Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Not My Bandwagon

My school is completely on the common assessment bandwagon. My team spent half an hour this morning (not an immense amount of time, I know, but still...) creating a common assessment for our major first quarter math standards.

One teacher recommended three questions/activities to do one-on-one with students, in an interview format. I balked. Not because I disagreed. I completely agree. In fact, I've done two of those questions/activities with my students already. I balked because I'm not convinced that, as a common assessment for this purpose, it is worth the time involved.

This has been on the back of my mind all day. I, like many, many other teachers, do a lot of interview type of assessment. When I work with students I am asking them questions, listening as they explain how they worked through a problem, or simply observing their process. As I do so I am gaining a lot of assessment data. A lot.

But that's not common. I don't mean it's not something a lot of teachers do. It is. I mean it's not a standard assessment that all seven classroom teachers on my first grade team can do. It's not even standard for all seventeen kids in my classroom. It's constantly changing and adapting based on the student.

So, in addition to that constant assessment I now have to do a 'common assessment' with my team. We could use a really quick assessment but we want something that will actually give us meaningful information. That requires, typically, something that is a bit more time intensive.

We have to do a pre-assessment and a post-assessment each quarter. (We are allowed to do more. Isn't that generous?) A quarter is nine weeks long. A meaningful assessment in first grade very likely requires that I administer it individually or in small groups. That means it will take several days, possibly a week. So now I'm spending close to two of my nine weeks assessing my students in this formal manner. That's time I lose from small group or individual instruction.

I'm simply not convinced that this is worth the time we are investing in it.

And don't even get me started on common pacing.


Anonymous said...

Good teaching begs constant assessment and feedback to and from the learner.

I wonder about the purpose of common assessments as you describe them. Are you expecting too much for/from them? "We could use a really quick assessment but we want something that will actually give us meaningful information."

When you go to the doctor, you can count on certain measurements being made - weight, blood pressure, temperature - regardless of why you are there. The data are important over time, are easy enough to collect, and serve the purpose as a set of universal screenings of sort. It's the deep study your doctor does based on the reason you are there that gives the most "meaningful information," though. That's also the part the doctor does herself and it takes the most amount of actual time on task.

So, are your common assessments intended to be the deep study or the quick check or a combination? Form follows function, so be clear on your function!

Jill Fisch said...

We are moving in that general direction. I feel your pain as I am trying to wrap my head around all of this, too. I am so overwhelmed, worried and just plain busy that I can't even compose my thoughts here. I guess I just wanted you to know you are not alone.


luckeyfrog said...

My old school had 3 week assessments. Someone found that 4 question assessments are considered statistically enough questions to give you an indication of mastery. Sometimes, it was- and it kept the assessments quick to take and grade. Other times, four was far from enough.

We had extra staff to help with assessing, though. I'm with you- data is great, but it's great if we can use it to drive instruction. When the testing starts taking over too much of that instruction time, what are we even getting the data for?

Is there a way to combine 2 classes for an activity occasionally, so that you can let one teacher be assessing while the other teaches an extra-big group? Can you let parents do any of the assessments? I hope you find a solution!

Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

Maria Jamella said...

Assessment is an important tool in knowing how our students learn from the lesson. Though there are a lot of assessment methods and tools available, still there is no perfect tool for all our students. Assessment varies depending on our students progress...

Jenny said...

Becky, your analogy has given me a lot to think about. Thank you for that. I plan to share it with my teammates at our next meeting and see what we can bat around to flesh out our thinking about the purpose and possibilities with these assessments.

Jill, it is always good to hear that one is not alone!

Luckeyfrog, looking at different ways of conducting these assessments isn't something we've thought about. It is worth our time to discuss. Thanks.

Maria, I think you've hit on part of what's bothering me here. We're not able to differentiate and adapt in ways that are meaningful to our students if we are all giving the exact same assessment in the exact same way at the exact same time to every child.