Most students’ mastery of standards is measured during state testing periods, but as teachers we need to be aware of students’ progress toward standards long before that time. In my case, my students will not be taking a standardized test to measure their mastery of the standards, so practicing standards-based assessment (HOPE principle P3) is even more critical. In order to ensure our students are meeting the goals that have been set for their grade level, we must both align our teaching to those standards and adequately measure students’ developing mastery of that skill or ability. Finding appropriate ways to measure their progress is critical. Thankfully, the widespread adoption of Common Core State Standards allow teachers from across many states to share evaluative resources. A quick Google search of the standard to be assessed can bring multiple pages of options for ways to assess students’ progress.
Our math curriculum, My Math, is useful in that it links every lesson (Image 1) and quick check (exit ticket) (Image 2) to a standard, then breaks down the post-assessment by which problems assess which standard. In literacy, assessments are broken down into each component that addresses a standard. For example, a research paragraph can measure multiple writing standards as well as some language standards, so each applicable component will be given a score measuring progress toward mastery. This allows us to key in on each standard that is being measured and appropriately track students’ understanding in each area. This also allows us to see which areas still require more data in order to better represent the students’ knowledge. Going back and revisiting standards introduced previously allows us the ability to measure student retention of concepts, as well. Students benefit from this data collection in that we have sufficient information on which standards most students have mastered and which ones should be revisited or retaught in order to improve student understanding.
P1 – Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction. Using questions in the classroom can help students think about what they are learning and how it applies to the world outside of the classroom. It can also help students better understand the processes and complexities involved in a concept. When I observed Mrs. L’s 4th grade class on September 16, I realized what a key role questions played in getting students thinking.
When listening to her line of questioning, I found that she hardly ever let a closed question rest. In math, there are typically only “right or wrong” answers, but Mrs. L has them explain their thoughts behind it. The students are shown a problem and asked to respond on mini white boards, as shown in Images 1, 2, and 3. If their work is not shown, it is considered wrong. This technique gives her immediate feedback on where individual students might be struggling, which she tracks on note paper for reference when there is time to conference with her math students or to better plan instruction.
Having the students explain their work also allows Mrs. L to know which key pieces might be missing from their overall understanding of the concept.
Before this summer, I thought that formal assessment such as quizzes and tests would be the best measure of student progress. When I read about the many informal formative assessment methods, I thought they might feel out-of-place and forced. Seeing similar strategies at work in a classroom make the idea of formative assessment less intimidating. Simply asking students to go deeper into content is an excellent way to get them thinking critically and to make sure they are understanding the content.