AICE Testing Advice from Dr.Little

Dr. Little sits at her desk working with a pen with an orange puffball on top. She smiles at the camera. She has two computers in the background.

Dr. Margaret Little took over as the AICE Coordinator upon Mrs. Ann Brandenberger’s retirement in the middle of the year. Most of the day she can be found in the front office, next to Mr. Johnson’s office.

It is that time of the school year where students begin to cram for testing throughout late April through mid-June. Many of these students are AICE students who have been challenged with rigor throughout the year and need a little pick me up to just make it through the final quarter of the school year. The 2020-2021 school year has subjected students to many challenges from hybrid learning, remote learning, quarantine, and many other complications. It is the final home stretch, and many students are exhausted. Dr. Margaret Little is the NPHS AICE Coordinator. Let us see what Dr. Little has to say regarding the testing season.  

So, I know you were teaching AICE Global Perspectives before being promoted to the AICE coordinator; what is the difference between the two jobs?

“As AICE coordinator, I have very different contact with students. Instead of seeing only my 150 students but seeing them daily, I have less regular contact, but I do get to know all the students who are in the AICE program, not just the ones who are in my class. It’s also a lot of organizational work instead of teaching lessons. But so far, I really enjoy it!”

What made you want to teach at North Port High School?

“I was teaching at Venice Middle School at the time when I interviewed for the job at NPHS as an English teacher and the color guard instructor for the marching band. I welcomed the opportunity to move to the high school level, which is where I really wanted to be, and to open a new school. I thought it would be fun. Those early years were more challenging than I expected, but seeing NPHS grow and develop as a school over the years has been a more rewarding experience than I ever could have anticipated. I’m proud of our school – I think we have great students and an amazing staff.”

Do you believe remote students have a disadvantage when compared to brick-and-mortar students when it comes to AICE testing?

“I do believe that most remote students are at a disadvantage. I just received my doctorate from a program that was completely online, so I know the challenges of online learning. Virtual school is difficult even when classes are designed to be completed via a computer. Cambridge syllabuses, in particular, are meant to be participatory and interactional, so students don’t build the same skills or develop the same depth of knowledge when they are learning from home. But I also don’t think that the hybrid model we have now is the best learning environment for our in-person students, either. Teacher attention is definitely divided, and the pair and teamwork that usually contributes greatly to student learning is happening much less frequently this year. Teachers and students are most definitely doing their absolute best within the conditions we are experiencing, but I do anticipate that our scores might be lower than usual across the board.”

What makes AICE testing so difficult?

“Cambridge assessments are particularly difficult for students because the essay format which Cambridge uses lends itself to assessments which require a depth of thought and understanding that other formats – like the multiple-choice or short answer questions which are used on state tests – do not. The AICE assessments I am most familiar with also require a level of both analysis and evaluation that is quite challenging. Students who do very well at absorbing knowledge and remembering facts or who have good test-taking skills such as successfully eliminating wrong answers will find that these skills do not help them very much on most of the AICE tests. It’s a completely different way of both learning and showing your knowledge. It takes time, effort, and genuine thought on the students’ part – not just doing the bare minimum to get assignments turned in – to build the skills of analysis and evaluation which are necessary to do well on the assessments.”

Do you have any advice for the students who are participating in AICE testing this school year?

“I really only have one piece of advice – give your schoolwork your full attention, whether you are doing it in school or at home, and work with intention. Don’t try to “entertain” yourself while doing assignments by listening to music or watching videos at the same time or multitasking. Really think about the skills you are building and monitor your own progress towards those Learning Intentions and Success Criteria your teacher has set for you. They are truly there so that you can see your own progress and know when you need to ask for help if you are not moving in the right direction. There are no shortcuts to success on AICE tests – you have to build skills all year long to do well.”

In conclusion, we are all in this home stretch together. Everyone wants to pass their classes and move onto greater things in life. We need to stay motivated and keep on trying. Everyone is trying to get students to do their absolute best, and that is all they ask. Dr. Little especially wants students to know that they are not alone. Support is available. Ask your Guidance Counselor, any teacher, or reach out to Dr. Little if you need advice.

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