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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

T^3: Regents Review Done Right

(Note: This post is part of Teaching Tips Tuesday at Notes from the School Psychologist.)

The documents:
Practice Test

Part I Answer Sheet & Scoring Sheet from June 2008 Math B

Powerpoint of Solutions and Scoring Rubric

In New York they are called Regents Exams, other names in other states, but I'm just going to assume these things are the same everywhere: stressful, inevitable (at least in today's edu-accountability climate), and sharing particular features.

A major goal this year is to spend time preparing for the test itself: format, question type, environment, timing, scoring, calculator use as well as of course the content.

In the three days before winter break my Algebra 2 classes had finished Transformations, and I didn't want to delve into Trig until after break. So, I made my first foray into this explicit Regents Review. I created a practice test identical in structure to a Math B Exam: 20 multiple choice, 12 4-pointers, and 2 6-pointers. I used questions from old exams, except I only chose questions the kids would already know how to do.

Last Friday, they took a whole class period and they just completed the multiple choice. I provided each a copy of the scoring sheet from the June 2008 exam, all official-like.

Over the weekend, they were to complete the 14 extended response questions as homework. On Monday and Tuesday, we reviewed the solutions together and, and I think this is important and everyone should be doing it, I showed them the scoring rubric for each question that we use to grade the exam.

They could see that out of the 88 available points, they would lose a whole point for not reducing (8 + 6i)/2. They could also see that if they could translate a problem into a quadratic equation, they would get 2/4 points even if they couldn't solve it. If they wrote the WRONG equation and solved THAT, they would STILL get 2/4 points. If they could prove a given quadrilateral was a parallelogram, even if they couldn't do what the question asked (prove it's a rhombus but not a square), they would get 2/6 points. They could see that a correct answer with no work shown would only earn them 1/4 points.

I think this little exercise made the point far more effectively than me saying it over and over again: write down anything you can about the problem, even if you don't think you can solve it, or do so correctly.

At the end, they tallied up their points and finally, I showed them the conversion chart from last June (it's the last page in the powerpoint) - what their score would have been had they taken this exam. Students vaguely know that the Regents are curved, but they could see exactly what their 62/88 translated to, and see how many points they would need to pass.

I hope it works! I figure anything I can do to make the details of the test mechanics automatic will help them focus on just getting the math right. And also arm them with a little test-taking savvy so they can eke out a couple extra points here and there. We'll see.