As progressive as I try to be in my classroom there are still district and state requirements that need to be fulfilled. One of them is mandatory “Common Assessment” testing that is aligned to the state standards. These typically consist of 50-60 Multiple Choice Questions and some “tech assisted” Qs like putting events in chronological order or “Choose all that apply”. Over the last few years I have begun to notice a disconnect between my assessment of students’ understanding before the test and how they score on the test itself. I typically have a “Boss Fight” review game prior to the district created test which both aligns to the state standards in the same way as the common assessment and usually consists of questions from previous iterations of the common assessment (sometimes the exact same questions!).

My typical Boss Fight involves using Plickers (a low tech/high tech system I show off here). I ask questions and students give their answers. Correct answers lead to an attack against the boss. I often have smaller versions of this system to open most class meetings. The weird thing is that students typically do quite well on the Boss Fights. I am noticing though that some students that do fairly well on the Boss Fights will do poorly on the test. There is a disconnect that I am not sure how to explain. I have a few theories:

  1. Test Anxiety (or the belief in it) causes a mental block. Many kids have been taught that they don’t test well and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  2. Disengagement with the test. It is boring and therefore less mental energy is used)
  3. Poor test taking strategies. In a Boss Fight I keep the pace moving. Students can’t overthink their answers and are thus more fresh later in the test.
  4. The tests are given on computer which may lower scores for some reason.
  5. My Boss Fights are a flawed assessment.

There must be other reasons and I wonder if someone with a better understanding of the psychology at play could give me some advice.