Posts tagged ‘Testing’

Grading in the 21st Century

“Life is an error-making and an error-correcting process, and nature in marking man’s papers will grade him for wisdom as measured both by survival and by the quality of life of those who survive.” by Jonas Salk

Tonight’s #21stedchat (Sundays @ 8:00 EST) topic is Grades and Grading in the 21st century. I have many mixed feelings about this topic and though through a reflection, I might be able to have more clarity of how I really feel. I know this is something that I can not change as it is based on the district and state policies but it is still worth thinking about as grading is always a ‘hot topic’ and it’s important to have an open mind.

My first thoughts are, I don’t think we should grade elementary school student’s. In elementary school we as educators are trying to build the foundation of skills so the students master reading and basic math. I think grades in elementary school turn off many students causing them low or no self confidences and is the start of ‘hating school’.

I think standards-based education is what our students need. Students require ongoing teaching and learning where each student can demonstrate mastery in Common Core standards. Using standard benchmark concepts and skills, will provide an alignment among classrooms and schools yet take away the added pressure of grades.

If we eliminated grades we could focus on true learning. Teaching and learning is a cycle that should measures student achievement through a variety of formats and assessments along with ensuring multiple opportunities for students to learn until they reach mastery. I think that students should be able to retake assessments until they show mastery. I understand some educators concerns that it is not ‘fair’ because those students that worked hard the first time, should not be ‘penalized’ but isn’t mastery what learning is all about and isn’t that what we want for all students? I heard a great quote recently, “Fair doesn’t necessarily mean equal” which fits this situation perfectly.

Portfolios, I am a huge fan of student portfolios and student goals. I think all students should have a portfolio and work at their speed. Growth is what we want to see in students, portfolios are a great way of doing this. Having student lead conferences are a great way to show their growth and lets the student take ownership of their own learning which is what we want to build within students.  Portfolios can have assessments within such as performance tasks or PBL, which can be ‘graded’ or can show mastery based on a rubric.

With all this grading talk we must talk about rubrics. Again, I have mixed feelings on rubrics. I like rubrics, I think they are a great way to grade fairly and set expectations. However, I think rubrics also stunt creativity sometimes and hinder students because they either know what they have to do to get by or they don’t think ‘out of the box’ because it is not in the rubric. I have come to the conclusion that like anything you need to have a good balance which is why sometimes I use rubrics and sometimes I don’t.

I think 21st century skills such as critically thinking, communicating, collaborating and creating can all be  assessed multiple ways no matter if you are using a grading system or not.

As you can see I have mixed feelings and am excited to learn tonight from others around the  world. If you can’t make the chat or missed it, I still would love to hear your thoughts.

Testing in my Ideal School

“Believing we can improve schooling with more tests is like believing you can make yourself grow taller by measuring your height.” Robert Schaeffer

This past week our students took our states summative tests (End of Grade- E.O.G) and what a long week it was. I hated seeing the anxiety level of the students because as much as we told them we just wanted them to try their best; they knew these tests were more than that. This really got me thinking about what I would want testing to look like in my ideal elementary school.

In my ideal school, I would have all the teachers and students keep a working portfolio (even more appealing…paperless portfolio)!  A students knowledge should not be based on just one day. I know I am a ‘bad’ test taker but that doesn’t mean I am not smart or that I don’t understand. Portfolios would eliminate that misconception that a standardized test gives. In the portfolios, I along with the students would place artifacts that showed growth in an area/subject. The artifacts could be common assessments, projects or presentations, anything the student or teacher wanted. I would also have the student keep their S.M.A.R.T goals in their portfolio as well. When the I  conferenced with the student on their progress and goals, I would keep the notes from the ongoing conferences. I believe that having portfolios like this would also make the students more accountable for their learning. Another advantage of  portfolios is that it is differentiated and teachers don’t have to ask all students to turn in the same kinds of work in order to show mastery.

In my ideal school, I would not have any timed tests. We are starting to get away from timing math facts in schools because we see the link between students anxiety and hating math. We also see that rote math skills does not prove understanding of math concepts, so what makes us think that it is any different with other subjects. I can easily memorize vocabulary for a test on a certain week but ask me the week after and I won’t remember the meanings. But if I apply the vocabulary words to something I have created such as a project, I will more likely remember the definitions. I would still give formal and informal assessments to guide my instruction based on the data. I would make common assessments one-on-one. This would allow the students to explain their thinking. Unlike multiple choice assessments, one-on-one would allow teachers to assess more than one objective at a time. In addition to this, I make sure the assessment were authentic.

Also in my ideal school, I would have the professional learning community (PLC’s/grade levels) meet and discuss students work, portfolios and common assessments weekly. During these meetings I, along with the team, would reflect on the rubrics and assessments we have created for the projects etc that are going in the students portfolios. We would also discuss students growth and if there was no growth interventions that we could put in place.

This is how testing would look in my ideal school, how about yours?

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