Sometimes, the most brilliant and intelligent minds do not shine in standardized tests because they do not have standardized minds.
In To Kill a Mockingbird, there is a remarkable scene in the second chapter that describes Scout’s first day of first grade. Scout recounts her teacher’s reaction when she learns that Scout can already read:
… as I read the alphabet a faint line appeared between her eyebrows, and after making me read most of My First Reader and the stock market quotations from The Mobile Register aloud, she discovered that I was literate and looked at me with more than faint distaste. Miss Caroline told me to tell my father not to teach me any more, it would interfere with my reading. (p. 31)
Scout goes on to explain that Miss Caroline’s new teaching method, one she learned in college, involved waving word cards at the students–the, cat, rat, man, you–for them to receive “impressionistic revelations in silence.” Later, on the playground, Scout encounters her brother, Jem, and explains in frustration, “If I didn’t have to stay I’d leave, Jem.”
Miss Caroline’s work with students was more about her teaching than about her students’ learning. Although To Kill a Mockingbird is a work of fiction, it is not too far removed from the realities of test preparation and ongoing assessment that are common in today’s classrooms. Consider the following story about Kim’s son Matthew, whose school experience in fourth grade provides an interesting illustration of how we might be teaching children not to care, and how that might work against us on standardized tests.
In his fourth-grade year, Matthew’s school in New York gave him a practice test at the beginning of the school year. He scored a four, which was a perfect score. In the second quarter of the same year, they gave him a second practice test over the same content, on which he scored a three. In the third quarter, they gave him yet another practice test, and he scored a two out of four on it.
Finally, toward the end of the year and close to the actual assessment, they administered a fourth practice test on which he bottomed out, scoring only one point. At this point, Kim had a conversation with Matthew to figure out what was going on. Matthew explained, “I don’t care about that stuff anymore, so I just bubbled in whatever.”
How might our efforts to improve student test performance actually cause them to perform more poorly? In what ways do testing and lifelong learning collide in the classroom?
This week we consider everyday assessments that can be useful for teachers and students. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Kim Yaris and Jan Burkins
Contributors, Choice Literacy
Kim Yaris and Jan Burkins are the writers and thinkers behind Burkins and Yaris — Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy, where their blog and their instructional resources have drawn a national audience. Their book Reading Wellness is available through Stenhouse Publishers.
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Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan describe seven different strategies they’ve seen in schools for fostering more collaboration among teachers assessing students:
Megan Ginther found she was spending too much time responding to student writing and taking on too much of the responsibility for improvement. She tackled the issue by developing a new program for peer evaluation of student writing:
Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts share a simple mantra for assessing what to keep and what to leave out in designing units of study:
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Katie DiCesare shares the process of having her first graders choose their literacy goals, and her role in helping them refine goals through observation and conferring:
Katherine Sokolowski revises the weekly reflection form her fifth graders use to ensure everyone is tracking goals, progress, and expectations:
In A Place to Belong, Andrea Smith reflects on preparing to say goodbye to students and her teaching partner of many years. If you have a favorite colleague who is retiring, you may want to get a hankie ready before you read this one:
New PD2Go: Katie Doherty talks about the links between strategy lessons and book club work in her sixth-grade classroom. Katie also sits in on a book club discussion and shares an assessment tool:
This video and workshop guide fulfill Common Core State Standard ELA-Literacy.SL.6.1a: Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
Justin Stygles describes the four crucial components of effective assessment:
That’s all for this week!