Even though this has been far from a normal school year, we still have standardized testing to do. I am sure other districts have already started and maybe even finished their standardized testing, but our school starts ours this month. We give our students the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment (DLM-AA), based on the Essential Elements, which are standards adapted from the Common Core State Standards. There are many factors to consider in preparing for standardized testing in a cluster classroom. Here are five things I am taking into consideration as I get ready for testing…
As special educators, we know that the schedule is everything. While your school might have already have a general assessment schedule (testing days), making sure that you have a testing day schedule for your students and staff is essential. Most of my students are learning at home, so they will be coming into the building on their designated testing day. I needed to figure out which room we could use for testing, which staff members I would have in the room with me and which staff members would lead online and in-person sessions while I am testing.
2. Prepare Students
In the past, I had a more informal approach to preparing students for testing. When all students were in the school building pre-pandemic, I would just pull students during independent work time (like I did when assessing students for IEP goals) for standardized assessments in a quiet area. Since the majority of my students are learning remotely, they are coming into the school building to test and they have not been in school in over a year. I decided to write a social story to prepare students for this event, but I also think I will keep parts of the testing social story for next year in order to better prepare the students for standardized testing.
3. Review Skills
Most teachers don’t like “teaching to the test”, including myself, but I noticed in the past that certain items that were on the DLM-AA that students could have done correctly if they had the exposure. If there are certain topics or items that you notice are on the test each year, incorporating it into students’ goals or planning to teach concepts that are on the assessment close to the assessment date can help students feel more prepared. Also, taking the practice version of the test can also help students feel more familiar with the format so they are better able to focus on the questions.
4. Set Up Tech
The DLM-AA is administered on an iPad, so it’s important to make sure that the app is downloaded before the session and that I try it out before the test to make sure everything is working correctly. It is also a good idea to make sure if students have AAC or other devices that they need for testing are going to be ready and present the day of testing. It is also a good idea at this point to print out any student logins or passwords or make sure they are easily accessible on your laptop for testing day.
5. Gather Supplies
The DLM-AA requires items for the students to be able to interact with for the test. Starting to gather the supplies you need for testing well before is a good idea, just in case you don’t have everything you need. I know for the DLM-AA sometimes the materials might not be things that are readily available at school (e.g. hairbrush, purse), but you might have them at home. Cleaning supplies and PPE are also essential for testing!
I hope this gives you some ideas and guidance for standardized testing in a cluster classroom. Share any tips and tricks you have for standardized assessments you use. Stay healthy and safe!