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August 26, 2016
How one Memphis school has been able to do what the state hasn’t with ACT scores
Soulsville Charter School saw its ACT scores jump two points this year, a trend the Tennessee Department of Education would like see statewide.
Slamming the Exam
May 1, 2014
At Success Academy schools, high-octane test prep leaves nothing to chance
The Success Academy charter school network outperforms many other schools on the state exams. It goes to great lengths to achieve those results.
Super Smart Strategies
April 1, 2014
With state exams underway, schools turn from test prep to test pep
From classroom yoga to multi-school rallies, educators have found creative ways to balance this year’s test prep with test pep.
The Common Core Tests Return
March 28, 2014
Educators hopeful but anxious before second round of Common Core tests
Having weathered last year's first Common Core-aligned tests, educators this year have a better sense of what to expect, several said.
February 20, 2013
Tweaked promotion policy part of broader prep for lower scores
Changes to the Department of Education's student promotion policy are just one part of a sweeping offensive to prepare schools and families for tougher state tests and lower scores this spring. In April, elementary and middle school students will take state math and reading tests that are aligned for the first time to new learning standards known as the Common Core. Education officials have warned that the state is likely to see scores plummet as a result, as they did in Kentucky — by 30 percent — when that state first administered Common Core-aligned tests. In an email to principals on Friday, Chancellor Dennis Walcott offered reassurance that schools and students would not be penalized just because they post lower test scores this year. And he encouraged principals to use parent conferences over the next few weeks to steel parents for the drop-off.
August 6, 2012
P-TECH students act as teachers in summer geometry course
Seifullah (left) cuts a paper cylinder into circles to teach P-TECH students at one table for a lesson on how to calculate volume. All but a handful of ninth- and 10th-graders at Pathways in Technology Early College High School have an ambitious summer goal: to pass the Regents exam in geometry before school starts in September. To that end, they are enrolled in a six-week long summer enrichment class meant to get them up to speed on the information technology-themed school's academic expectations and prepare them to take the state's geometry exam this month. Classes are long — two to four hours each morning — and involve a mix of group projects, drills, homework, and writing assignments. GothamSchools spent the morning in one marathon math class two weeks before the Aug. 16 exam. As the students worked in pairs on projects, four teachers hovered above, sometimes chiming in with explanations of geometry concepts and sometimes reigning students in when they wandered off-task. After class, the lead teacher, Jamilah Seifullah, explained how she kept track of the students and what she wanted them to learn. As when we chronicled Ryan Hall's math class in May, we've included Seifullah's commentary in block quotes beneath our observations. Seifullah, who taught geometry to a small cohort of advanced math students last spring in the school's first year, took turns directing the class with Rachel Jamison, an English teacher who is pitching in with math instruction this summer. Jamison is also offering English lessons, but not for credit and during a shorter class period. With the Regents exam approaching, she and Seifullah agreed to combine the classes for longer math sessions, but weave in tasks that build literacy skills. 10 a.m. Already, 32 P-TECH students had been working in pairs on a major assignment for almost an hour. Sitting at round tables in groups of five or six, each pair was using a computer to put the finishing touches on presentations on various geometry concepts, such as surface area and the isosceles triangle theorem, they would later present to their classmates.
April 23, 2010
A school day in East New York: bright students, bored restless
Where can you find the most bored children in New York? Last week I visited P.S. 13 in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, a school where you would expect to see some anxiety before the high-stakes English exam that will be given next Monday. Instead, I met a cast of bright and precocious students plodding through test prep worksheets with little supervision. P.S. 13 has been a troubled school for years though its last city-issued progress report calls it a "B" school. In 2004, it managed to remove itself from the state's list of schools at risk of being closed, but it's now in danger of landing back on that list. Students know a lot is riding on their test scores. During my visit, many could rattle off the dates of the upcoming tests from memory. Morning announcements over the loud speaker included test tips like encouraging students to get a good night's rest and eat a full breakfast (84 percent of P.S. 13 students qualify for free or reduced lunch). In advance of the test, the regular schedule had been altered so that on Thursdays students only focused on reading and writing and Fridays were math-only days.
February 26, 2009
The theory behind one charter school's packed testing schedule
I recently reported about one mother's high marks for the amount of testing at her son's school, Explore Charter School in Brooklyn. Today I asked Morty Ballen, Explore's founding principal, exactly how often Explore students are tested. That depends on how testing is defined, Ballen answered. "There's a really big difference between test prep and getting information from assessments," he told me. Where tests, and test prep, are meant to judge students and teachers, assessments are used to generate information that teachers can use to improve their instruction, Ballen said. Explore prefers assessments. So how are Explore students assessed, and how often? In a variety of ways, and every day. Here's a summary of the school's testing regimen: Students complete tests and assignments that their teachers create on a daily basis. They also take interim assessments several times during the year to give their teachers information about their progress in math, science, and social studies. These tests are created by Explore's teachers.
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