Sixth Grade Teacher Hillary Harm on the CLT6
As part of CLT’s commitment to provide the best possible testing experience, we conducted a pilot this past spring of our new assessments for Grades 3-6, which will be available to the public in Spring 2024. The pilot was conducted at schools all across the country; afterward, both students and teachers submitted detailed feedback on the assessment, and CLT interviewed a number of teachers to gain a deeper understanding of their experience.
One individual we had the pleasure of speaking with was Hillary Harm, a sixth grade teacher and testing coordinator at Xavier Charter School in Twin Falls, Idaho. Her answers provide an exciting sneak peek of what teachers, parents, and students can expect when CLT3, 4, 5, & 6 open for registration this spring!
CLT: How was your students’ experience with the CLT6?
HH: I taught sixth grade last year, and when I told my students that we were going to be taking the CLT6, their first reaction was kind of that groan you get from kids–good-naturedly, but just: “Ugh.” We had just finished taking the state-mandated test, the ISAT test, and it is four two-hour tests. The students take it on Chromebook computers, which are very small screens, and there’s so much information and you have to scroll back and forth, and it’s just exhausting. So their first reaction was kind of thinking back to that, and they were not thrilled. But I told them that this was going to be a different experience. It was going to be a paper-pencil test. They cheered.
CLT: Well, that’s flattering!
The night before we took the first session, I showed them the booklets, and the booklets are beautiful. I remember just fanning through saying: “Look! Look at this!” There were pictures in there, and they were excited to try. I mean, it’s a test, but they were excited for the concrete nature of it which is very similar to what they do every day.
Something else that we talked about was: the test was challenging, but it wasn’t exhausting. When you stare at a screen, and you’re trying to read on a screen, and navigate and push text back and forth and scroll–it’s just tiring. And they were challenged by this test, but they didn’t feel like they were as tired afterwards as they were with the state test. I kind of wondered if it wasn’t because this was material we do every day, and the test was reflecting that. It could really reflect what they knew, what they studied, what they’d been doing. I just can’t say enough about what a positive experience it was.
CLT: Did your students share specific examples of what they liked about taking the test?
HH: It’s the first standardized test that they couldn’t stop talking about after they took it. And I know as an administrator or teacher you’re supposed to go, “Shhh, don’t talk about the test!” But it was hard for them not to! And I could hear them in line in the hallways as we’re walking out to recess sharing their experience. The one that sticks out most was the literature, the English, the grammar, because they were reading passages from books they had read. There was a passage from The Wind in the Willows, there was a passage from Tom Sawyer, there was something from The Secret Garden, there was something from Robin Hood, and they were so excited to come across familiar material.
When I asked them a question of “What was something you didn’t expect about this test?”, one student said: “I didn’t expect to learn anything.” And I asked, “What do you mean?” Several [students] chimed in with things. Over and over, the theme that I heard from them was: this test tests what I do in school. One student said, “The ISAT tests are state tests. Those test over things that my other friends who go to public schools learn about. This test tested over things that I learn about here.”
CLT: That’s quite gratifying. It’s so good to hear they had such a positive experience!
From your perspective, as a teacher, how do you feel the CLT6 equipped you to better teach your students?
HH: For me, and for the students–it was confirmation. And they enjoyed knowing that other students are studying these things, too. We’re in a small-ish town, and the school is unique here, and they feel it when they talk to their friends. And so taking this test and talking about how other students and schools across the country were also taking this I think was validation and confirmation for them.
CLT: There are other schools out there that are unfamiliar with CLT3-6 and may be hesitant about taking another test on top of the other tests they may be required to take. What would you say to schools that are interested in CLT3-6, but don’t know whether to commit to taking it?
HH: I would say that I completely understand! Test fatigue is a real thing, and it varies from school to school and teacher to teacher. If you’re wondering if you should try, I would say absolutely try it one time–see if it works for your school and your students. For us, it was an incredible experience. My students were excited when they finished, they were excited to talk about the test and talk about the questions. They felt like this was a test that they were completely prepared for, even though they had not spent one second studying for it. I know they all felt like they did well. There were certain questions that stumped them, but they all felt really confident, I think because the material and the format were so familiar … I think it’s absolutely worth it–at least trying it once.
Try it and talk to your students about it afterwards, and see how their faces light up when they talk about what they read. I think that will change minds.
If you enjoyed this piece, you can learn more about our outlook on testing from our introductions to education, knowledge, and logic, this essay on the quadrivium, or this one on CLT’s excellent students. Also, be sure to check us out on Anchored wherever you get your podcasts—and have a great day.
Published on 10th October, 2023.