Five Little Exercises

Confession time: I pretty much ignored Common Core test prep last year.

Now before the pitchforked mob arrives at my classroom door, allow me to explain. When the CCSS were released a few years ago, I went through the standards line-by-line, making sure my lessons hit every strand. Delighted, I realized I only needed to add a bit more non-fiction and deal with pesky little RL.9-10.7.

Fast-forward to spring 2015, the first time the Common Core was officially reflected in California’s state testing. Warning! Alphabet soup approaching. My state is one of 17 using the SBAC (Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium), known locally as the CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress), while other states are using a variety of options, primarily PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career). Ever wonder what test everyone else is using? Yeah, me neither, but EdWeek built this pretty cool map anyway.

Back to my story. This past spring was my state’s first official dip into the CCSS waters. Hand-wringing and wrinkled brows filled our professional development sessions, staff meetings, and even a glitchy dry-run in the computer lab. A lot of people with a lot of different motives will be picking apart our students’ results, so I understand the consternation.

But here’s the thing – I didn’t do anything special to prep my kids. I wanted to see how they did on their own, given my regular CCSS-aligned curriculum. This was, after all, my school’s baseline year. As I’m now starting to prep for this upcoming year, curiosity is gnawing away to find out if my regular curriculum gets the job done or if there are blindspots in my teaching that will be revealed when I finally receive my students’ results. (Stay tuned for a follow-up post on my students’ performance once results are released later this summer or early in the fall.)

Now that the baseline (for good or bad) has been set, I’m thinking this is the year to add specific SBAC test prep to my calendar. Presently, 11th graders are the only high school level tested on ELA, so I gathered publicly released test prep materials into five classroom-friendly worksheet packets, which I, of course, am happy to share:
SBAC Grade 11 Practice #1
SBAC Grade 11 Practice #2
SBAC Grade 11 Practice #3
SBAC Grade 11 Practice #4
SBAC Grade 11 Practice #5
SBAC Grade 11 Answer Key for #1-5

Please note: I don’t own any of this material; it’s all free and available on the SBAC website. I simply took the test-prep booklet and broke the questions into five manageable chunks because the original format was a bit unwieldy for use in my classroom. As you’ll see, these sheets are a bit of a patchwork quilt, but I think they’ll get the job done.

My plan is to post these five occasional homework assignments on my class website, where students can read the questions at home on their computer screens/mobile devices. To save ink and paper, I’ll have students jot their answers on a piece of binder paper, have a parent/guardian sign the answer sheets to prove that the kid did the work at home instead of copying a friend’s answers before class, and then we’ll reveal/discuss the answers in class the following day. Since all of the answers are available online, these will be completion-point assignments, but the pages should give students a good idea of where they stand in terms of SBAC readiness. (And shhh… don’t tell ‘em about this blog post, okay?)

Another note: The actual SBAC also has short-answer response questions, but I trimmed those out of the practice packets to keep things tidy and easy to grade. We do plenty of writing in class and they’ll get lots of feedback on other assignments. If, however, you’d like the full, unedited Grade 11 prep booklets, just click here and here. Middle school teachers can find the SBAC prep books for grades 6, 7, and 8 by clicking here. (Just scroll down on that page to “Scoring Guides.”)

I hope you find these sheets helpful. Now, back to summer vacation…

Teach on, everyone!

[UPDATE: The results are in! Click here to read my follow-up post.]

[UPDATE #2: Our friends in states using the PARCC exam now have released questions, too. Click here for a bounty of PARCC prep materials. Special thanks to blog reader Chelsey for the info!]

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8 years ago

You are a wonderful person…. I really want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your stunning ideas and resources…. You always inspire me and make our job enjoyable and amazing… I am really grateful…. Thanks again

Laura Randazzo
8 years ago
Reply to  amal

Oh, Amal, thank you for this lovely note to enjoy with my morning coffee. I’m so glad these worksheets will be useful. 🙂

Hope you’re have a great summer vacation!

8 years ago

I am with Amal! You have upped my game in teaching and I am so grateful for your sharing! Enjoy your summer!

Laura Randazzo
8 years ago
Reply to  Mommyrhetoric

Thanks, Mommyrhetoric. It’s funny and unexpected, but blogging and TpT have brought my classroom game to a whole new level, too. I love the collaboration of both of these forums. Thanks for this gust of wind in my sails as I head into fall semester prep.

8 years ago

I followed your link to the test results. What I found interesting was the phrase, “The new standards and tests enjoy widespread support from leaders in K-12 and higher education who believe they can improve college readiness.” Since I am not in the group being tested I am not going to address the comment on their webpage, but I wondered how true that is among teachers. In Texas, no one would say that about our state testing or curriculum.

Laura Randazzo
8 years ago
Reply to  Pamela

Indeed, it does seem to be a generous use of the phrase, “enjoy widespread support,” Pamela. Way to use those finely honed Common Core critical reading skills! 🙂

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