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Re: TAAS? and testing........


Date: Sun Oct 08 2000 - 12:29:42 PDT

In a message dated 10/8/00 1:49:05 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

> Not to be nickpicky but I'm really interested in what you're saying. How are
> you developing a format that takes advantage of TAAS? Will you be more
> explicit about this please?

Sure, with pleasure.

It seems to me that TAAS (probably like your STAR) is creeping into
everything we do. So, my thoughts were, "if I can't beat 'em, take advantage
of 'em." And that's what I did.

First, I researched the TAAS and standardized tests in general. Research
indicates that students score better on tests when they know the format.
Knowing the format is almost as important as knowing the content! Armed with
this bit of knowledge, I then carefully duplicated the "look" of the TAAS
pages (e.g., font size, double columns, number of questions, bubbling of
answers). The hardest part is writing the multiple choice responses because
a good standardized test will include one answer that is absolutely right,
one that is absolutely wrong, one that is a foil, and one that could go
either way.

The significant differences in my "tests" are that they (a) provide factual
information about an artist or artwork and (b) ask questions that require
students to read the material AND interpret a work of art. I have based all
of my "tests" on images that are available in the Take-5 study print series
so that students have a good image to investigate.

The questions on my "tests" are similar to TAAS questions and refer to
fact/opinion, main idea, vocabulary, and the like. So, this is a sneaky way
to teach the TAAS format and get kids to closely investigate works of art.

One thing I do NOT do. The kids cannot do these "tests" alone. We work
together, orally reading the material and questions and discussing the likely
answers and why certain answers are better than others. My fundamental
objective is to have kids explore works of art and artists, not to pass a
test. The fact that this helps them pass TAAS is only a byproduct, in my

> >In a recent > article, the principal credits the arts as being one of the
> primary factors > that brought up their scores. Not a bad nod to the power
> of the visual arts. > Again...please explain to us how and why this

As I mentioned, I was a mentor in an at-risk school. The state was ready to
spring into action to take over the school. Any and every avenue to rescue
the school was explored. As a mentor, I volunteered to sit on the site-based
management team. A local museum educator also did this. With the two of us
working toward a similar goal, we were able to develop some very strong
programs to address teaching through the arts. Our biggest success was
implementing my TAAS formatted materials as preparation to visit the art
museum. After I prepared the kids with the "tests", they then went to the
art museum where museum educators and docents provided written activities for
them. The museum became an extended classroom for the students and they had
multiple visits ... each visit addressing a specific learning objective.
Apparently this approach worked. The kid's writing skills improved in
length, structure, and content. Bottom line: test scores improved. The
principal sings the praises of the art program. She was recently quoted in
an article about how she had her doubts until she saw the difference the
visual arts made to her students.

For those of you in Texas, the TAAS formatted materials I am referencing is
published in the last issue of "Trends" (the TAEA journal) and the article
about the principal is published in the North Texan, a magazine from the
University of North Texas. Also, Nancy Walkup was my partner in crime with
these TAAS formatted materials. She has had similar success with them.