My wife has been working on aligning her school's curriculum to the Common Core. Actually, it's the Kansas standards that are based on the Common Core, but the skills and assessments are basically the same for English and social studies. The problem is that she has textbooks that are not aligned to the standards that include quizzes that cover way too many skills. Terrible situation to be in, actually, and if her school really wants to align to Common Core, the best bet is to purchase books or at least quizzes that do this for them. If you at least have skills-based quizzes, you can use the books in order to work backwards from the assessments. The question I had, however, was how long does it take to create one assessment? The answer, when I tested it out today, was two hours. I will explain why in the rest of the article. Feel free to send a link to this page to your administrators who want you to create pre-test, post-tests, and lessons for each skill very quickly. It's just not feasible to spend TWO HOURS creating each skills assessment you will need.

For my test, I decided to cover Common Core English Grammar L.8.1b. The standard is: "Form and use verbs in the active and passive voice." Obviously, a multiple-choice assessment won't have students actively DOING this, but it can assess whether or not students understand how the skill is DONE, so it's legit. My goal in the assessment was to have students look at four sentences and be able to identify which one was an active-voice sentence or a passive-voice sentence, at least in relation to the verbs being used. Simple, right? Not so much, since a 10-question multiple-choice quiz like this one would require the teacher creating a total of 40 sentences, not just 10. There are ways to practice using a more ACT-like style (which is using a paragraph instead of sentences), but I chose a more straightforward version of demonstrating the skills for my quiz. Both are perfectly fine, and I think the one that resembles the ACT is often preferable as test prep. However, in my experience, you don't really save any time using a longer passage and shorter answers, so my time evaluation will be similar.

Since my goal was to create the best and most usable assessment for 8th grade (and sell them for $1.49 each), I chose to integrate sentences from 8th grade history. Why? Students learn better when curriculum in different classes correlates to others. Even if my random facts about John Adams are not specifically aligned to EXACTLY what was covered in history, it reinforces some of what they were covering. It's better than creating 10 sentences about Dick and Jane, anyhow. The problem is that a teacher spends an extra half-hour looking for appropriate sentences to use if integrating into other subjects is a goal. Yes, the results are better, but your teachers don't have the time to do this consistently, and with all worksheets, etc.

Most of the time was spent in reworking the correct sentences into those that were incorrect. I basically took one good sentence and was tasked with creating several bad ones for each question. That's not nearly as easy as it seems, especially since the goal was to only discern between active and passive verbs, without trying to get students to only choose the one that made the most sense. The goal was for ALL of the sentences to make sense and be relevant, but for the students to figure out which ones worked best as active (1-8) and passive (9-10) verbs. Well over an hour was spent on doing this.

Now take a look at how many standards there are total. Not a lot compared to the number of school days, perhaps, but if each and ever pre-test, post-test, and lesson takes TWO HOURS, then your teachers don't really have time to do this effectively on their own. Buy a few quizzes to cover each skill. Use one for a pre-test, one as a post-test, and maybe another as practice or remediation. But don't try to have your teachers do this unless you hate them.

Of course, once a skills-aligned, multiple-choice quiz that even integrates with social studies or science is created, this is GOLD for years to come. Simple, accurate, and effective. Plus, it's as good as a MAP or other assessment at identifying where students need help because the focus is much narrower than most English grammar books or DOL. Buy the one listed here to see how it can be done, but don't expect to tell your teachers to create a few dozen of these while already working too many hours. And don't expect textbook companies to really get it right, either. What I'd do is pay someone to find as many of these over the summer as possible, and then get the site licenses (if on TpT) in order to use them department-wide. It will still take some time, but one person can do it over the summer rather than your entire staff killing themselves all year long.


Jacksonville News

New Jax Witty

Articles, reviews, advice, and legitimate research to go along with some back-handed comments. Think of us as Jacksonville's mother-in-law.
  • Only Way to Avoid The Reverse Mortgage Disaster
    I've seen several news articles about the pitfalls of reverse mortgages. I also saw that we've set up a fund to help people when they get stuck with a reverse mortgage here in Florida. But the simple answer that most older people don't want to hear is that there's only one way to avoid disaster with a reverse mortgage: don't get one.

    The ad that inspired this reverse mortgage article claims that Americans have trillions of dollars just sitting there, not being used. The problem is that a reverse mortgage isn't using that money, either. It's using the house that's worth that money as collateral for a LOAN. It's a loan that needs to be paid off when your house is sold. You can make mistakes and end up losing your house.

    The better advice for anyone already retiredor looking to retire is to sell. I know, you love your house, all the stuff in it, the neighbors you wave at, the same big box retail down the road, and all the stuff in the house. It's basic economics: if you own something outright worth $500,000, sell it for $500,000 and rent a nice condo for 20 years. If you take out a reverse mortgage, then you can get $250,000 towards a condo for 10 years, still pay property taxes and insurance on the house, and continue to maintain it so that in a decade, you'll make enough money to pay off your reverse mortgage loan. New AC, new roof, new driveway? That would all eat into the profit on selling your house that you'll need to cover all the interest on the loan. Don't pay a bank for the right to live in a house for your entire life. Avoid reverse mortgages at all costs.
  • Rental Bikes Aren't Exactly For The Homeless
    Local news was down in St. Augustine covering the newly-proposed use of some kind of bike-share rental system. Since it's standard operating procedure, a homeless man was interviewed about the program. He said something to the effect that it would be good to have options for someone like him who can't afford a bike. FYI local news and homeless people: bike rental programs are not really created for the homeless.

    Since I don't claim to know the biking habits of the typical homeless individual, I'm going to assume it involves getting to a place and then back home. Home being a structure in a field outside of town, not where you'd be able to return the bike for credit. My understanding would be that these folks would need the bike to get to and from "work," each and every day. Based on a similar rental system I found online, the 24-hour rental is $24. Alternatively, an annual pass is $80. The problem is that the trips can only be 60 minutes each. Assuming the homeless camp is close enough to downtown, this might work as a way to get around once in St. Augustine. Not a bad yearly price to not have to worry about bike maintenance, anyhow. If you're homeless already, and now you can get as many maintenance-free trips on a bike as you can use each day, then $80 for the year isn't bad at all.

    But wait, there's less. The yearly pass will need to be paid for with a credit card with a fob mailed to an address. So even if these ride share bikes makes sense to homeless people, it might not be something that can be purchased without the help of someone with credit and an address. It might seem like a lot of people would volunteer to do this, but any extra time or any damage would be billed to the credit card, so I certainly wouldn't volunteer my credit in the hopes that someone else will always return the bike in time (or at all). The Cincinnati bike share, for example, charges $1,200 for a bike that is not returned.

    I have a $1,000 bike. At least someone paid $1,000 for it back in 1986. I picked it up amidst college moving day garbage at UW-Milwaukee back in 1999. It was already worth $0 at that point. I've used some tape to hold it together, but it's still worth about $0. Since I'm probably not the only person in the area with a worthless bike, I'm thinking a bike donation for the homeless might make more sense than saying they should be using tourist bikes. That's not to say that bike shares don't have a place in St. Augustine, just that it might be meant for rich tourists instead of homeless interviewees.