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11/18/2016

Connecting Dots: Standards, Tests and Preparing Students for Success

By: Chris Woolard

When I talk to my family and friends about the work we do at the Ohio Department of Education, it usually only takes a few minutes for their eyes to glaze over. And while I believe that technical conversation about curriculum, standards, assessments and results is important, that conversation doesn’t always capture the reality of what is happening in schools and what it means for our kids. That is why it is so important to think through some practical examples and how the system builds toward students’ future success.

As I did in my previous blog post, I find it helpful to think of this through my role as a parent. So in non-technical terms…what is all this stuff parents are hearing about? Standards are the things that my kids need to know and be able to do, and these things are important to their future success. The curriculum is the way a school chooses to teach that important information and is selected by teachers, schools and districts — not the state. Schools in different parts of the state may choose to teach this information in different ways. State tests are an important marker in gauging how well students are learning this info. School and district report cards give parents and communities information on how well schools are doing. And all these pieces build on each other.

So, let’s look at some real examples…

Ohio's Learning Standards are essentially statements of important things that we think that all Ohio students should know and be able to do. There are some really important things that 4th graders need to know. The fourth grade math standards have a focus on measurement and data. Some of the specific standards include:

Solve problems involving measurement and conversion of measurements from a larger unit to a smaller unit.

This includes:
  1. Know relative sizes of measurement units within one system of units including km, m, cm; kg, g; lb, oz.; l, ml; hr, min, sec.
  2. Use the four operations to solve word problems involving distances, intervals of time, liquid volumes, masses of objects, and money, including problems involving simple fractions or decimals, and problems that require expressing measurements given in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit
  3. Apply the area and perimeter formulas for rectangles in real world and mathematical problems. For example, find the width of a rectangular room given the area of the flooring and the length, by viewing the area formula as a multiplication equation with an unknown factor.

So in fourth grade, students should know the various measurement units and be able to apply them — this is an important real-world skill. Many schools are now implementing standards-based report cards that give parents feedback on how well students are progressing on these standards.

Then at the end of fourth grade, students take Ohio’s State Tests, which examine how well fourth graders can demonstrate knowledge of those standards. Here is an example from the spring 2016 fourth grade test:

In that example, students are demonstrating their knowledge of these measurement units.

But that is not the end of the story, the system builds on these concepts as students progress through their school years. In seventh grade, middle schoolers are performing more complex calculations. In this example from the spring 2016 seventh grade test, students are asked to apply knowledge of measurement to a circle:

As students continue to progress, the standards help them prepare for life after high school. All students will be taking the ACT (and/or the SAT), and many will be moving on to college. Here is a practice question from the ACT:

Remember that standard from fourth grade where students must “Apply the area and perimeter formulas for rectangles in real-world and mathematical problems”? Here they are, demonstrating that exact same knowledge on the ACT.

The skills and knowledge that students gain early in their school lives builds and prepares them for success. Standards-based report cards give feedback on progress along the way. The state gives school report cards that let parents and communities know how well schools and districts are doing with these important content standards. So for example, the community can see how well students are doing on those fourth grade standards such as working with units of measurement of distance, weight and time. In this example, the school is meeting expectations in fourth grade math:

My middle child is now in fifth grade, but he worked on those important skills last year and I am glad he did. He is going to need them.

Sometimes, discussion of education policy is technical, but education is really personal. It is about our kids and making sure they are ready for the future. Visit these links for more information on Ohio’s Learning Standards, assessments and report cards.

Chris Woolard is senior executive director for Accountability and Continuous Improvement for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Chris by clicking here.

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4/18/2018

GUEST BLOG: Market Day...An Engaging Economics Lesson for Elementary Students — Kelly Miller, South-Western City Schools

By: Guest Blogger

GettyImages-871005836.jpgSometimes people who don’t work in schools find it surprising that students begin learning the basics of subjects like algebra, physics and even economics as early as elementary school. We expect teachers to cover these topics in high school and college, but elementary school teachers begin building this knowledge in their students much earlier. As a second grade teacher, I am always looking for ways to make learning fun and engaging. For example, teaching economics to second-graders certainly is not going to look like the stereotypical dry lecture you might imagine in a college setting. In fact, when it is time to teach the economics strand of the social studies standards to my second-graders, I get so excited about the project. Every year, my students love this lesson.

When I first started teaching economics, I stumbled upon a packet of teaching materials for second-graders. The packet basically covered important vocabulary words that are involved in understanding how money works. After looking it over and collaborating with my co-workers, we decided we had to make these concepts more interesting. This is how the “market day” project was born. To make the learning more meaningful, we created a unit where students build and participate in a marketplace. In this marketplace, students have an opportunity to design a product, create a business and sell their products to their classmates.  

We begin the first day of the project by having the students take notes in a packet to help them learn the key vocabulary. The next day, they start to put their learning in action. Students form groups of three. Each group is responsible for designing a product that meets certain criteria:

  • It has to be something that students can make at school. If students need materials not available in the classroom, they bring them from home.
  • Students are “paid” on production days with fake money. 
  • Students set prices for their products based on the demand (which was a vocabulary word they learned).

My fellow teachers and I also teach students about advertisements. Students create their own advertisements, which I videotape. After weeks of producing goods and advertising them to their classmates, market day arrives. Students eagerly set up their stores and begin shopping in their classmates’ stores. They spend only the money they earned on production days. By doing this, they learn how to make choices as consumers because they don’t have enough money to buy everyone’s products. Some of the items that students created were bookmarks, hair bows and — what every household needs — a box to hold straws. This year, one group even added a gimmick to make its bookmark store more appealing. The store offered customers the opportunity to lower a fishing pole into a pile of bookmarks and “fish” for bookmarks. This took real entrepreneurship and creativity because the group knew it was competing with another bookmark store.

The buying and selling happens in cycles so that only one of the business owners can go out and shop while the others stay back to sell their products and collect the money. We wrap up the unit by having the students add up their profits and reflect on their sales and what they might have done differently. For example: Was the pricing right? Did you create enough product or too much product?

Market day makes economics in elementary school so much fun. The students are always proud of their products, and they get hands-on experience with the decisions that all consumers and business owners make. It is a great way for my students to learn the concepts of economics through an authentic, highly engaging project. I can’t wait to teach this lesson again next year!

Kelly Miller is a second grade teacher at Monterey Elementary School in South-Western City Schools. You can contact Kelly by clicking here.

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Last Modified: 6/1/2016 4:16:44 PM