Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Assessment vs. Kids

As the federal government requires that we give standardized reading and math tests to students from grade three on, our fabulous district has decided we should do the same for kindergarten through second grade. For reading, this is actually no change. We give the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) to every child in elementary school twice a year, at least. For math, our district created a standardized assessment for the youngest kids. So we know give a multiple choice and short answer Mathematical Reasoning Assessment (MRA) twice a year.

Recently our first grade team met together with our math coach to look at our results. We had a pretty good discussion about the data, identifying areas in which we need to think about our instruction and analyzing questions we thought they should know but didn't. Sometimes it's simply a matter of language (when it asks which fraction is shaded, it helps if our kids know the word shaded).

Several folks brought up the idea that our students, as first graders, don't do a lot of paper and pencil tasks and so had trouble with this. The reaction, immediately, was that we need to do more paper and pencil tasks.

I wanted to cry. Why isn't the reaction that we should work for an assessment that better fits our kids' needs. Why should they change to meet the assessment?

7 comments:

Jim Randolph said...

Oh don't even get me started. You're preaching to the choir. Are we professionals or not? Grrr....

Jan said...

Keep up the fight.

Unlimited said...

I think we were on the same wavelength on this day. I came home and had to sleep it off. Maddening. I want so much more for them. And us.

Techmuse said...

So hard....teachers learn to look for the easy solutions instead of the right solutions...and the system encourages it. So you have to decide whether to fight the system or go with the flow....
I guess your meetings need a new guideline--something that says "first we will imagine the ideal...then we will see how we can reach it."

pHanson said...

If only there was a different way to show understanding for those that missed particular standards. I can think of kiddos in my 5th grade that didn't meet the standard in reading but had demonstrated meeting the standard during the year. There just isn't any reconciliation for them. (one size fits some or most?)

That being said, pencil/paper isn't going away (even with an increase in tech usage- our state is moving towards computer testing), so doing more with paper and pencil isn't a bad thing... assuming it is done for the benefit of learning, and not testing.

Snippety Gibbet said...

Sometimes...well, make that often...I feel as though I am living ion some bizarro world. jan

Jenna said...

Interesting! We, too, administer standardized beginning and end of year assessments (BOYA, EOYA) in math that are paper and pencil, but perhaps the results are not met with the same credence. These tests are given in first through fifth grades, but, honestly, we do not do much with the results. They give only the most superficial of snapshots into the child's thinking.

All kindergartners are assessed with a clinical interview (Kathy Richardson/"Assessing Math Concepts" -- "Counting" Assessment, which examines one-to-one correspondence, recursively finding one more/one less, moving from concrete to abstract). We identify students in K - 2 that either performed poorly on the beginning of year assessment or are struggling in class (typically both), and administer more clinical interview assessments designed by Kathy Richardson. We use the results from these interviews/assessments to determine the structure of the intervention (differentiation techniques in-class, push-in, pull-out, etc.).

As a math coach, I love giving clinical interviews. I am able to learn so much more about the students' mathematical thinking and reasoning! Too often, my analysis of a paper and pencil test for young students (and older ones, too) involves a lot of guesswork. The major downside is that these assessments take TIME to administer. (Oh, and the recording sheets are expensive! But there are sneaky ways to dodge prices. I do not know of many sneaky ways to find 15 minutes for a one-on-one interview with a whole class of 1st graders in your care.)

I'd be interested to hear how the data from your assessments will be used. Is it focused on whole class trends or individual student needs? What do you do with this information? (Luckily, there's no wrong answer -- and you always have such a smart approach to your practice, Jenny!)