Time to Teach

More about the DRAs

This morning Katy, the literacy consultant at the school, showed me how to administer the DRA reading assessment.  It begins with the student reading a page or two of a small book while the administrator of the test reads the same test on a printed sheet and makes a “running record” of all the mistakes the child makes while reading aloud. It is also timed, of course.  How fast can the child read?

I am not sure what the skill is that the test purports to measure.  Having read many books aloud to students, I know that… Continue reading

Another Reading Assessment?

Monday I received the third directive to do the “DRA” assessment with all of my students who are not proficient on either the Spring CSAP tests or last week’s Benchmark Reading test.  “Proficient” is the word that Denver Public Schools have decided upon for what we used to call “reading at grade level.”  (Personally I think the word proficient is an unfortunate choice, suggesting mastery skills where they doubtfully exist).  The directive was adamant that I cannot pass this job of the DRA assessments off to an assistant.  I must do them myself.  I have… Continue reading

A second tally of time to teach: third and fourth weeks

Labor Day on September 1 reduced Week Three to four days:

Tuesday, September 2:  a full day at 5 hours for Curriculum and Instruction

Wednesday, September 3:  another normal day with 3.5 hours after Specials

Thursday, September 4: a field trip to the Museum and Planetarium gave us a full 5 hours of C & I

Friday, September 5:  another normal day with Specials at 3.5 hours

TOTAL for Week Three:  16 Hours for C & I

Week Four skewered by the first round of Benchmark Tests

Monday, September 8:  No interruptions, and no… Continue reading

Scores for six students on the first math benchmark test

Sixth grader Melissa answered 10 of the 23 math questions correctly.  She knew several answers that no other sixth graders knew, probably the result of her fifth grade in a public school where they used the Everyday Math textbooks upon which these tests are based.

Jonas answered 7 of 23, less than 1/3 of the questions correctly, despite the air of confidence he seemed to display throughout the math testing period.  There were noticeable errors on math that had been directly addressed in last year’s instruction followed by apparent confidence in practice.  Example:  he whizzed through… Continue reading

Second Day of First Benchmarks

Two 45-minute sessions of the Writing Benchmarks were scheduled for today.  The class returned from the two-hour specials that regularly hog their Wednesday mornings and took the first part of the writing test without too much fuss.    They went to lunch and recess and returned without notable squabbles……….and then, suddenly there was chaos.  Christopher was at my table telling me that he “had to go see Ms. Wendy” and then he was gone and across the room falling out of his chair and onto the floor with his desk on top of him while Alaina… Continue reading

First Benchmark Day

Tuesday.  As I begin the day with the students, I warn them that it will be a short morning because we must begin the Benchmark tests.  Before they can groan, I remind them about “no complaining.”  We just “do it.”  In my own mind, I backtime from lunch, having learned that the Reading section of the test we are going to take will require 70 minutes; and since this is our first session, it will require at least 30 minutes to rearrange bodies in the classroom (no 4th, 5th, or 6th graders sitting together!), get adequate… Continue reading

Benchmark tests consume personnel and paper

Three classroom assistants called paras work four and a half hours in each of the four Upper Elementary classrooms at Denison.  None of us who act as lead teachers have figured out quite how this works, much less the assistants; but most of the time one of those helpers checks in with me sometime during the morning to see if I have clerical work and another spends two hours in my classroom during the afternoon.  On Mondays I ask her to help organize the homework folders that go home on Monday afternoon.  Today there was no help… Continue reading

Tracking Six Students through the Assessment Schoolyear

How are students affected by the periodic assessments required by the Denver Public School district?  Will the tests improve their academic interest or depress it?  Will the tests prove to be a motivator or a discouragement?  Will students be anxious about the assessments or ignore them?  How will the tests affect the daily life of students at school?

To address these questions, I will profile here six students in my class—two each from grades four, five, and six—and then attempt to describe them throughout the schoolyear as they undertake these periodic assessments.  I have chosen… Continue reading

Instructional Time: First two weeks

The schoolday at Denison begins at 9:00 AM and ends at 4:00 PM   To fairly calculate time actually available for Curriculum & Instruction, I propose the following daily schedule as “basic”

9:00 – 9:15  Arrival, attendance, lunch count

9:15 – 11:45  Curriculum & Instruction

1145 – 1:15  Lunch and Recess

1:15 – 3:45  Curriculum and Instruction

3:45 – 4:00  Dismissal (includes bus loading)

This basic schedule provides for 5 hours of Curriculum and Instruction daily.  Because of Union rules about Teacher Planning time that must be allotted, students leave the classroom 4… Continue reading

I did not make this up!

On the first August morning of 2008 that I returned to the school to set up my classroom, a stack of books and materials that were stored on the shelves in the hall waited to be carried back into the classroom.  I had stacked those things outside the classroom at the end of last year’s school term so that the custodial staff could do their summer cleaning.  On the top of the pile was a large rectangular sign, black and yellow poster board made to last, that said “Testing:  Do Not Enter.”