Monday, December 6, 2010

The folly of implementation

Grades and tests bring with them a phenomenally eerie superstitious fear factor. Until we empty our assessment closets of our grading skeletons, reform to assessment will continue to be like adding hydrogen to the Hindenburg.

In other words, every minute we spend trying to figure out how to grade better is another minute we don't spend asking why are we grading in the first place. If we spend all our time figuring out implementation, we will continue to "improve" school by changing nothing.


  1. Just the other day, a visitor asked why my students didn't seem scared when taking a test. It was a traditional math test, I suppose - three word problems followed by a paragraph describing their process and a few sentences telling me where they think they need help.

    I ask my students, in the middle of this test, "Why am I making you take a test?"

    They all responded, "So that you can know who needs help in what areas next week."

    I'm not entirely opposed to tests (though I would prefer to get rid of them and just use student work as my assessment - we are forced to give tests) as long as students know that the tests aren't for a "final grade." Once this happens, they breath a little easier and the fear subsides.

  2. I understand the compromise teachers can make on this issue. I still have projects that look "like" tests but aren't really tests.

    I get the pressure teachers are under to have kids do some of the same things the previous generation did in school.

    However, I fear that when it comes to tests and grades, far more teachers have been pummeled into submission and have given up the fight. I know too many teachers who simply refuse to speak up and tell their story.

    Instead, they close their door and teach in seclusion - hoping they can be left alone to make a difference with their students.

  3. John - I agree with your assessment that when students know the test aren't for a "final grade" they breath a little easier.

    When I was still in the classroom my students had to do "test like" assignments but when it came to final grade they could show their level of learning any way they saw fit.

    Unfortunately, I still had to assign a final grade, but I felt like this worked for me and, more importantly, my students.


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