Express Yourself

Be who you are and say how you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
--Dr. Seuss

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Latest Information About the 4th Grade Writing Test

I attended the TETN Session at Region IV this week. It was a simulcast from Austin. All regions service centers were given information about the TEA new test blueprints. I went to find out the latest information.  Here is the latest information about the fourth grade writing test:

  • Students will have 4 hours to take the test. The test is supposedly designed so that 85% of our students can complete the test in four hours. I would say that would be true or close to being true for the other tests,since the number of questions were reduced.  Multiple choice items in the fourth grade test, compared to last year's test, increased by 6 multiple choice questions. It went from 18 to 24 questions respectively.  Last year, there were no field test questions. This year there will be an additional selection, along with 5 field test questions. The total number of questions that students will answer on the one day test will now be 29. Again, last year it was 18 questions and an expository composition. I don't think that 85% of 4th grade students will be able to  answer 29 questions, plan, and write an expository composition in a two hour window. It will definitely take more time and four hours is the maximum time allotted.
  • Last year, the raw score was based on 18 multiple choice questions and 8 possible points for the adjacently scored expository composition. The combination resulted in  a raw score of 26. The passing standard turned out to be a raw score of 14 in Spanish and 15 in English.  This year, there will be 24 multiple choice questions combined with the adjacently scored expository composition. The raw score will be a total of 24 multiple choice and 8 points for the composition. That would equal a total of 32 points. I surmise that the passing standard, if it is close to last year, would be 19-20 raw score and possible 25-26 raw score to arrive at status of academic achievement.
  • If you break down the percentages of the test, it breaks out as: 75% of the test comes from the multiple choice items and 25% of the test from the expository composition.  Of the multiple choice portion the test, 16 items will emanate from editing questions and 8 from revision.  If you break that down further, 66% of the multiple choice items are editing questions. 34% of the multiple choice questions are revision questions. 
  • TEA stated that the assessed curriculum remains the same. They also stated that the length and quantity of selections remain the same in the writing and reading test. If you want to know about the length and number of selections, you can go to the TEA website and look at the test design schematics. You can download this information. Click on the link following link Test Design Schematic.  It would also behoove you to look over the 2016 tests as well.
  • After carefully dissecting each part of the writing test, I noticed that the revision type questions have changed. I studied the released questions from the 2013-2015 tests. Some of  the 2016 questions are different. The questions that test which sentence should be added to support the central idea or which sentence should follow such and such paragraph were higher in rigor. Students need to understand deeply the idea of revision, but more than that they need to be able infer and understand how ideas fit and build coherence. It seemed to me more like a reading test than a writing test. (Yes, I know that reading and writing go together, but it seemed that students need to be critical readers to arrive at the best answer.) After task analyzing some of questions, I noticed that students need to slow down their rate of reading, draw out the images of what was written, and then infer which sentence would work best. It is cognitively taxing. Could that be because the state switched from Pearson to ETS?  I do know the Reading test have changed somewhat as well.  It would be wise to study the Pearson test and now the ETS tests to note the changes. TEA stated that they will be releasing test yearly. That will be nice so that we can see the patterns from this testing company. It is very interesting. 
  • If you are a fourth grade teacher and you haven't looked over the 2016, now is the time to do so. You need to know and understand what our students will face. It would also be a good idea to study and compare the tests from 2013-present. They tell a great story. Look for patterns.
What does all that mean for us?  The test is a monster!  The good thing is  that we know what our students will be facing. The goal is to teach authentically and build a bridge to test format.  Seventy-five percent of the test is multiple choice. Our students need to know and understand how to apply all the grammar, spelling, capitalization, and usage concepts that they will learn. They also will need to know how revision works in different situations of the expository essay and other selections. Finally, teaching explicitly the expository composition and grammar in context is fundamental. Easy task? This is not for the faint of heart. This task is massive and must require a solid plan of implementation, along with constant monitory and adjusting of student data. This data is not only a benchmark. Data comes in different forms. Daily and weekly monitoring and adjusting is essential. Format study with the incorporation of think alouds will help students connect what they are learning and how it is tested. Think alouds help students make associations and connect to metacognition. 

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