids. Beth was chosen as Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014 in her district. She earned a B.S. in Education at Kent State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology at Michigan State University.

 

Screenshot 2014-09-26 at 12.44.07 PMJianna Taylor (@JiannaTaylor) is an ELA and Title 1 teacher at Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield.  She is a member of the AVID Site Team and Continuous School Improvement Team at her school, among other things.  She is also a MiELA Network Summer Institute facilitator and member of the OWP Core Leadership Team.  Jianna earned her bachelor’s degree from Oakland University and her master’s degree from the University of Michigan.  She also writes reviews of children’s books and young adult novels for the magazine Library Media Connection.

 

#14: A Look at Student Data Mining from Two Perspectives

Podcasts

Jeff  Grabill is a Professor of Rhetoric and Professional Writing and Chair of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures here at Michigan State University. He is  a senior researcher with WIDE Research (Writing in Digital Environments) and also a co-founder of Drawbridge Incorporated, an educational technology company. He studies how digital writing is associated with citizenship and learning. He has published two books on community literacy and articles in journals like College Composition and Communication, Technical Communication Quarterly, Computers and Composition, and English Education.

Email

Twitter

MSU

 

Bill Hart-Davidson earned his Ph.D. in 1999 in Rhetoric & Composition from Purdue University. He is a Senior Researcher at Writing in Digital Environments Research at Matrix. In 2014, he will begin a three year appointment as Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in the College of Arts & Letters. He is a co-inventor of Eli Review, a software service that supports writing instruction. Eli is a system based on research and pedagogy developed with his colleagues at WIDE.

Email

Twitter

MSU

This podcast is also available on iTunes

 

 

Moving from the ACT to the SAT in 2016

News

The Michigan Department of Education announced this shift yesterday.  For more information, see the press release below.

***

MDE News Release

Contact:    Martin Ackley, Director of Public and Governmental Affairs, (517) 241-4395

                  Caleb Buhs, Michigan DTMB, (517) 241-7422

State Awards Future College Assessment to College Board’s SAT for Michigan Students

January 7, 2015

LANSING –- All Michigan high school juniors will begin taking the SAT as the state-administered college assessment exam beginning in 2016 after the College Board won the three-year competitively-bid contract, the Michigan Department of Education and Department of Technology, Management and Budget jointly announced today.

The College Board administers the SAT, a globally-recognized college admission test that lets students show colleges what they know and how well they can apply that knowledge. It tests students’ knowledge of reading, writing and math — subjects that are taught every day in high school classrooms in Michigan.

ACT, Inc. will continue to provide its WorkKeys assessment for all high school students. Both the college entrance assessment and work skills tests are required in state law to be provided free to all high school students, and each is periodically competitively bid through the state’s structured procurement process, as directed by the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB).

 “The College Board’s SAT test is respected and used around the country,” said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan, “and Michigan high schools work with them now through their Advanced Placement program that helps students earn college credits while in high school.

“Their bid was rated the highest; provides valuable assistance to Michigan educators, students, and parents; is more aligned to Michigan’s content standards; and saves the state millions of dollars over the course of the three-year contract,” Flanagan said.

The College Board’s bid was $15.4 million less over the three-year contract than the next bidder and scored 10 percentage points higher by the Joint Evaluation Committee (JEC). In addition to staff from MDE and DTMB, the evaluation committee also included members representing the education community, including a high school principal; local school superintendent; a testing and assessment consultant from an intermediate school district; and a vice president from a Michigan community college.

Bill Barnes, principal at Charlotte High School and member of the JEC said: “The attention to detail with which the College Board created its proposal and the extensive resources that it will provide to schools and students to help them prepare for the test, make its college readiness assessment the best choice for Michigan.”

Another member of the Joint Evaluation Committee, Jim Gullen, a data and evaluation consultant for the Macomb Intermediate School District, said: “After two days of review and discussion, there was no question that College Board put forth the best proposal. Considering the quality of College Board’s proposal, the value presented in the pricing, and our current legislation, it is a good time to transition to the SAT to assess Michigan’s high school students’ mastery of the Michigan curriculum.”

Each year, the College Board helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success — including the SAT and the Advanced Placement program. The organization also serves the education community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators and schools.

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is forming a team that will include the local, regional, and community college members of the Joint Evaluation Committee to assist in the transition to the SAT. In addition, the department will hold an onsite meeting with the College Board to discuss how it intends to positively affect the transition for Michigan schools, educators, parents, and students.

In its successful bid, the College Board included the following value-added components that will benefit Michigan schools and families:

  • Beginning in Spring 2015, the College Board will provide all schools and students with free test prep materials and online practice tests to help students prepare for the redesigned SAT in 2016.
  • Professional Development
    • In-person and technology-based training for local test administrators, proctors, and technology coordinators
    • Professional development for teachers, students, and parents in understanding the new SAT and analyzing test results
    • Professional development for post-secondary enrollment professionals in using the data/resources for admissions and financial aid decisions
  • An updated and relevant assessment
    • Redesigned SAT beginning in 2016
    • Aligned to Michigan content standards, evidence-based design
    • Additional item types beyond multiple choice
    • New forms developed each year
    • Reports available online
  • Simplification and reduction of school staff effort to request testing accommodations
    • No need to reapply for testing accommodations if already approved for the Advanced Placement Program, or the PSAT testing for National Merit Scholarship Qualification Test

The college entrance exam and work skills assessment are given free to approximately 115,000 Michigan high school students each year.

ACT WorkKeys is a job skills assessment system that helps employers select, hire, train, develop, and retain a high-performance workforce.  This series of tests measures foundational and soft skills and offers specialized assessments to target institutional needs.

As part of ACT’s Work Readiness System, ACT WorkKeys has helped millions of people in high schools, colleges, professional associations, businesses, and government agencies build their skills to increase global competitiveness and develop successful career pathways.

Successful completion of ACT WorkKeys assessments in Applied Mathematics, Locating Information, and Reading for Information can lead to earning ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate (ACT NCRC), a portable credential earned by more than 2.3 million people across the United States.

Michigan high school students have taken the WorkKeys assessment since 2007.  Over 413,000 Michigan students have received an NCRC credential.

Although the contracts await final completion and approval of the State Administrative Board, the three-year contract for the college entrance assessment will cost approximately $17.1 million, and the three-year work skills assessment will cost approximately $12.2 million.