Letter
from John Bridgeo, Math Chair at Kettering Middle School, outlining
score increases with 6 weeks of Test Factory usage.
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Dear Brian,
I just wanted
to thank your company/enterprise for producing such a fine product,
that we here at Kettering Middle School have found so useful.
During the last 6 weeks the following events occurred.
I had been told by a colleague about tool factory and the www.testfactory.net
site. I let the information slide for a week or so, and then realized
the possible implications, so I called you to learn how to begin implementing
a free trial program for our students here at Kettering Middle School. I then approached the principal for his permission
to pull students out of gym and Creative Arts classes for a few weeks
to try to get them to pass the Maryland Functional Math Test. Then for four weeks students came to me in
the computer lab for 90 minutes every other day in groups of 12 to 16.
Our results
were better than we could have hoped for, 42/55 students involved in
our program passed the test, the other 13 missed by one or two questions.
This is an impressive result because it happens near the end
of the school year when the students are peering out the window, ready
to go for the summer. Usually our best results come in the summer, when
the place is nearly empty and there are no other distractions.
Then we sit kids down for 4 to 6 hours per day for all day math
and after much more intensive time we’ve had at best 60% of the students
pass the test.
I think the
testing package is so effective because it does few things.
It allows a teacher to come up beside a student and find their
weaknesses and then show them how to correct them right on the spot.
The students get immediate feedback, on what they do and do not
know. The MFMT has some peculiarly phrased questions
that almost require a lesson to teach to the students who are in between
spoonfeeding in elementary and responsible study habits in high school.
Kids who fail the test initially are still more likely to want
spoonfed pedagogy. Scaffolding is a better term for what actually
happens. With fifteen kids taking
the practice tests at their own pace I had ample time to assess each
student’s weaknesses, point them in the direction they should be pursuing
and keep tabs on their progress. With
the aid of some PowerPoint tutorials and some online sites that proved
helpful I could accomplish a good deal of instruction in a few minutes
and then move on to the next student.
Another aspect
of the test package is the regularity of the questions.
Since question 16 will always be the same type question it affords
the teacher familiar with the package instant insight into the students
needs. It also shortens the
overall written test to something that students without concentration
or staying power can manage, for the sake of practice and because it
prepares them to take the test electronically. Because students can go back to a test and
complete it a second or third time they can gain confidence by beating
back old dragons. Once they
have gotten a 100% on a test the third time out, they seem to be able
to take an entirely new test and only require two tries to perfect the
second test, and soon they are doing tests getting perfect or near perfect
scores and self diagnosing their own problems.
I should add at this point, that I lie to the children.
I tell them that we expect 100% of them to pass the test and
the way to pass the test is to get 100% on it.
I tell them I don’t tolerate errors from them and they shouldn’t
from themselves. There are always kids bringing up the computer’s
calculator program to solve arithmetic problems or do conversions from
fractions to decimals. I tell
them anyone lazy enough to use a calculator is lazy enough to fail the
test ( I do have to careful around students with IEP’s that allow them
to use calculators.)
Our experience
in the first six weeks with testfactory.net has been nothing short of
a phenomenon. It has raised
our overall scores in the school 10%. From 45% to 55%.
We hope to reproduce the effect this summer and get scores to
the 65% level. When we begin
to use this program in the fall I know we will take the 7^{th}
grade’s typical 25% passing rate and raise it to 50%. This will cascade through those overall test sores for the school
hopefully raising our scores in the school to the 90% level over the
course of the next couple years. As
I was telling you on the way out our door, I am uncomfortable with some
of the quirky questions on the MFMT, but happy that we force students
to pass it so that they can conduct the purchase of a home or car, run
a retail business or understand the statistics on the front page of
a newspaper. This minimum level is great preparation for high school
Algebra and beyond to boot, but serves as a math citizenship test so
that they can’t be preyed upon or duped by people more facile with numbers.
Thanks again,
John Bridgeo:
Kettering Middle School, Technology Coordinator/Math Chairperson
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