It's Time to Take an Assessment Journey!

This network has tons of practical examples of Assessment FOR Learning, great insights into Standards Based Learning concepts, and even a bunch of Sports Analogies to help educators apply sound assessment philosophy to their classrooms.  But how can school leaders and teachers help lead assessment change in their schools and systems?

Pawel Nazarewicz (Salem High Math Teacher) and I (Scott Habeeb, Salem High Principal) wrote this article for the Fall 2016 issue of Virginia Educational Leadership to help administrators and teachers lead determine their assessment needs and then lead assessment journeys in their schools.

It's Time to Take an Assessment Journey

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  • Hi Justin,

    Thanks for the feedback. Yes - your question gets to the core of what is math education and like you mention, currently in the United States, math education is much more about being able to correctly simplify expressions and solve equations than any sort of meaningful application. Most standardized tests (at the lower level) focus almost exclusively on isolated skills (like factoring a polynomial or graphing a line). This is a shame.

    At Salem, we are taking steps away from that (a group of us is reading Jo Boaler's "Mathematical Mindset") toward more meaningful multi-day problem solving. I know that this will change the way we assess students. That said, there are some skills that students need to automatize (like basic division and variable isolation) so they don't get in a way of thinking about more complex problems.

    We have a way to go, but as a math department, we think we are on the right track.

           -- Pawel

  • What a great article, Scott and Pawel. I love the idea of an assessment journey, that had never occurred to me before. I have taken teachers on assessment journeys before and it definitely takes lots of time and support. Beyond that, though, it takes reviewing one's planning process in general, as assessment cannot be fixed in isolation. And that is where I kind of lost Pawel, seeing that his grading basically depends on testing. Testing rarely gives a student or a teacher a clear idea of how a student can apply specific concepts to real life situations to solve problems - problems that need that specific math concept to be solved. And I would say that is a better definition of mastery than being able to do well on a test. I have found that when there is an authentic context for the concept, and the application speaks to the student in some way, then it is natural for the student to focus his or her attention on mastery, on learning. Points seem, well, pointless in this situation. This is because the math becomes a means to a greater end, it becomes the vehicle through which the student can present a meaningful product to a determined audience - an audience that feels the identified problem. I have also found that by doing this, both students and teachers forget about effort and punctuality and similar factors that you both correctly identified as irrelevant to assessing mastery. This is because when a student presents a mediocre product to the target audience, nobody is thinking about how the student deserves a decent grade because of the great effort put forth. Like you say in the article, it is useless to push teachers towards the implementation of a new policy, but that is what may end up happening for some teachers when learning isn't contextualized. 

    Please keep these articles coming!

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