The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

How I Prepared for ISATs

This is my third year at Wiley and therefore my third year administering the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests, also known as ISATs. This is also going to be my final year administering the ISATs, due to the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the associated Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests that we will be switching to next year.

In previous years, I have blogged about my students experiences during the four days of ISAT testing. But since I’ve done that twice already and the format hasn’t really changed all that much, I thought I’d focus on what I am doing as a teacher during these tests, instead. (If you are interested in what the students are doing, you can check my archive of ISAT posts here. And yes, I did think we were going to be doing PARCC this year. Sorry to any of my former fourth graders who read my posts a year ago and thought they wouldn’t be doing ISATs this year!)

While my students were taking their Reading I and Mathematics I tests today, I found myself thinking about how I prepared for the exams. Obviously, I am not taking them personally, so I didn’t need to study or prepare for testing. No, I needed to prepare for four days of doing the exact opposite of what I am used to doing as a teacher: sharing, listening, discussing, explaining, responding, guiding, prompting, scaffolding, and answering. I still have to explain, but I am limited by the script that is provided for test administrators. I can prompt, but only in basic terms. I can answer, but often the answer is simply, “I’m sorry, I can’t tell you that. Just read the directions/question again and do your best.” So I had to mentally prepare myself for holding back and letting my students do it entirely on their own.

Even though I am not spending seven hours a day on my feet and talking to students, I still need to eat breakfast and keep up my energy. It may seem weird, but, quite honestly, it is exhausting to monitor students during a test! You have to be ever vigilant in making sure that they are following testing protocols, keep an eye out for students marking answers in the wrong spot or skipping a single line and not realising it until several questions later, and making sure nobody gets out of their seat until the test is totally done. So just like my students, I make sure I get plenty of rest the night before and eat a healthy breakfast. (And a huge thank you to our amazing PTA that provides morning snacks!)

I also prepare what I am going to wear for the week. Yes, I know it sounds weird, but it is one of those things that I started doing three years ago and just keep on doing. The first year, I decided to wear college hoodies all week, in honour of March Madness. I wore shirts with inspirational messages last year to motivate the students to keep their morale up throughout the week. I decided to do the same thing this year. I started this year with my hoodie from the Illinois Teen Institute that I got a few years back that just says “positive” on the front. Simple but important: during testing, I want my students to maintain a positive attitude and I need me to maintain one, too! I’ll be wearing clothing with similar messages all week, so no ties, no cardigans, and no vests. (I know, crazy, right?!)

I’ll also be getting some professional reading done during the week. I have gotten fairly proficient at reading an article or book and keeping an eye on students at the same time. I decided to get to some of the books I got around Christmas time, and am starting Todd Whitaker’s What Great Teachers Do Differently.” If I am able to finish this week (it is a fairly short text, after all), I will try to tackle some other books, too, like Lost at School and Teach Like a Champion.

So that’s how I’ve prepared myself. I don’t know if other teachers do similar things or completely different things, but it works for me!

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