Sunday, March 16, 2014

Modeling Standards Based Learning by "Failing" a High Stakes Test

On February 13th I took the California Preliminary Administrators Credential Exam (CPACE).  On March 13th I received my results, and I did not pass, I scored 217 and 220 was the passing score - OUCH!  Instead of wallowing in my perceived failure, I decided that it would be better to use this as a Standards Based Learning #sblchat teaching moment.  I knew when I opened the email attachment that I had not passed because there was a score staring me in the face.  After reading the score reporting information, I knew that if a score was showing, I had not passed.  What I did not realize was the score report would give me some useful standards based information that would enable me to work on my weak areas and allow me to celebrate the things I did right (we will get back to this shortly).

First I have to say that my ego really thinks it sucks to fail.  When I saw the score instead of the word: PASS, I felt embarrassed, stupid, angry, and just a little confused - three points, really?  I thought about all of the people I would have to share my results with: my superintendent, the principals in my district, and all of the other folks I had told I was taking the test.  It was a grueling 4 hour test that was made up of 50 or 60 multiple choice questions, 2 short essay questions and a case study essay question.  It was a brutal test that took every second of the 4 hours to complete.

Although my ego was battered and bruised, my enlightened educator knew that failure is necessary for growth, learning, and understanding.  If I truly believe that FAIL means First Attempt In Learning, then I need to model and share this experience with those I am attempting to lead in my district.

Standards Based Grading Feedback
The best part of this experience is that I received useful feedback that will help me prepare for re-taking the test in June.  I have attached the pdf. of my test results as an #sbgchat example of useful feedback.  The first page gives the scores for each domain that was tested using a + system.  The second and third pages provide explanations for the scores received.

Here is a summary of what I learned from the feedback:

  • I scored 4 out of 4 (the highest) in "Visionary and Inclusive Leadership" 20% of the total score - Thank you Twitter PLN!
  • I scored 3 out of 4 (passing) in "Systems for Capacity Building" 30% of the total score - Thank you Twitter PLN!
  • I scored 2 out of 4 (not passing) in "Student Learning" 30% of the total score and "Resource Management and Educational Law" 20% of the total score
  • I also passed the Case Study portion of the test which counted for 16% of the total score (which was dispersed into the other four domains) - good and painful at the same time - so close to passing yet so far away...

Here is the pdf with my results.
Kristen's Administrators Test Results

My takaways:
  • I really appreciate the meaningful feedback I received on my test performance
  • I know exactly what I need to do to improve my performance when I re-take the test
  • It is difficult to share "failing" experiences
  • Remember that it takes a good 24 hours of sitting with the results and letting the ego have it's temper tantrum before a person can begin meaningful reflection on a graded assignment
How will this experience help me educate others - Administrators, Teachers, Students, Parents, etc... about Standards Based Learning (#sblchat) and Standards Based Grading (#sbgchat):
  • Even high stakes tests offer redo's - FOR FULL CREDIT (I get to take the test again in 45 days).
  • Help others understand that no matter how you score student work, even if it is a letter grade, some sort of meaningful feedback needs to be provided with a chance to have a "redo".
  • When handing back test results, don't immediately jump to asking the students to reflect on their performance - use WAIT time - at least a day for the results to settle and the students to be in a better mental place.
  • Continue sharing this experience and other similar ones here on my blog and in discussions I have with folks in my district and with my Twitter PLN.
Concluding Thoughts
One last thing I would like to share is my "learning style" because it affects not only me, but how I see the learners in my district.  When I took the CPACE test, I spent about a total of 10 minutes studying and/or preparing for it (I did not go in completely cold, I have been working in a leadership role for the past 6 months, and that provided much of my knowledge). I knew I could take it over if I did not pass and I went into the test knowing it would be a learning experience as well as a testing experience.  I need to consider this because this is how I look at everything I do as an educator.  I have faith, take what I know at the time and jump...  I know that when I land I can evaluate everything that happened, make adjustments and "revise" and go again.  I used this "learning style" when I jumped into using #sblchat and #sbgchat in my classroom and revised and edited as I went.  

I have to understand that many people do not prefer my way of learning, in fact is scares the heck out of them.  It brings up interesting conversations especially around standards based learning/grading.  So, in light of all of this, I am going to go back to my beginning implementation of sbl/sbg and think about my beginning steps, revisions, etc...  and share here on my blog.  

Thanks for sharing my "failure" experience.


  1. I can't seem to download from that link. (Your percentages don't add up to 100%, so I was curious about that.)

    1. Hi Sue,
      I fixed the link, and thanks for questioning the percentage. The 16% for the Case Study was dispersed into the other domains and was part of those percentages. I'm not sure exactly how it works.

  2. thank you for sharing this. I am in my final days of prepping for this test, and am starting to doubt my preparedness!

    1. Hope you passed. I got my score today and I passed this time. The cards on quizlet made by others really helped

  3. Kristen, did you retake? How did you do?

    1. I have not done a re-take, but will be taking it June 2016.

  4. I passed written 1st time with no studying because there is a dearth of available study materials. I submitted 3 videos before passing. This was far and away the most difficult exam I've ever taken (and that includes the LSAT). The time pressure alone is unreal.The state and ETS/Praxis make sure it's so difficult that almost nobody passes. Superintendents admit that a majority of their principals couldn't pass it. need to feel badly.

    1. What study materials did you use?

  5. Actually, it's now Pearson that creates and oversees the testing.