Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Assessment Culture

This year, we have an early release (for students) on Wednesdays in full 5-day weeks.  Instead of seemingly countless half-days with professional development, we're getting an hour a week for about 26 or 27 of the weeks.  I prefer this....1/2 days are much less than half the value of a full day, whereas 5/6 of a day is just fine.

We're spending the first several ACE days (we call them) developing, re-working, aligning and evaluating our power standards, the set of 10 or 12 ├╝ber-standards that serve as an umbrella for our subject area grade-level-specific expressions of the state requirements (written as Essential Academic Learning Requirements, with appropriate Grade Level Expectations--at least they were called that; now that we signed on to the Common Core State Standards those names might change).

From these power standards we devise intermediate grade-level specific expressions of them.  From these we craft the daily learning targets, which we post everyday, along with the power standards...and with the intermediate standards...?  Wasn't clear to me.

Or, wait.  Another group was writing very specific power standards that weren't umbrella-like at all.  They were developing very specific power standards that already looked more like daily learning targets.  Boy, I don't want to have to figure out their intermediate standards.

We better hurry up and decide which it is, though.  We've got to get to work on the mini-assessment procedures we're going to undertake with these standards.  We must create some pre-assessments to establish a baseline and determine needs of students, and post-assessments to see whether the students gained.   In between we teach material in the standard we're assessing, and rely on a 3 or 4 question mini-test to give an accurate account of whether a student can, for instance, 'make a point clearly and effectively when writing.'

And just what do I have to post in my room?

(Yes, I understand the above could be a tangle of EdSpeak for those not accustomed to the hope was to give you a sense of the Byzantine reality of education.)

All that to say, there's a lot of assessment going on.  Some, but not all, of it is helpful to stimulate instruction, motivate students (some do like to challenge themselves to do well), identify needs, etc.

We do a lot of assessing, though.  Math takes it the hardest.  We have a district-wide test that we do 3 times a year.  Takes 2 days for math.  MSP has been cut back to 4 days, which is nice.  End-of-course exam--a new state requirement, a couple days.  Chapter tests.  10-12 mini-assessments.

That's 12 full days lost for state and district tests.  I don't know how many--8 or 10?--days for class tests. 20 days partially disrupted for mini-assessments.  (A 10 minute disruption has to be planned for.)

40 days? with some sort of assessing going on.  1 day every week.  That's a lot of assessing, and a lot of 'data.'  And all that data doesn't even match up (not expressed in compatible ways), or--sometimes--corroborate other data.  Just what are we to think of a student who fails math class, passes the end of course exam (probably the hardest of the 3), and fails the math MSP?

I'm sure there's an ├╝ber-standard for that.


Mat Baillargeon said...

Wow. My first reaction to this is with all of that information and assessment coming from different angles and being reviewed by different people, is there any immediate analysis of data that the teacher can use to modify his/her curriculum to help students in areas they are struggling? It seems as though at least some of these assessments are formative, but with so many being done throughout the year, is there enough time to really get a handle on the results of one assessment before the next one comes through? (

Andrew Milton said...

Some of them are indeed formative. We have to connect the formative to the parameters and expectations of the one summative (in Washington state we call it the Measurement of Student Progress) that matters. That's not always easily done.

What a lot of teachers end up doing is trying to fit their own class room assessments to what they know needs to get done for the big summative assessment. They get the assessment information they need that way.