Orientation to Assessment

An oldie but a goodie

For one of our new teacher’s orientation sessions, our school went over the school’s beliefs on assessment – what it is and how it should be conducted.  Oddly, I found this session very intriguing and was quite excited to learn about the school’s assessment structure.  The gist of it was that assessment is ‘of’ learning and that assessment should inform whether the students have achieved the learning objectives or not.  I wanted to share the below notes I took before I launch into the book.  A lot of the ideas are from the book, ‘A Repair Kit for Grading:  Fifteen Fixes for Broken Grades’ by Ken O’Connor.  

  1. Don’t include student behavior in grades – use effort grade instead

One of my co-workers said to me at one of the schools I taught at – I just can’t give him an ‘A’ because he is so disruptive in class!  I totally understood where that teacher was coming from but a grade is (or should be) a reflection of the student’s achievement not how they behave in class.  

1.  Don’t use extra credit or bonus points

The extra credit system disrupts the practice of accurately reporting whether a student has mastered all the learning objectives or not.  Even if a student put in extra 20 hours of work, if that student still does not understand what prime factorization is (or whatever the learning object/standard is) then they haven’t mastered the objective.  

2.  Tests can’t include a bonus ‘challenge’ question

So our school’s grading system isn’t the traditional A, B, C… (I really love that we don’t use this!) but we report on whether the students are achieving the standards required for that level or extending above the standards.  So, we were kindly told that including a bonus challenge question on a test to give a student an opportunity to get a ‘grade’ above the standard achievement level defeats the purpose of the whole assessment system.  A student can’t demonstrate that their mastery level is beyond the expected standard with just one or two bonus question.  This should have been demonstrated during class – formative assesmsent as well as summative.  

3.  Don’t use group scores in grades!

I think this one’s an obvious one.  We can’t punish a student with a lower grade because that student was paired up with a buddy who is not willing to do any work.  Also, it’s just not an accurate reflection of their achievement.

4.  Gradebook – shouldn’t be – quiz 1, quiz 2, homework etc. – it should be standard-based (learning goals) – set up gradebook accurately

In other words, the final grade isn’t going to be a mere average of all the quizzes and tests.  It’ll be based on their mastery.

5.  Don’t include 0% in grades – messes up the grading

6.  Don’t rely on the mean – consider other measures of central tendency and use professional judgment. (mean, median, mode) – def should have a clear process of grading

7.  Don’t summarize evidence accumulated over time when learning is developmental and will grow with time and repeated opportunities – emphasize more recent achievement.  (Have they achieved the standard?)

This is a little irrelevant to math but I think will apply more to subjects like literacy.  You can’t average out a grade by counting what the student wrote at the beginning of the year.  The student’s writing should have progressed and the last piece of work is where the student is at with writing.  For math, the curriculum I have jumps from topic to topic so the students will be assessed on each topic and will be assessed separately.  The report card supports this for math – which means, there isn’t going to be one single grade for math.  

8.  Don’t reduce marks on work submitted late! – The consequence for not doing your work is doing your work.

This was quite hilarious as I know that some students just don’t care about grades and would not do the work because they don’t want to.  But, the school policy is that the students just have to do it – and that’s the consequence!  Again, marking down a grade for late work will mess up the accuracy of the report.  

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