Friday, September 18, 2009

Is F.A.I.R. a four letter word?

From the Apple

I would be interested in other Florida teachers' experiences with the F.A.I.R. Our 3rd-5th graders, like Courtney's and like others across the state, are taking the this new assessment on the computer, usually in a computer lab. When the technology works, it is a wonderful thing, but when it doesn't, it is so very frustrating. While things have gone pretty smoothly in our computer lab, today was one of those frustrating days. Not one child that was scheduled in the lab was able to get on to take the test. The system seemed to be down, and no - nobody let us know. That meant lost teaching time for both teachers and children. In k-2 the teacher actually inputs the scores as she administers the assessment individually to her students and our experience has been up and down. Some days it is exciting to have the information instantly available and others frustrating. Sometimes you can't get into the system, sometimes the computer kicks you off in the middle of working with a child and at other times, the test that you just gave does not save. After giving the same test to a kindergartner three times (how does that effect the results?) and it not saving, I closed the computer and quit for the day. In kindergarten you are grabbing little bits of time all through the day to get the assessment done and to have a test not save is a very, very BIG thing. I know it is a huge undertaking to implement a computer-based assessment statewide, but, oh my, the glitches (whether they be county or state) are about to overshadow what looks like a pretty incredible assessment!

Having said all that about the FAIR (and there is much more professional development coming about this Florida experiment) assessment is a very big beginning teacher topic. The truth of the matter is it takes years to read assessments and to see through the numbers to individual students. It's easy to get buried in the mountain of data that we get these days. However, these results early in the year can help to form a pacing guide and provide an overarching big picture of a class. The results can be used to help a teacher know what to teach a class next. Data can be used to help a teacher form groups for small group instruction and to set goals for instruction. teacher can learn to drill down to see what to teach each student next. Beginning teachers really need time to sit down with their assessments and go through what each row or column of numbers mean with a veteran teacher or coach. They need the time to see each student as a whole. This support can give a beginning teacher confidence. They can walk away from such a session understanding why they are assessing students and understanding the individual strengths and challenges of the students in their class. This type of guidance with assessment early in a teacher's career can provide the depth that will make a difference in instruction for years to come!

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