STAAR Savings?

Because of low scores on the state’s new end-of-course exams, or EOCs, many incoming 10th-graders will have to retake them in July, landing them in summer classes to prepare — and leaving school districts with a hefty bill….

At around 95,000 students, Northside [in San Antonio] is the state’s fourth-largest district. It will spend an estimated $750,000 for roughly 2,100 students to attend score-improvement summer classes for 13 days.

Morgan Smith,  The Texas Tribune,  14 June 2012

three students paying attention to a teacher lecture

Available from Tulane Publications under a Flickr Creative Commons license. http://www.flickr.com/photos/pburch_tulane/4422996062/

It may take some doing, but in the long term, supplementary Web 2.0 activities could cut down on the need for face-to-face STAAR EOC summer camps. Some of the cost is purely from making sure that buildings are open and staffed and that lights (and air conditioning, since it’s July in Texas) are on.

Students might attend 2 days, with a small facilitator-to-student ratio, to understand where their weaknesses are on particular exams and to get oriented to a wiki packed with review materials. Then, in a final two days, they can come back, review all of their online work, and run through a more realistic, timed exam setting.

There are plenty of online math review sites–check out Glencoe’s many options for Algebra I and Geometry or McDougal Littell’s algebra practice site or Prentice Hall’s geometry end-of-course exam–and students could be required to take and submit proof of various lessons.

For more control, Google Docs allows teachers to create multiple-choice practice quizzes that can be scored quickly; once the labor is done on creating quizzes, time in future summer sessions can be spent on reviewing results and getting targeted study advice back to students. Quizzes can be made for grammar terms, the nitrogen cycle, stoichiometry, redux reactions, Civil War battles, major events in Asian history…anything that will help students with STAAR issues.

For those tricky writing samples, students can respond to sample prompts using a personal blog. Teachers or student teachers or trained volunteers could go through the entries regularly, looking for red-flag issues like a lack of specific supporting details, plentiful sentence fragments, etc.

Teachers could even use podcasts and video technology (welcome to the XISD STAAR YouTube Channel!) to reinforce key concepts in a visual manner, present test-taking tips, or sing mnemonic device tunes.

It’s a lot of work on the front end. A LOT OF WORK. But maybe a different approach is needed for students who didn’t get the hang of things in the months they spent in a classroom–how are 13 days in another classroom going to help? If it’s skill-and-drill time, the Web offers differentiated learning options. Some students may prefer coming to an actual building, but others may get more out of spending time in a computer lab, whether at a school, at the local library, or at home.

At the very least, why not supplement class time with online reteaching for one group of students to see if there’s a measurable difference in pass rates?

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