Reflection: Standardized Tests (PARCC/Smarter Balanced) Taking our first steps with the EBSR - Section 2: Work Session: Students Take the Assessment


OK, I will be very honest here.  I really didn't WANT to like the EBSR format.  Last year, I saw my first glimpse of it in a system-wide PD session.  I had a really hard time wrapping my mind around it, but -- in hindsight -- I think the text selection was just too ambiguous to make for a good example.  We looked at it again this year in our PD last week, and it kind of clicked for me. 

I really like it, and I think it is easy to grade. 

It's not that I think the EBSR is perfect.  However, what I like about it for middle school students is that the format limits the question and the answer.  Often, I find myself writing questions that I think are very limited and clear and then...the papers roll in.  There is something about this age group that can make outcomes very unpredictable.  So, we middle school teachers have to have a crystal clear picture in our minds of what we expect from every question that we ask...or at least for the questions that we are going to put in the gradebook under the test/quizzes column :)  The EBSR format forces us to think through possibilities and test connections between answers and text support.  

Writing the EBSR is a bear of a task.  The first part is like writing a multiple choice question, but you have to have five answers that are at least consistent with something in the text.   Gone are the days when one of your options could be "Mrs. O'Brien's dog, Lucky" just because you couldn't come up with an "E" for your multiple choice question.  But really, the hard part is building that Part B.  You need to offer the kids a lot of choices for text support, because more than one of the options should work.  But you also need to think about including text that seems to support a wrong answer.  This helps you to figure out who, in the class, is missing reading cues.  In my options, I included "slug it out with an Indian bully" which --  if you didn't have the text in front of you -- might seem to support choice A in Part A, "chaotic."

This brings me to an important observation that I made today.  Having the reading right in front of them did not help my struggling students.  Annotating the reading didn't help, because they are still annotating in really silly, meaningless ways (despite lessons on how to do it and spending most of 7th grade annotating their fingers to the bone.)  The students who struggled with the EBSR were 1. my lower readers (below and at grade level; remember, I teach honors, so most students are WAY above grade level in reading) 2. my less mature thinkers (the logic, 2+2=4 piece is lagging in some.)

A note about the samples:  #1 nailed it and selected all three relevant pieces of support; #2 got the right answer (discouraging) but only selected 2/3 pieces of relevant support; #3 only picked the most obvious piece of support and made really simple, obvious connections; #4 didn't select anything for B (though he cited evidence from the options.  This student showed that he read and understood the text itself, but misinterpreted the word independent by thinking that he was describing Alexie, not the school environment.

  Thoughts on the EBSR format
  Standardized Tests (PARCC/Smarter Balanced): Thoughts on the EBSR format
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Taking our first steps with the EBSR

Unit 12: Close Reading
Lesson 3 of 3

Objective: SWBAT demonstrate their understanding of text by successfully addressing questions in one of PARCC's chosen formats, the Evidence Based Selected Response (EBSR).

Big Idea: Students and teachers need experience with assessments in order to get valid results.

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English / Language Arts, close reading
  40 minutes
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