We can say yes to success with tests! How? Testing, testing, and more testing, right? Lately, it seems that is much of what education is all about. Â We test and test again in an effort to prepare our students for an end-of-grade or end-of-course test. Â I don't know about you, but tests have become a part of the routine. We give tests! Â But do we know why we are giving them? Is it because we need test grades in our grade book? Perhaps it is because our administration told us we needed to give an x-number of tests? Or, is it because that's what we've always done? We teach a unit, and then we give a test. Whatever the reason, we can say yes to success with not-so-average tests.Â

First, let's think about the information that a test tells us. Is it simply a number that reflects the student's understanding of a unit? If that number is too low, what do we do? What if Omar and Jamal both score an 80? Does that mean that Omar and Jamal didn't understand the same concepts from the unit? Nope!

Tests can be a part of a routine and provide valuable information if we let them. A few years ago, we, a group of collaborating science teachers, switched things up a bit. Don't get me wrong, I was hesitant at first! But when we analyzed our data and saw that we had dramatically increased our % of proficient and distinguished learners, I was hooked! We used a not-so-average test. Here's how it worked...

## Yes to Success with Not-So-Average Tests # 1

*Divide your standards up into big ideas and assign these big ideas a number.*

__Things to Consider:__

We used 20 big ideas because it was a small and manageable number to work with when determining percentages (for grades). You might want to divide your standards into more big ideas if you have more standards.

Consider your units when you divide your standards and spread them out equally. You don't want to be in your 4th quarter and only have covered 2 of your big ideas.

## Not-So-Average Tests # 2

*Create tests.*

__Things to Consider:__

The questions on the test should correspond to your big ideas. Â For example, # 1 on the test should always be about your big idea 1. Â Number 2 on the test should always be about your big idea 2.

Each test that you create, however, should contain different questions. Because we were preparing our students to take an end-of-course, standardized assessment, we did our best to use DOK 2 and 3 questions. Think about a traditional benchmark. You make a test, and then you give the test periodically throughout the course. How do you know that the students aren't just memorizing the answers to the questions? Using this strategy allows you to assess student mastery of the big ideas.

## Yes to Success with Not-So-Average Tests # 3

*Give and grade the tests.*

__Things to Consider:__

You will give these tests periodically throughout the year. Â We set our goal to give it around every 3-4 weeks. Think statistics! Therefore, we needed nine tests in total. NOTE: This testing schedule was used for a year-long course. I now teach on a block schedule for a semester. I only give the tests six times. Furthermore, due to time constraints, we created the tests as needed.Â If you had someone at your school who specialized in testing and assessment, this could be a job for them!

Immediate assessment and feedback are essential. Â I used Zip Grade. Â My co-worker in crime used clickers with the SMART board. Now, I create the tests as a Google Form. As they completed the test, we immediately assessed for accuracy.

Students received a grade based on a percentage determined by the questions they should know. Â Are you shocked? Don't worry! Â There were very few parent complaints (and none after explanations). Furthermore, it forced the students to work hard.

Consider this example: Suppose we had covered big ideas 1, 2, 4, and 6.Â Katie missed questions 1 and 2 from the test but got 4 and 6 correct. Â

__Katie's initial score would be 2/4 = 50.__We gave extra points for questions answered correctly that we had not covered. Â Remember, in our example, we had only covered big ideas 1, 2, 4, and 6. Â Katie also correctly answered questions 15-20. That's six questions answered correctly that we had not taught. Therefore, we did not hold them accountable for those questions. We rewarded them by giving them a point for each.

__Â Now, Katie's score is up to a 56.__

## Not-So-Average Tests # 4

*Allow students to graph their data.*

__Things to Consider:__

We asked our students to complete 2 graphs.

They graphed the number of correct questions, allowing the student and the teacher to see growth.

They also graphed the question numbers that they got correct. This allowed the student and the teacher to see the mastery of big ideas and standards. Â

**Finally, ***Have a RE-Day.*

This last step was quite possibly one of the most important. It is the step that helps us to meet the individual needs of our students and ensure their proficiency and mastery of the standards. Furthermore, it's the way that students don't end up with a 56, like Katie in the example. Katie is not done with a grade of 56. She would get to participate in the RE-day activities to increase her understanding and her grade.

Need more information about testing strategies? Check out __A Teacher's Guide to Success with High School School Exams__ by __Spectacular Science__.

## Comments