STAAR test

Results From That Silly STAAR Test

Funny STAAR Test Meme

STAAR scores for Texas students finally came out on July 5th.  For 4th grade writing, it literally took 13 weeks.  The other tests took forever, too.  We took the tests in early May and got results in July???  Really.  For reference, it took longer to get STAAR results than it takes to get SAT scores and about the same amount of time as it takes to get bar exam results back.  That’s not the purpose of this post, though.  I thought I’d make some fun graphs to show the growth, or lack there of, from last year to this year across the state of Texas.

Funny STAAR Test Passing Rate Teacher Humor

Here are the scores students need to pass the tests.  In my book, passing is a 70 or above.  On STAAR, you only need to get in the 40s and 50s to pass.  Most of the passing rates went up by one question, except science.  Science stayed the same.  The writing test was also cut in half this year compared to last, but the percentage needed to pass still went up a wee bit.

STAAR Results 2016 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade

STAAR Results 2016 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade

Don’t get me wrong…As teachers, when our scores come back, we’re glad that the passing rate is so low. But 48%, really? It doesn’t feel right. And we talk about it.

 

STAAR Results 2016 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade

So, now we look at whether or not students did better.  The passing rates went up slightly, so that makes it a little difficult to compare.  It would be helpful to know the average score on each test.  I couldn’t find that data.  Here’s how many Texas students passed the tests.

STAAR Results 2016 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th GradeSTAAR Results 2016 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th GradeSTAAR Results 2016 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th GradeAnd here are some of my thoughts about this data…

  • Minimal growth at the elementary level between 2015 and 2016.  There were just as many downs as there were ups.  None of them very significant, but it is hard to compare considering that kids had to get one more question right to pass this year.  Plus we have a new publisher running the tests.  Lots of variables in play!  You can read the press release from TEA here.  I wish I could find averages.  I’d love to see those!
  • I’m guessing there is more test prep happening now that publishing companies have had a chance to produce materials.  Necessary, but certainly not my favorite part of the year.  For me, it seems to last from January until May.  And our low SES students get even more of it than our high SES kiddos.  Scores will probably continue to rise slowly because of this.  Plus, teachers can see the released tests now and make sure we are using the question stems.
  • I wonder why they didn’t raise the passing rate for science?  They did for all the other elementary tests. And they said they were going to raise it.  Hmm…

Want to see the data directly from TEA–

In my book, I’ll give the STAAR test a 48% and I guess that’s passing, right?

Funny STAAR Test Meme

What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment below.

–The Pensive Sloth

5th Grade Properties of Matter Daily Science Review

Spiral review.  When I think about spiraling through skills, math is the first thing that comes to mind.  But daily review isn’t just for math, it can also be very powerful for science!  Students need repetition and multiple opportunities to engage with content and vocabulary if we want them to hold onto the concepts we are teaching.  Here’s an idea for adding a little spiral review to your science routine.

  1. Give students a copy of this recording sheet.  It’s free to download, just click here.  There are 5 spaces, one for each day of the week.
  2. Display a photo of matter.  This can be anything!  Just do a Google search and show a photo of salt, copper pennies, an iron nail, a helium balloon, a wood popsicle stick, a plastic fork, etc.
  3. Let students talk with a partner and fill out the chart for that type of matter, discussing magnetism, physical state, relative density, solubility, and conductivity.
  4. Finally, share and discuss as a class, having students make corrections on their chart.

5th Grade Properties of Matter Daily Review for STAAR From The Pensive Sloth

If you don’t want to make copies, you can just make an anchor chart with the questions and have students create the chart on a sheet of notebook paper or in their notebooks.  My suggestion is to have them do this in their science notebooks for 2 weeks straight.  Then, once a week for a while.  I think if you did this every day, all year long, it would get old really fast!  Something like this–

Properties of Matter Anchor Chart for Reviewing for 5th Grade STAAR Science

Go forth and teach science!

–The Pensive Sloth

Here comes a shameless plug…If you are interested in a version of this that includes 30 slides of different “matter,” a teacher answer key, and several recording sheet options, you’re in luck!  I’ve got one at TPT and you can find it HERE.  There’s also a challenge question on each slide to get students thinking, and a version of slides as task cards so you can put it in a science station.

Teaching Properties of Matter Daily Review Slides and Task Cards from The Pensive Sloth

A Teacher OPTS OUT of State Testing

Keep Calm Standardized Testing MEME

I read an article from a fellow teacher blogger today that is too important not to share.  It’s from Chrissie at The Undercover Classroom and you SHOULD click here to read it.   As teachers, we know that this over-emphasis on state testing has brought more harm than good to our classrooms.  My teacher friends and I talk about it and I vote and contact my state reps all the time.  I’m not kidding when I say that I have them both on speed dial.  But I truly feel helpless.  Perhaps that’s why Chrissie’s post resonated with me.  Chrissie is doing something about it.  She’s opting her child out of state testing.

The post is great.  She explains how our testing culture is bad for students.  And it is.  I especially liked #6 on her list, on how professional development has changed since testing has taken over the classroom.  How have I not considered this?  YES!  Teachers across the nation are spending more time during PD learning to analyze testing data and prep kids for the test and less time improving their skills as educators.

And to Chrissie, I just want to say THANK YOU.  Thank you for standing up for your daughter so that she doesn’t have to spend 16 hours taking a test.  And thank you for being brave and speaking up about this testing craziness!

PS–Chrissie isn’t the only one blogging about how teachers are responding to the testing madness.  Sallie Borrink wrote a super important post that you SHOULD read too.  Many teacher-parents are leaving the classroom altogether to homeschool their own children.  Are teachers who become homeschoolers the indicator species we should be watching?  I think so.

–The Pensive Sloth

My Many Anchor Charts Monday

Here’s a quick photo post about what has been happening in my classroom the last few weeks!

We read a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition then made a diagram to show Thomas Jefferson's goals for the expedition.  As a class, we did a shared writing exercise turning our diagram into a letter to TJ!  As we read, we kept a record of the animals, plants, land, water, and Indian tribes we encountered.  AND we drew pictures!  I hope you like my bison and grizzly bear.  Have I mentioned that I was not blessed with artistic talents???

We read a book about the Lewis and Clark expedition then made a diagram to show Thomas Jefferson’s goals for the expedition. As a class, we did a shared writing exercise turning our diagram into a letter to TJ! As we read, we kept a record of the animals, plants, land, water, and Indian tribes we encountered. AND we drew pictures! I hope you like my bison and grizzly bear. Have I mentioned that I was not blessed with artistic talents??? Want you kids to LOVE learning about Lewis and Clark, click the picture for a rockin’ rap about Lewis and Clark.

Students researched different territories acquired by the US in the 19th century and presented their reports to the class while I recorded their findings.  Fun!  We learned about the Oregon Country, Mexican Cession, Gadsden Purchase, Florida Acquisition, Louisiana Purchase, Texas Annexation, and what the US was like in 1783.

Students researched different territories acquired by the US in the 19th century and presented their reports to the class while I recorded their findings. Fun! We learned about the Oregon Country, Mexican Cession, Gadsden Purchase, Florida Acquisition, Louisiana Purchase, Texas Annexation, and what the US was like in 1783.

Text structure/organization anchor chart to help students understand how authors communicate relationships between ideas.

Text structure/organization anchor chart to help students understand how authors communicate relationships between ideas.

I wrote about Fraction Boot Camp in another post if you want to learn more.  As a class we set goals for common assessments and chart our progress.  When we do really well we have a picnic lunch outside.  I used smiley faces to cover up class averages.  Great activity as you prepare for state testing (STAAR).  It certainly helps with motivation!

I wrote about Fraction Boot Camp in another post. Click the picture if you want to learn more.  As a class we set goals for common assessments and chart our progress. When we do really well we have a picnic lunch outside. I used smiley faces to cover up class averages. Great activity as you prepare for state testing (STAAR). It certainly helps with motivation!

Anchor chart showing incomplete and complete metamorphosis.  Want to see our metamorphosis lab in action?  Check out the post on our Insect Zoo.

Anchor chart showing incomplete and complete metamorphosis. Want to see our metamorphosis lab in action? Click this picture to read a post on our Insect Zoo!

We had a great time launching the interdependency lesson.  Students brainstormed living and non-living things in a park environment and illustrated and wrote about how everything was connected, or interdependent on each other for survival.  Once again, feel free to giggle at my artwork!  I certainly do...but I have fun drawing!

We had a great time launching the interdependency lesson. Students brainstormed living and non-living things in a park environment and illustrated and wrote about how everything was connected, or interdependent on each other for survival. Once again, feel free to giggle at my artwork! I certainly do…but I have fun drawing!

Learning About Alternative Energy and Coal Formation

As part of our Earth science unit we spent some time this last six weeks learning about the different types of alternative energy.  Since this is my first year teaching 5th grade science, it had been a long time since I heard the word geothermal!  Students spent some time defining and drawing each type of energy and we made an anchor chart to show what we were learning.

  • goethermal–energy from heat in Earth’s core
  • biofuel/biomass–energy from once living material
  • hydroelectric–energy from moving water (My students have a little song they sing every time I say this word, I think it is part of a commercial they hear on TV all the time!)
  • solar–energy from the sun
  • wind–energy from moving air (wind)
Anchor chart for different types of alternative energy.  (geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, wind, biofuel/biomass)

Anchor chart for different types of alternative energy. (geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, wind, biofuel/biomass) HINT:  Don’t write in yellow!  Write in black and trace over in yellow!

We also spent some time learning about how coal was formed deep in the Earth.

Anchor chart and slide showing formation of coal.

Anchor chart and slide showing formation of coal.

Now, as we prepare for our STAAR test in April, we will be reviewing vocabulary associated with coal formation and alternative energy.  I’ve put together a quick vocabulary review activity for my kiddos that involves cutting, pasting, and matching the words to the definitions and then symbolizing each term.

Vocabulary Snip-it! worksheet to review alternative energy.

Vocabulary Snip-it! worksheet to review alternative energy.  Click below to download the freebie!

You can download a PDF of this Alternative Energy Worksheet or get the Earth Science Vocabulary Snip-its! pack for $1.00 at my TPT store.   The pack contains 4 pages of vocabulary including sedimentary rocks and fossil fuels, fossils, landforms, and alternative energy. Thanks for stopping by and happy teaching!

Here is the almost finished product!  Students match vocabulary terms and symbolize or illustrate each word.   Great review activity for 5th grade science STAAR test!

Here is the almost finished product! Students match vocabulary terms and symbolize or illustrate each word. Great review activity for 5th grade science STAAR test!

Fraction Boot Camp–Preparing for the STAAR Test

With our state test approaching we are reviewing concepts from earlier in the year to make sure we’ve got it!  Fraction Boot Camp was one way our class prepared this year.  Here’s how Fraction Boot Camp worked in my classroom:

STEP 1–Write fraction standards on chart paper, set class goals, and plan a class celebration.  Our class decided on 85% for each assessment as our goal and that we would celebrate with a picnic outside on a nice weather day when we met our goal.

STEP 2–Review each skill with a mini-lesson, have students complete a few ‘number problems’ to make sure they understand, then give partner time to work some word problems while meeting with a small group who needs a little extra help.  Number problems are simply working with the numbers.  I need to know that my students understand equivalent fractions with mixed numbers and improper fractions prior to giving them lots of word problems to solve!  Check out CC Sheets.  It is one of my favorites for number only problems.  Because I teach the TEKS and not CC, I search by skill rather than standard and grade level.

STEP 3– Assess and report class averages on the chart.  The kids love to see their progress posted in the classroom.

Valentine's Day fractions matching game for equivalent fractions, including mixed numbers and improper fractions

Valentine’s Day fractions matching game for equivalent fractions, including mixed numbers and improper fractions

This year’s Fraction Boot Camp was a big success!  Our class averages were in the 90s each time and we got to celebrate with a picnic outside.   We also played some fraction games and you can find those here!  There is a winter set, Valentine’s Day set, and St. Patrick’s Day shamrock set.

St. Patrick's Day/Shamrock Theme Game--Students sort fractions by finding equivalent fractions and matching them to the simplified (or reduced) fraction.

St. Patrick’s Day/Shamrock Theme Game–Students sort fractions by finding equivalent fractions and matching them to the simplified (or reduced) fraction.

Fun heart themed fractions games to help students practice matching equivalent fractions, including improper fractions and mixed numbers.

Fun heart themed fractions games to help students practice matching equivalent fractions, including improper fractions and mixed numbers.

un winter-themed game for students to practice equivalent fractions, including improper fractions and mixed numbers!

Fun winter-themed game for students to practice equivalent fractions, including improper fractions and mixed numbers!