Sunday, August 19, 2007

Failing Students

Standing at the copier on Friday, a colleague showed me a test taken by a student in her class. This young man is identified as having learning disabilities and took a modified version of this math test with one-on-one support to ensure he understood the directions and questions. In spite of all of this, he earned a D. Her question to me was what to do. Should she accept that the modified test and extra support should have been enough and record the D?

I wasn't sure what to say to her. This question is one I have struggled with for years.

Finally I asked her if she thought he understood the concepts being tested. She said he didn't. My response then was that it doesn't matter how much the test was modified or how much support he was given or if he had the opportunity to take the test again. If he doesn't understand the material then the test is irrelevant. He needs to learn the concepts first.

The conversation brought me back to one of my biggest concerns in education today. We (teachers, students, parents, etc.) get so caught up in grades that we often lose sight of the actual learning. It doesn't really matter what grade a child earns; what matters is the depth of their understanding about the concepts.

If we know a child doesn't understand and hasn't learned something, what is the purpose of giving a test? Wouldn't our time be better spent teaching?


organized chaos said...

Fanstically well put. Why annecdotal notes become so powerful for assessments.

Karen Janowski said...

We need to have a conversation about this as I work with struggling learners and hate to see that the adult is still there reading the directions to the high school student. How can we help students become more independent? How can we help students like this one understand the material presented and get the concepts? A "D" serves only to demoralize and frustrate a student.
Have you read Dy/Dan's post on grading? Check it out.
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