Take a look at this slide that she shared where we could compare schools of the past to where we want schools of the present to be.
We could talk about each row and comparison, but I want to focus on the last line. ↑ That one right up there. In the past, assessment happened through written tests and exams and learning was only assessed by the teacher. But now, assessment should be taking many different forms. Students should be assessing themselves, each other, as well as teachers and specialists assessing them. And while it says that assessment should be more of a mastery based assessment of skills, I am wondering if we have truly moved away from content-based assessment? This would be a good time to stop reading this post and do a little self assessment of your assessment process. Are you still focused on content and does your assessment take the form of written tests? Or have you redesigned and rethought your assessment process?
Here's another slide from Julie's keynote...
There are many great changes that I see on this slide. Moving from knowing to learning. Being focused on asking questions as opposed to having answers. Being comfortable with embracing risk as opposed to mitigating risk. And you know I love the idea of pushing back instead of trying not to rock the boat. But since we are focused on assessment in this post, let's zoom in on the beautiful idea of "prioritize what we value and figure out how to assess it." Seems a little strange to be saying that as we are about to begin several weeks of standardized testing. To me, it seems like MCAS and accountability and scores and press releases and everything that is tied into standardized testing fits more in the box associated with "value and prioritize what we assess." Even if we as educators recognize that each child is more than an ELA or math MCAS score, everyone else sure seems to put a whole lot of value into what we are assessing. Changing the structure around standardized testing is certainly biting off more than any of us can chew. But shifting the assessment paradigm in our classrooms...well that is a manageable bite that we can all sink our teeth into, don't you think?
We need to ask ourselves...what do we value? And then once we know that, how do we assess it? I feel like this is a good time to drop in one of the quotes that we started our year off with...
This is a statement that we all agreed on. I would say it's something we value and try to live each day at our school. Stop and think about how you can apply this statement to how you assess your students. Think about the power in a simple action such as maybe deciding to assess kids in a different way. What ripple effect could you be creating?
I have a story from when I was a high school biology teacher that I think might demonstrate what I am talking about. I was young, fresh out of college, and found myself in a private school, assigned to teaching 10th graders biology. Most of these kids were ones who either chose not to take this class as freshman or who weren't able to because they were behind in their academics. Basically...they weren't exactly the class that was going to light the world on fire. Or at least that was what most of the faculty thought. I saw them differently. And there was one student in particular who I knew was going to be my biggest project. Chandler was a nice kid, a little goofy, but for the most part, a good kid. But there was one major problem with Chandler. He was a 10th grader who could not read. I am not really sure how he got to 10th grade with so few reading strategies and practically no confidence in himself with reading. Looking back now, I am fairly certain he was dyslexic and never diagnosed and never really given interventions. It was a private school and people paid a lot of money so I think teachers simply got him through. I was certainly not going to be able to teach him to read, but I could tell that he loved science and he was a good artist. After the first assessment that I gave him and he failed miserably, I started to think of a different way for him to show me what he was learning...because he was definitely engaged and eagerly soaking up what we were learning. But on the written test...the only way I thought I was able to assess kids...he could not read the questions and then he struggled to write out his answers. What did I value? I valued kids getting excited about science and eagerly participating in labs and discussions. Did I value exam scores and students simply spitting information back to me? Not really. So I decided that he would be assessed in a different way. We came up with a way to do a combination of him orally explaining his answers as well as him drawing diagrams and pictures to show his learning. At the end of the year, one of the most popular memories that many students reflected on was when we were studying cell organelles and Chandler had cooked blueberry pancakes and served them to the class as he discussed the function of the Golgi apparatus. After teaching biology for a few years, I moved to Massachusetts from Virginia, but I often got updates on former students. Guess what? Chandler went on to study marine biology. He had to first do some work at a local community college and I think he actually did get some tutoring help with reading, but I was so happy to learn that his learning struggles did not get in the way of him studying what he loved.
That story happened over twenty years ago, and yet we still have assessments that don't fit with how we are trying to do education now. Look at the 5 success factors for change shared by Julie Wilson. Number 5: we need a complete overhaul of the assessment structure of learning and school performance. Twenty years ago, within my own classroom, I was trying to start that overhaul process.
The last chart I want to share with you did not come from the keynote presentation. But I kept thinking of it as I was listening to Julie speak. It's one of the three columns that Katie Novak shared with us during our introduction to Universal Design for Learning. It has to do with engagement and the "why" of learning.
When you look at the goal at the bottom...our ultimate goal is we want learners who are purposeful and motivated. If we stick with the assessment system of the past, written exams, failing grades, only one way to assess, we are going to have a very hard time getting all of our students to reach that goal. We need to figure out how to increase mastery-oriented feedback. And we need to be helping our students develop self assessment and reflection skills. (This is also something that we as adults need a lot of work on for ourselves!)
While the small but mighty group of educators that make up our school probably cannot do much in terms of shifting the standardized testing paradigm, we do have quite a bit that we can do in terms of the rest of assessing that we do in our classrooms. How can we make assessment meaningful and something that is helping us create purposeful, motivated learners?
This weekend I have been trying to find little pockets of time to read...mainly to finish up the many books I have going at the same time. I had taken a break from but just started listening again to Becoming by Michelle Obama. Honestly listening to her is nice distraction where I can pretend our current national reality is not happening!
I am still trying to get myself through the book Dry; two thirds of the way through and still no water for the characters. This is an interesting but tough book to read.
At the end of this week, I am presenting at MRA and book talking a whole bunch of books. So it's important that I finish reading The Super Life of Ben Braver since that is one of the many books I will be talking about. And I am sure after I attend the reading conference at the end of this week...I will have some more new book titles to read and share with you!
Monday - End of term 3, Dr. McCall and Mr. Berlo meeting with Liz @ Mayo 10:30, School Committee building tour at 3:30, Girls on the Run 3:45
Tuesday - 4th grade ELA MCAS, Liz @ central office for meeting 2:30, K-2 ELL Science Club
Wednesday - Staff Meeting @ 8:00, 4th grade ELA MCAS, Some staff at S3 Academy grant work in Marlborough, 3-5 ELL Science Club, Patty giving new family tour @ 4:00
Thursday - Liz Garden and teachers at MRA Conference in Quincy
Friday - Liz Garden and teachers at MRA Conference in Quincy, Patty out of the building in the afternoon
Great things I noticed last week:
- I popped into library in time to hear Mr. Hacket reading a favorite...The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors.
- Gordon Korman's visit to Mayo was such a great experience! I was so proud of all of our students for the amazing questions they asked and how engaged they were in the discussions about his books.
- Thanks to the Holden Fire Department and EMTs who came to welcome kids on High Five Friday!
- 5th Grade Spaghetti Supper was a success! The wait staff did an excellent job. A big thanks to Lock 50 for donating the entire meal!
Check it out:
Check out this short video clip about the idea of delayed grading, giving kids a chance to try out the learning process, build confidence, and motivate them to grow:
Love this resource I found! 53 ways to check for understanding:
I appreciate this teacher's honest response to standardized testing: https://www.boredteachers.com/community-posts/the-lie-behind-standardized-testing?fbclid=IwAR0vK_9-WvDzVtDjifCkTQ1xO-wHj2tewP61yBoap20dNAhtS9GxwjzGRgA