Designing fair and inclusive tests for non-native speakers

Roughly 20 percent of U.S. residents, which is approximately 67.3 million people (equal to the population of France), speak a language other than English at home, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. When it comes to taking tests not in their first language, these groups can be at a notable disadvantage – especially for tests that influence a test-takers’ future. 

Language is a significant barrier to fair and inclusive testing, particularly if language fluency is not relevant to the skill being measured by the test. This is why designing fair and inclusive tests for non-native speakers is a key component of equitable testing.

Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows that migrants, on average, get significantly lower literacy and numeracy test scores than native speakers. About half of it relates to the language of the test, meaning that if the migrants were tested in their own language, about half the difference would disappear.…Read More

How a higher-ed partnership transformed student mental health services at our school

It’s a given that students will experience stress as they move through school. Learning new concepts, completing assignments and taking tests, and navigating social experiences all contribute to normal stress. But today, our students are struggling with much, much more. And too much stress has dangerous implications for student mental health and well-being.

Anxieties related to lockdowns, school violence, COVID, and family issues have been shown to increase students’ stress levels and can leave them in such a state that they are unable to learn.

In my role as the principal of Salt Lake Center for Science Education-Bryant Middle School in Salt Lake City, I have witnessed first-hand the impact that elevated stress levels have had on our students’ well-being.…Read More

Will gamification replace paper tests?

Nearly everyone remembers the stress of taking a test in school. In-class exams have the power to make even the most dedicated of students quake with fear, not to mention the damage they can do to the egos of struggling learners. For some students, the stress causes their minds to go blank, while others experience physical symptoms like headaches and nausea.

In fact, around 40 percent of students regularly report experiencing moderate to severe anxiety over tests. Unfortunately, that stress isn’t limited to students in higher grades. Even elementary school students can struggle with fear and performance anxiety on standardized tests. No surprise, then, that teachers and schools are increasingly rethinking their assessment methods, seeking ways to evaluate student performance without causing undue stress.

Fortunately, there are other methods of assessing students–methods that greatly reduce anxiety levels while simultaneously improving performance. One method getting a lot of attention is gamification, which involves incorporating elements of game playing, such as establishing ground rules, scorekeeping, and engaging in friendly competition with other students. Recent studies have shown that gamification in education can increase assessment scores by nearly 15 percent.…Read More

Addressing students’ pandemic ‘learning loss’

A new phrase as a result of the pandemic, “learning loss,” captures the concern that students’ learning has been compromised over the past year and a half. However, before the strategies for addressing the concern can be identified, it’s important to define and articulate what is meant by learning loss.   

The observation is true that many students aren’t at the same place in their subject mastery as similar pre-pandemic students. For example, in North Carolina, where I serve as a Superintendent, a recent report revealed that just 45 percent of public school students could pass state standardized tests, down from 59 percent two years earlier. (Testing was waived for the 2019-2020 school year).  

The question then for many is how do we help these students catch up? That question, however, assumes that the standard by which students were assessed two years earlier is the appropriate assessment tool for students today.  …Read More

Super Duper Publications Makes Finding Autism Resources Easy

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one out of every 54 children has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, making it one of the most common developmental disabilities in the USA. To help families, teachers, and providers quickly and easily find information and educational materials to support autistic children, Super Duper Publications has created a new Autism Resources section on its website.

The new section provides access to:

  • Super Duper’s Free Autism Handy Handouts. Informational handouts for parents and teachers address topics such as Autism – the Basics, and Autism – It May Not Be What You Think.
  • A Tests section with more than a dozen trusted autism assessments including the REEL-4 Receptive-Expressive Emergent Language Test and the TOPL-2 Test of Pragmatic Language.             
  • Super Duper’s autism-related games, cards, books, worksheets, programs and resources, reinforcers, and supplies to support skills in: Language & Pragmatics, Motor Skills, Emotions & Behavior, Sensory Activities, and Social Skills.

Games include the Webber Functional Communication Game, and Webber Story Time Communication Boards, which support communication skills for students with limited verbal skills.…Read More

Why should schools change?

The transformation of our schools–from the outdated model that focuses on rote learning of content and short-term preparation for tests, to one of deeper learning that prepares students for success in a rapidly evolving future–is, finally, inevitable.

At a 30,000-foot level, our broad community of education stakeholders—learners, parents, practitioners, administrators, and community builders—is faced with three big questions: “Why” should schools change? “What” does that change look like? And, “how” do we make those changes?

Why should schools change?

During this new millennium of radically increased dynamism in the world around us, our basic system of education has stayed remarkably static.…Read More

Taking on teacher attrition

We once believed that teacher effectiveness dramatically increased for the first three to five years on the job and then plateaued. But recent research suggests that substantial growth in effectiveness can be seen for the first 12 years on the job, and likely longer. This suggests that teacher quality develops over time and that experience can influence effectiveness.
We also know that students who have highly effective teachers for three years in a row can score 50 percentile points higher on achievement tests than students who have less effective teachers three years in a row.

But academic gains are just one of the outcomes of high teacher effectiveness. Research showed that as teachers gained experience, their students’ absenteeism rates declined. Experienced teachers tend to be better at classroom management and motivating students, resulting in fewer conduct issues and higher attendance.

And then there are soft skills, such as the ability to collaborate and problem solve, think creatively, and be empathetic. These skills—which have been linked to higher employment, greater job satisfaction, and lower crime rates—are developed, not taught, and teachers are a huge part of that development.…Read More

How to choose the right programming language for students

With Hour of Code at hand, a look at the top programming languages for every age

“Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live.” -John Woods

programming-languageWay back in the 1970s, working as a computer programmer was quite prestigious, and if you wanted to get into computer programming, your potential employer would more often than not put you through a batch of aptitude tests in order to determine your suitability: even if you had a degree.

Nowadays, programming is more widespread and you don’t need a degree to be a programmer; it’s no longer mainly for scientists and engineers: students studying the humanities, English as a foreign language students, people building websites, and a whole host of other folks are learning to program. This non-technical article will give you novices [non-expert instructors] out there some basic guidance in choosing a programming language that is appropriate not only for your students’ needs, but for faculty and staff interested in online basics.…Read More

New York wants to give special education kids easier tests

Should students with disabilities be held to the same academic standards and tests as other kids their age? asks the Huffington Post. That decades-old question is being revived by a debate in New York. Some advocates charge that a proposed tweak to the state’s No Child Left Behind update may shortchange vulnerable students — and, if approved, could spread to other states. They want these kids tested alongside their peers, so that they won’t fall behind as each grade passes them by. Others, though, say tougher testing for kids with disabilities can have its own detrimental effects…

Read the full story

…Read More

Sad tales of AP tests gone wrong

With this region’s high concentration of Advanced Placement tests, AP stress, scores and credit are hot topics, The Washington Post reports. Much less is heard about Patricia Palmer Dulman’s particular AP nightmare. Her son had to retake two tests at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington County because of administrative errors. I discovered the complications of AP testing 30 years ago while investigating the retesting of 12 calculus students in East Los Angeles. The pain such moments cause hit me again this summer when, while visiting the San Francisco Peninsula, news broke of 286 students at Mills High School in Millbrae, Calif., being told they had to take their AP tests again. The school had used round tables, ignoring the sacred College Board rule (unknown to me but distributed to schools and students) that test-takers must not face or be too close to each other…

Read more

…Read More