A few weeks ago I wrote a blog on the grading policies in My Perfect School. That was on the division and weighting of summative and formative assessments in the classroom. I want to continue along this same path of other items that could and would be addressed in the grading policy of my perfect school.
Common Assessments. This topic has been all the rage in the five years I have been a teacher. I used to be for it but now I seeing how this is not a best practice. The idea of common assessments is that teachers of the same classes (Algebra, Biology, Government, etc.) would collaborate and create assessments that are exactly the same to each other. Generally this applies to summative assessments like unit test, exams and quizzes. The theory sounds good but the practice is fraught with problems.
The first problem comes with the fact that teaching style dictates assessment style. A teacher who teaches directly out of textbook will use the tests of the textbook. Someone teaches through discussion can assess through that same methodology. Assessment must match methods or visa versa.
The second issue I have is the path it takes education down. A common test means we must teach common material and facts (which I have no problem with). This can lead us to common lesson plans, planned down to even the day, hour and minute of a class period. It turns educators into cookie cutter teachers. It removes our academic freedom to be the teachers that make us great. This also kill flexibility of the teacher.
Thirdly, a lot emphasis in today’s educational atmosphere is on differentiation and multiple intelligences. If we have common assessments, where is the differentiation? We are now forcing all our diverse students to fit into the same mold. We are making cookie cutter students.
Lastly, I have heard this statement to many times when it comes to common assessments. “Let’s just use the questions out of the test bank that came with our books.” The book used in any class is a resource for learning not the end all be all of the content. Also that means I must now have my students read every page out of the book so they have a chance to pass the test. Its teaching to the book, not the objectives. Plus books, especially history books, have lots of errors in them and they never explain things as fully as they should. I wish they would take out the wasted paper used for section assessments and chapter reviews since that is not the purpose of a school text book, but that is a totally separate topic.
Personally, I have used an assessment model the last two years that has worked brilliantly. Common assessments will force my student to take tests that are not in any like the ways they are assessed on a daily basis in my class. My methods work too. My first year the typical multiple choice and matching tests got me students who would more often than not do poorly on them. Now I quiz on individual objectives with short answer questions. Almost all student pass the quizzes. My final exam my first year had an average score in the sixty percentile range. Last two years they have been in the eighties. Lastly, my students have told me time and time again that they like the assessments. Why should I have to change what work and is successful because other teachers don’t know how to assess accurately what the student knows? Also I don’t think my assessment methods should be forced on others.
In my perfect school common assessments would be a rare occurrence. The one thing that I might suggest as a possible required common assessment is projects in similar classes. Teachers of the same subject should have the same projects so that when a child transfers classes they have some assignments. Judged and graded in the exact same way.
I will address the idea of collaboration in my next Perfect School post because it is linked very closely to this topic. I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions. Have a nice day.