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 In Florida: Millionaire Stealing From Kmart
    Where else would a guy who owns an $8 million private island and a Real World House decide to steal from Kmart? Nowhere else. Only in Florida. I thought that it was uniquely Florida when three guys walked right into a Walmart and stole the arcade claw machine, loading it into their pickup truck as if they were going to service it. But those guys were probably unemployed or at least poor, so it was just a badly-hatched plan. So was the plan to buy items at Kmart and then return different items in the boxes. But the Kmart plan was devised by a guy with enough capital to purchase an $8 million island, so it's even more odd.

    With how easily the man was caught, I have to assume he was not a career store scammer. There's no way that someone who tries to steal $300 from Kmart (minus the value of the items that were returned in the boxes) has pulled it off enough to become a millionaire.

    Maybe he figured he'd be safe once on his own island. He could use his new Keurig every morning as he watched the sunrise over the ocean. I assume his new island didn't have a basketball court, since that's the item he stuffed into the coffee maker box when it was returned.

    Normally, people who become millionaires don't steal small stuff, unless it's lots of small stuff, like fraudulent billing of patients of your healthcare company. I wonder if this man can plead the 5th and get out of any responsibility for stealing from Kmart. Perhaps that's all it takes to get away with stealing when you're rich; I wouldn't know.

    Anyhow, no man is an island entire of himself. He needs stuff, even if he is technically living on a private island. I suppose the monthly mortgage on an $8 million island might get a little steep. At 20% down on a 30-year loan, the island would run $30,260 a month. That's probably about what an average Kmart sells in a month. I'm kidding, I think. This guy was probably just strapped for cash after having spent over $1.5 million on a down payment, so he needed some necessities, like a Keurig coffee machine.
  • Followed Home in Jacksonville
    A neighbor was recently followed home by a white SUV, and the comments on Nextdoor were all over the place. I think there are several angles to consider here, even though most of the people commenting were fairly single-minded in how they saw the situation.

    Call the Police
    Most reactions were that of calling the police. This was 1:30 in the morning, and a man was being followed all the way to his home, and when the man turned away, he was also followed right up to the point he entered a 24-hour gas station. One comment was to call the police while being followed. That's good advice, so long as you weren't drinking at your friend's house until 1:30, which I have to assume was the case. When the police show up to help you out, the white SUV will be long gone, and you'll be asked to exit the vehicle for a little test.

    Back in Milwaukee, my car got broken into while I was at a friend's house. We yelled at the kids as they tried to hotwire the car, and then called the police as they ran away. We'd been drinking a little bit, so it was surprising that the cops got the car fully hotwired for me and sent me on my way, broken back window and all. That was 20 years ago and in Milwaukee (Beer Capital of America). I don't expect any breaks like this in Jacksonville, so my advice would be to do exactly what this guy did if you've had a couple of drinks.

    Ask The Police
    Another theory is that the car was an undercover police car "running tags." These folks suggested the man call the police and ask. The problem is that since following someone around and running the tags is probably illegal, even if that was happening, I doubt it would be confirmed. Therefore, asking the police would not get a definitive answer.

    I've personally seen this happen, back in suburban Milwaukee. Cruisers would be at a stop light behind a car and on a laptop. Even though it was considered to be against the rules, it probably happened all the time when those computers were first installed. I think this behavior has been cracked down on to some extent, but an officer might still follow a car with a broken tail light just to see if the driver seems to be swaying around in his lanes, especially at 1:30am.

    Be Relieved
    One neighbor, to the consternation of most other neighbors, said that there was no proof the occupants of the car were up to no good. It's certainly true that no obvious crime occurred, even if most of us would consider following someone at 1:30am to be unacceptable, criminal-like behavior. If nothing else, the intent was to frighten the man. Whether it was a criminal, a cop, or a concerned citizen, when you follow someone all the way home at that hour, you want to frighten the person (or sneak up behind him). Georgia has a stalking law that might be applicable here, but I did not see one for Florida, where stalking is more about "a person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks" someone else. That means that criminals can legally stalk a dozen potential victims each day and never be breaking any law.

    Man or Woman, Do This
    If this kind of thing happens to you, it might seem to make sense to get home. The problem here is that you are leading someone to your house, even if they bail. They might now assume you work a late shift. Maybe they were following you to seek revenge for cutting them off, and they'll tag your garage door later on. And maybe, they'll be faster to the weapon than you.

    Therefore, it's recommended that you lead them back out of your neighborhood, just like the man in the story did. Take them to a public place and call the cops. If you're a little intoxicated, maybe wake up a dozen friends and round up the posse. I'd try to get to a public place where I know there are obvious cameras mounted. Even when you get somewhere more public, it's probably not a good idea to reach for your gun or tire iron right away. At least fake dial and talk on your phone before you get out of the car. You could probably hit the old panic button on the car, too, since noise tends to ward off criminals. At least I'd do some of that stuff before I decide to escalate the situation.