Steven Reid, LVCA Program Manager, answers tutor questions in a regular advice column. Tutors can submit questions to Steven at any time and he'll answer them here for the benefit of all.
My student was told that it's time to schedule his test. Can I see the test, or can you tell me what he'll be tested on? I don't know what LV's annual test tests, so how can I teach to the test?
-Tutor with Test Anxiety
Dear Tutor with Test Anxiety,
Thanks for your question concerning testing. As part of our funding, we pre-test all students when they enroll in our program, and they will get a follow-up test annually after that (usually somewhere after 80 hours of instruction). Annual standardized testing is not something to stress about, and is not, by far, the most important part of tutoring.
We utilize four different tests when assessing our students: Best Plus, Best Lit, TABE, and CASAS.
Best Plus is used for the majority of our students, and it assesses a student’s speaking and listening skills. Typically it takes 5 to 15 minutes to complete, but it can be much shorter or longer, depending on the skills of the student. Students are graded in three areas: Listening Comprehension (How well did the examinee understand the question?), Language Complexity (How did the examinee organize and elaborate the response?), and Communication (How clearly did the examinee communicate meaning?). The assessor is allowed to repeat questions one time, but we cannot elaborate or explain any vocabulary in the question.
Best Lit, TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education), and CASAS (Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems) all test reading and writing skills. (TABE will also be used to assess math skills.) These are all typical multiple choice tests, with Best Lit also having a few free response questions. They are also all timed.
All of our testing aligns with the federal National Reporting System guidelines. As these are all national standardized tests, the tests themselves must be kept secure and cannot be shown to instructors or students prior to the test. However, far more importantly, we do not want our tutors “teaching to the test.” Our system of student-centered instruction is designed to meet the needs of the student, based on their personal goals. We feel that helping students get better jobs, communicate better in the community, or pass their citizenship tests is far more important than the results of a standardized test.
After each follow-up test, I will send the tutor a summary of what the assessor noticed during the test. I will try to include as many recommendations as possible to help you fine-tune your instruction and set goals for the following year.
I hope this de-mystifies the testing process. On the whole, we see great progress among our students each year due to the hard work of the students and their tutors.