Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mathematics in Massachusetts: Preparing for Next Generation MCAS

Membership in The Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Massachusetts is one avenue to keeping up with
expectations and changes related to Next Generation MCAS and other state-wide math initiatives.
I like to stay on top of new initiatives. I don't have to backtrack and re-step to meet new policies and protocol. Hence I've signed on to a number of good resources that inform me about upcoming changes and expectations. Massachusetts' Department of Elementary and Secondary Education does a good job with communication. The Commissioner, Mitchell Chester, writes a weekly newsletter that keeps all educators in the state abreast of what's happening with lots of links, details, and opportunities for learning and leading.

Similarly there are many agencies in the state that help to inform and prepare educators as well. Recently I joined one of those associations, Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Massachusetts (ATMIM). ATMIM just sent out an update so that educators can prepare for our upcoming assessment changes for 2016-2017 school year. I respond to the update notes below:

  • ". . .all schools will administer the computer-based versions of the ELA and math tests in grades 4 and 8. Fo grades 3, 5, 6, and 7, schools may elect wither the computer-based or the paper-based tests next spring." The note goes on to say that the state encourages schools to use computer-based testing at as many grades as possible. Fortunately, our schools are well equipped to give the computer-based tests. Khan Academy is free and provides student with good practice for these online tests. TenMarks is another program that provides students with good practice for these kinds of tests. Schools may want to look closely at their computer-use schedules so that students have adequate use of computers for this practice and learning. Also, I recommend that schools invite families in early in the year to learn how to use Khan Academy so that they can support their children in this study. This computer time should be in addition to the core program as I don't believe computer practice/learning programs should replace the creative, collaborative, and critical thinking skills-oriented math programs that make up the core program. 
  • The state offers support with regard to preparation for these tests. It's my guess that it's best to reach out for this support, if possible, during the lazy days of summer when they're likely to be less busy. "Department staff in our Office of Digital Learning (odl@doe.mass.edu) and in Student Assessment Services (assessment@doe.mass.edu) are available to answer questions from districts and provide additional assistance."