Posts Tagged “Assessment”

[note: this was originally posted April 30, 2008 -- back when I apparently used to blog more often. I'm resuscitating it as part of a #edublogBT meme begun by Jon Becker]

All this talk about writing, grade books, and “the unthinking habits of grading” has given me so much to think about. My mind is swimming.

The thing is, I think about this stuff all the time. It is only recently, after reading hoards of comments and postings (and all the bits in between) that I begin to understand my naivety. Or is it ignorance? (Hint: not everyone thinks about this stuff all the time.)


First, a bit of background, for the sake of context

I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and attended Catholic, publicly funded schools. The teachers I had, with two notable exceptions1, all used criterion-referenced assessment to grade my work. I always (other than with the two notable exceptions) knew how I was being graded, even if they did average my scores and turn them into percentages. I graduated from an unusual work-at-your-own-pace high school in 1992.2

After completing an English Lit degree on the West coast, I entered Education. I did not realize at the time (1997) that the program I was in was progressive compared to most Ed programs out there. Thinking, ignorantly, that what I learned was what all teachers-to-be learned, I eagerly entered the world of K-12 education, armed with what I thought was Everything A Beginning Teacher Should Know.

One Epiphany (of many)

Fast-forward to 2001: I entered the realm of international education, working at an MYP school. Before this moment, what I knew about MYP could have filled an ant’s mouth. Sitting in an MYP training session, my then-mentor flashed the subject-specific criteria for Language A (MYP’s equivalent to English Language Arts) on a projector screen.

Thought #1: “Hey, that’s cool! That’s the same criteria my grade 7 teacher used to grade my writing, and it’s the same criteria I have always used to assess student work.”

[insert hmms and haws of other training participants here, as they ponder the criteria on the screen]

Thought #2: “Wait… doesn’t everyone use this?”

It wasn’t long after Thought #2 occurred that I learned the answer: No, not everyone is using this. Plenty of conversation and interaction with my then-colleagues (from various backgrounds in education, as expected in an international setting) taught me that what I had taken for granted my entire (short) life was indeed not “the norm.”

The Interim and a Confession

Over the past 7 years, plenty more colleagues, students, and their parents have shown me that other ways of assessing are indeed rife and plentiful. Just yesterday I engaged in three different conversations with three different families about this very topic (parent conferences were timely). Witness a verbatim quote from one of those discussions:

“Wow, this is so different from what we’re used to. You mean you want your students to come show you their work before they finish? You won’t take points off?”

[I won't even get into the connotations implied by the use of the words "want", "before", and "points."]

Don’t get me wrong — I do not think the same way about this issue as I did 10 or even 3 years ago. I have learned more than I can express on this small page about how to assess meaningfully. I have spent many, many teacher days fantasizing about not assessing at all, and like Dana Huff, I still have those days. I am guilty, in past years, of assigning my students the most boring five-paragraph essay you’ve ever read, just so I could be bored to death reading it and they could be bored to death writing it.

A Question … and Answers?

I have offered some of my thoughts about assessment before — indeed, the reason I initially began this blog was to reflect on what I was learning in an IBO PD course on MYP Objectives and Assessment. Now, having learned so much, I feel my philosophy of assessment is still evolving, and I do think long and hard about why I assess my students’ work and how I do it.

(And, please know that I mention MYP only because I feel it is one of the best educational systems out there for student learning. Is it the only one? No. Are there others that do the same? Yes. Is it just about best practice? Yes.)

So here’s the thing: I know there are other methods of assessment. I know about them well enough because I took the required courses in university, and I have seen them used in classrooms. But here’s what I still don’t understand — and please don’t mistake this for a rhetorical question:

Why are we still using them? (Do they facilitate learning?)

I’m starting, today, with just this question about criterion-referenced assessment, but know that I’m not limiting my thoughts to only this aspect of assessment. I anticipate that those thoughts — and more questions — will follow as my assessment philosophy further evolves.


Mid-evolution

So far, here is what I believe. Assessment is…

  • primarily for learning; the assessment of learning is secondary.
  • real and not “fabricated” just to put a number on a paper or in a box.
  • goal-focused, and those goals should be based on where the students are at in their learning.
  • varied, with a wide variety of opportunities given for students to reach their goals.
  • frequent and woven into every aspect of what we do, while we are learning. (I am uncomfortable with the thought of students being either too excited or filled with dread at the mention of assessment; I want my students to see assessment as something we do all the time.)
  • part of the natural learning process, not something tacked onto the end.
  • not driven by reporting terms, boxes that need to be filled, administrative software, or any other nonsense that has nothing to do with the learner.
  • applied when needed for learning, and not at calendar dates specified a year in advance.

1Okay, so really it was three notable exceptions. And they were notable because they were exceptionally bad teachers. I’m not naming names, it’s water under the bridge, yadda-yadda-yadda — and the truth is I learned many life lessons from these poor teachers.

2The dates are important, because I refuse to believe that the concept of criterion-referenced assessment is “new” and “progressive“. The dates, although applicable only to my personal experience and not bodies of research, further give credence to my personal belief that education is painfully, mind-bogglingly slow to change.

Photo Credits: Nice Hat by cwalkatron; Question mark by Leo Reynolds

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Many of you who follow me on Twitter know that besides being an teacher dedicated to MYP and international education in general, I am a yogini. I have been studying yoga for only about 4 years, but in January 2008 I made a choice to get really serious about it (if you’re curious about the story behind that decision, IM me or Tweet me and I will share with you, as it was very much an “a-ha” moment). Since making that decision — only a little more than a year ago — I have learned so much about yoga, meditation, the human body, and myself — all dimensions of myself, including physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual.  To say that yoga has been transformational for me would be just beginning to describe the journey I’ve been on. It has been, and continues to be, a tremendously rewarding learning experience in the most holistic way imaginable. All aspects of myself are addressed through yoga. And believe me, this was not how I intended it to be. I began to take yoga seriously more or less because I wanted to do something physical and to feel strong. Yet, my practice has evolved into something so much deeper and more meaningful than just the physical asanas.

One of the many wonderful teachers I have had the pleasure of working with is Twee Merrigan. Twee is a dynamic and focused teacher whose openness and generosity is not only overflowing, but infectious. Her energy is genuine, and she wants her students to be genuine, too. I think this is what I appreciate most about Twee — that she expects you to be no one other than who you are. However, Twee recognizes that sometimes things get out of balance. And, let’s face it: things are often out of balance for various reasons.

Let’s look at education for a minute. (Not forgetting, of course, that this is an education blog, first and foremost!) One of the reasons I began this blog was an effort to balance some inequities I saw that were unaddressed in The System:

  • the unfairness of some prevalent methods of assessment and grading practices
  • the treatment of viewing and speaking skills as secondary to reading and writing
  • the lack of access to technology in schools, or — even worse — the use of abundantly available technology being used to “do” teaching and learning the way we did 15 or even 5 years ago, despite the fact that our world has changed
  • the lack of student choice in “standard” classrooms, being primarily driven by choices made by curriculum, teachers’ backgrounds, or admin decisions

 

Twee has recently written about how to, in the words of The Doors, “Break on through to the other side.” She suggests we re-name Global Warming and Economic Crisis to Global Balancing and Economic Re-alignment. Think about this for a minute. This is really what we are trying to do: we are trying to balance everything in the world.

 

 

 

So my question of the moment is this: How do we re-align education? 

My initial response is, “I have no idea.” My second response is, “I have a thousand ideas!” And then I get overwhelmed — out of balance again. 

Secondary questions, beneath the “How do we re-align education?” umbrella are:

  • Can we re-align education? or does it have to be completely re-designed — that is, do we have to throw it all away and start all over?
  • What parts of education need the most alignment attention? Is it the issues of academic vs. creative knowledge, as Ken Robinson emphasizes in Out of Our Minds? Or is it something else?
Thus ends my initial post on how I hope to approach education issues: with the hope of re-aligning and putting things in balance. I don’t profess to have any answers — only more questions. But please feel free to post your own ideas in comments. Or Tweet ‘em to me. :)

 

And stay tuned… 

 

Image Credits:

 

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I was reading a recent post on Bridging Differences about assessment, and in particular, testing. I respect Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch greatly, and will take a short minute first to say that if you’re an educator and you don’t follow their epistolary-style blog, you really should.  Anyway, the post is about testing and the need for data in schools.  Deborah talks about how to address the “data problem” and how teachers can (and should) avoid turning their classrooms into testing settings. 


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I always read posts like these with only half-interest, I must admit. Why? Because I am philsophically opposed to standardized testing, particularly as it is used in American schools. Where I am from (Canada), standardized tests are linked directly to curriculum and used in an entirely different manner. I had no idea what US-style standardized tests were about until I moved overseas and began having conversations with my American colleagues. They later took on a whole new meaning for me when I had to write one myself: the GRE was required for applying to my top choice graduate schools. Ugh! I learned very quickly in my preparation that these kinds of standardized tests have nothing whatsoever to do with teaching and learning.

I’ve been lucky, I guess, that I’ve also never had to teach in a school where standardized testing has been emphasized. In Canada, my students wrote mandatory government exams in grades 3, 6, 9, and 12 (or 4, 7, and 10, and 12 in B.C.) — but again, these are always connected to the provincial curriculum. And my students wrote the Canadian Achievement Tests in grade 7, but schools never used this to “pin” teachers. In fact, such tests (in my experience) were never about the teachers at all. Schools I taught in used the CAT to help identify students who might need learning support, or a gifted & talented program. And such is the way international schools I have worked in have used standardized tests like the ITBS and the ISA.


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Internationally, I have only ever taught at MYP schools. And this comment, left on the Bridging Differences post I mention above, is one of the reasons why:

To get the kind of reliabillity that a multiple choice test delivers, the kids would have to spend a week to answer all the open-ended response questions, rather than the hour or two that the multiple choice test takes.

The writer of this comment, ceolaf (who leaves no URL with his/her comment), wrote a lengthy explanation as to why we need, whether we like them or not, some kind of standardized test because of the reliability issue. He further states: 

The failure of THOSE tests that we hate does not in any way prove the superiority of our assessments. Our assessments have their own flaws.

I have two things to say in response to these two bits:

  1. I beg to differ.  And, 
  2. This is why I love MYP.
MYP assessment, while certainly not perfect, is doing exactly what the ceolaf’s first comment implies: they are project-based, for the most part, and so they DO have that kind of reliability. Our students are taking a week (if not longer) to “answer” (I prefer the word “respond to”) oodles of open-ended questions. Further, they are criterion-referenced, with specific descriptors for each criterion and each task so that the student knows exactly where s/he fits on the achievement level. And, as if that’s not enough — in MYP, no single assessment is an indicator of a student’s achievement! As teachers, we must see multiple pieces of evidence before we can report on a student’s achievement.
 

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Lest you start thinking, “Wait a minute. So the teachers are doing everything? Doesn’t that make it unreliable?” allow me to go on. In MYP, although teachers are adapting given criteria (set out in each subject guide) to be grade-specific and task-specific, we are not left to our own devices, so to speak, to assess our students randomly or unchecked. About two-thirds of the way through each school year, we send our Grade 10 work (Grade 10 is the last year of MYP, year 5 of MYP) to be moderated by a complete stranger, also an educator, somewhere else in the world. The moderator’s job: to make sure that the assessments we are doing, as teachers, is in-line with the standards set by the IBO world-wide.

 

Of course, all of what I’ve said above is really the nutshell version. It’s slightly more complicated than what I’ve described here (yes, there is paperwork and there are discussions, and more), but this is the quick-and-dirty explanation that basically emphasizes one of the many reasons I love MYP: We assess for learning, and of learning, and in ways that *are* reliable but don’t rely on tests!  And that is completely in-line with my philosophy.

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I’ve tweeted it before, last time back in June:

I regularly ask my students to reflect on their work and our class in general. Embedded in this reflection task is my not-so-subtle request for feedback on how I’m doing as a teacher: Are you learning something? If so, what?

… and I hope that the answer is something along the lines of what I think I’ve been teaching. Honestly, the response usually is, and so I give myself a pat on the back and move on.

But every time – and I do mean every time – I ask my students for feedback, I get at least one surprise, sometimes several. In fact, now that I think about it, I realize that perhaps this is the main reason I continue to ask my students for “please-may-I-get-inside-your-head” feedback: because my students (especially the middle-schoolers) always surprise me, and I get such a thrill from it. I mean, yes – I am asking for feedback to inform and guide my teaching. Everything from next week to next year is considered and reconsidered as I chart, graph, and make notes about what my students have said. But sometimes I am merely charmed by the simplicity and honesty of my students comments. Further than that – and this is when it really gets good – is when I’m challenged by them.

My mid-year feedback and reflection requests are very open and not at all numerical, incidentally. I allow students to respond in any number of words, in a Zoomerang online survey with an open text box. You can see here what my questions look like.

Note that if you’d like to see an entire sample survey, check one out here – you’ll have to fill something in the boxes to get past each page but don’t worry; I’m pretty sure I’ll know you’re not one of my middle-schoolers!

I’ll share some examples from the most recent batches, submitted this week, as we roll into the second quarter of our school year at UNIS Hanoi. First, Rebecca in 7th grade, who knows what she is getting from English class, as she responds to my first sentence-starter, What I have definitely learned this quarter is…

I learned how to write good blogs by using textual evidence and refering to what the author is doing. When i read ‘Dragons Gate’ in class learned alot about how hard it was when the chinese had to go work in America and how it affected their lives.  When doing DLAs i have also learned important grammar rules like when you are talking about a book or a movie, play that is named you have to either put it in italics or underline it.

(You’ll notice that I’ve typed Rebecca’s comments “as is.”) Not only is Rebecca able to articulate what she’s getting out of our English class (remarkably concise for a 7th-grader!), but she obviously also knows herself as a learner and she decided to share this tidbit with me, too, when prompted with Other thoughts I have that will help Ms. Michetti help me to learn:

I am a visual learner and i find it hard to learn things or understand things when they are presented in large blocks of text.

Initially, I was concerned about this and wondered what that meant for learning in our classroom (by nature of the subject area, rather text-heavy). A conversation with a different Rebecca (@FrznGuru, a member of my PLN on Twitter) made me realize I needed to chat with Grade-7-Rebecca to find out what her reason was for including this tidbit of info:

So I chatted with Grade-7-Rebecca. Turns out, she’s not bothered by the amount of text in our class; she was quite open in telling me that she’s having no problems in English A class with our texts, but wanted me to know for any “future projects or things like that” so that I could help her by giving her visual cues. Fair enough!

My primary concern was wondering how to help a visual learner in a course where the strands of writing, listening, reading, speaking, and representing are also important, but Rebecca seemed to understand this quite well and knew that although reading and writing might not be her strengths, she needs to work on them. We ended up having a thorough (and useful, at least for me) conversation about learning in English class.

Other than Rebecca’s generous comments, I get plenty of tidbits from students offering suggestions, which I note, as to how I can help them and others learn more in class, such as these articulate ones:

Other thoughts I have that will help you helpme learn, are having reading classes. I really enjoy them, and it is nice to take a short break once in a while. We are then ready to learn after having a short break.

And:

I think spending a bit more time explaining what you need to do for blogging in the unit, such as the fact that you need to post your roles on the blog before each meeting would help me understand the unit quicker.

Both of the above examples are comments I appreciate very much because they are reminders of the finer aspects of my teaching I need to be mindful of as I plan.

Ah, but what about those comments that really make me go, “Hmmmm”? Next, an example of a student who challenges me to do more:

I think we should do more activities that are off our bums! I want to move more in english, and play games. I’m sure more people would like that too :) It’s also a really entertaining way to learn! I also think that we could interact with more groups of people. If we get to talk with our friends it MIGHT (yes, I’m saying MIGHT) make us feel like English is more enjoyable, so we will look forward to it more than we already do! :)

So now I understand that perhaps in our first quarter, for this student, we weren’t doing enough to physically move around and socialize. And I’m already thinking, How can we move around more in our next unit, and beyond? These are the kinds of comments I love because they really do challenge me to reflect on my own practice and make changes to adapt to my students’ needs.
Other gems I appreciate are the comments where one of my students tells me that what they’ve learned this quarter isn’t in fact related to any of our curriculum content, but rather is about how they learn or why we learn. Some examples:

I have defenitly learned how to properly blog and reflect in this unit. I have also learned that when your in a group or group work going for one thing that you should make sure that your all on the same page or else if you contradict that person then the person that is assessing you they might see that your not prepared.

And this one from Grade 8:
In this quarter I feel that i have really got a better understanding of the topic theme: ‘Identity and Belonging’. I also feel that I have also learned more about myself in a sense that I have gotten to appreciate books such as ‘The Outsiders’ more.

Of course there are always the “Life is so hard” adolescent whinges here and there, like this one from Grade 9, in response to the sentence starter “What I don’t like about this class is…:

I didn’t like that we did not read the book, Animal farm, very often in class even though we were expected to read it at home

And again from Grade 9:

that it still is work.

But despite even these comments, I certainly find that the surveys I get from my students help guide me as a facilitator of their learning. I feel I not only have a better pulse on each of my classes, but I’m challenged to think of ways to reach each student that perhaps I would not have thought without their input.

And so, I’ll continue to solicit their feedback! However, I think next time I do, I might change the way I do things and take Kevin‘s advice about using GoogleDocs Forms. Thanks, Kevin!  And of course, thanks to all my students for their honest and detailed feedback — especially Rebecca, who agreed to have me write about our conversation and her comments!

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So, I’ve been reading a few things about blogging. And I’ve been reading a few things about writing. And I’ve been reading a few things about both blogging and writing, and I’m starting to think I’m missing something. Or need clarification, at the very least.

I’m going to keep this philosophical, much like my assessment post a while back.

First, a question:

If (text-based)1 blogging is a kind of writing, then aren’t all bloggers writers?

And now, the statements:

  1. I (foolishly, perhaps) believe that all my students can become good writers2 of some kind.
  2. I therefore believe that all my students should try their hand at blogging, just as I believe all my students should try writing poetry, maybe a short story, a personal narrative, an e-mail, and oodles of other writing types.
  3. I do not believe a great writing teacher needs to be a great writer; he / she simply needs to “know the ropes” and be great teacher, period.
  4. I therefore believe a great blogging teacher does not need to be a “master blogger”, but that he / she just needs to know how it works, and be a great teacher, period.

And finally, more questions:

  • Those of you out there who use blogs with your students, how do you use them?
  • Do you assess them? If so, how?
  • And if you don’t use blogs with your students, why not?

The background

I am changing (quite drastically) the way I use blogs with my students for the remainder of this school year, and next. And so, I’m looking for ideas and anecdotal feedback… errr.. feed-forward… from those who have walked this path before me. :)

1Of course, the visual-types of blogs aren’t really writing, but a different kind of communication

2I define the term “good writer” as one who creates “good writing.” And for the definition of “good writing,” I turn to one of my most influential mentors in both teaching and writing, Carl Leggo, who once stated, “Good writing gets the job done. It works.” I should also note that I have different definitions of “great writing” and other comparative terms.


Photo credits: You can almost see the grass grow by aussiegall; How to Grow a Blog by teachandlearn (licensed under CC 2.0 Generic)

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All this talk about writing, grade books, and “the unthinking habits of grading” has given me so much to think about. My mind is swimming.

The thing is, I think about this stuff all the time. It is only recently, after reading hoards of comments and postings (and all the bits in between) that I begin to understand my naivety. Or is it ignorance? (Hint: not everyone thinks about this stuff all the time.)


First, a bit of background, for the sake of context

I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and attended Catholic, publicly funded schools. The teachers I had, with two notable exceptions1, all used criterion-referenced assessment to grade my work. I always (other than with the two notable exceptions) knew how I was being graded, even if they did average my scores and turn them into percentages. I graduated from an unusual work-at-your-own-pace high school in 1992.2

After completing an English Lit degree on the West coast, I entered Education. I did not realize at the time (1997) that the program I was in was progressive compared to most Ed programs out there. Thinking, ignorantly, that what I learned was what all teachers-to-be learned, I eagerly entered the world of K-12 education, armed with what I thought was Everything A Beginning Teacher Should Know.

One Epiphany (of many)

Fast-forward to 2001: I entered the realm of international education, working at an MYP school. Before this moment, what I knew about MYP could have filled an ant’s mouth. Sitting in an MYP training session, my then-mentor flashed the subject-specific criteria for Language A (MYP’s equivalent to English Language Arts) on a projector screen.

Thought #1: “Hey, that’s cool! That’s the same criteria my grade 7 teacher used to grade my writing, and it’s the same criteria I have always used to assess student work.”

[insert hmms and haws of other training participants here, as they ponder the criteria on the screen]

Thought #2: “Wait… doesn’t everyone use this?”

It wasn’t long after Thought #2 occurred that I learned the answer: No, not everyone is using this. Plenty of conversation and interaction with my then-colleagues (from various backgrounds in education, as expected in an international setting) taught me that what I had taken for granted my entire (short) life was indeed not “the norm.”

The Interim and a Confession

Over the past 7 years, plenty more colleagues, students, and their parents have shown me that other ways of assessing are indeed rife and plentiful. Just yesterday I engaged in three different conversations with three different families about this very topic (parent conferences were timely). Witness a verbatim quote from one of those discussions:

“Wow, this is so different from what we’re used to. You mean you want your students to come show you their work before they finish? You won’t take points off?”

[I won't even get into the connotations implied by the use of the words "want", "before", and "points."]

Don’t get me wrong — I do not think the same way about this issue as I did 10 or even 3 years ago. I have learned more than I can express on this small page about how to assess meaningfully. I have spent many, many teacher days fantasizing about not assessing at all, and like Dana Huff, I still have those days. I am guilty, in past years, of assigning my students the most boring five-paragraph essay you’ve ever read, just so I could be bored to death reading it and they could be bored to death writing it.

A Question … and Answers?

I have offered some of my thoughts about assessment before — indeed, the reason I initially began this blog was to reflect on what I was learning in an IBO PD course on MYP Objectives and Assessment. Now, having learned so much, I feel my philosophy of assessment is still evolving, and I do think long and hard about why I assess my students’ work and how I do it.

(And, please know that I mention MYP only because I feel it is one of the best educational systems out there for student learning. Is it the only one? No. Are there others that do the same? Yes. Is it just about best practice? Yes.)

So here’s the thing: I know there are other methods of assessment. I know about them well enough because I took the required courses in university, and I have seen them used in classrooms. But here’s what I still don’t understand — and please don’t mistake this for a rhetorical question:

Why are we still using them? (Do they facilitate learning?)

I’m starting, today, with just this question about criterion-referenced assessment, but know that I’m not limiting my thoughts to only this aspect of assessment. I anticipate that those thoughts — and more questions — will follow as my assessment philosophy further evolves.


Mid-evolution

So far, here is what I believe. Assessment is…

  • primarily for learning; the assessment of learning is secondary.
  • real and not “fabricated” just to put a number on a paper or in a box.
  • goal-focused, and those goals should be based on where the students are at in their learning.
  • varied, with a wide variety of opportunities given for students to reach their goals.
  • frequent and woven into every aspect of what we do, while we are learning. (I am uncomfortable with the thought of students being either too excited or filled with dread at the mention of assessment; I want my students to see assessment as something we do all the time.)
  • part of the natural learning process, not something tacked onto the end.
  • not driven by reporting terms, boxes that need to be filled, administrative software, or any other nonsense that has nothing to do with the learner.
  • applied when needed for learning, and not at calendar dates specified a year in advance.

1Okay, so really it was three notable exceptions. And they were notable because they were exceptionally bad teachers. I’m not naming names, it’s water under the bridge, yadda-yadda-yadda — and the truth is I learned many life lessons from these poor teachers.

2The dates are important, because I refuse to believe that the concept of criterion-referenced assessment is “new” and “progressive“. The dates, although applicable only to my personal experience and not bodies of research, further give credence to my personal belief that education is painfully, mind-bogglingly slow to change.

Photo Credits: Nice Hat by cwalkatron; Question mark by Leo Reynolds

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My reports were due this morning at 8:30.  They’re not done.  And they probably won’t be until Monday.  There, that’s my confession.  Actually, I’m not feeling any guilt about this but it is surprising how many teachers I’ve mentioned this to in the last 24 hours who have responded with a gasp of surprise.

“Really?  When are you gonna do them?”

The truth is I will probably get them all done this weekend, but not because I think they should be done this weekend.  I’ll get them done this weekend because someone is telling me they have to get done.  And thus, I must ask, Is this a good reason to write reports?  Just because they “have to be done”?  We are writing them because it is an appropriate time for the organization (i.e., the school) but is it an appropriate time for our students?

Fact:  right now, on this date, is not an appropriate time for me to be giving grades for every student.  Some kids are having difficulty figuring out what’s been happening in our new unit.  Others are right smack-dab in the middle of a major autobiographical writing assignment.  And others have hardly given me enough evidence for me to arrive at a grade.

About a month ago I was considering sending home a handful (maybe 10) progress reports on some of my students — some reporting good news, others reporting the not-so-good, or some changes.  I was warned that a progress report, because it goes into the students’ permanent file, was “too serious” for reporting on some of the things that I had wanted to say.  Too serious?  So, like, where should I report it, then? 

Option A: wait until the quarter report (i.e., now)

Option B: send an e-mail / call parents (less formal, just a heads-up but not “written in stone”)

Option C: write the report anyway

I chose Option C, primarily because I felt that at that moment was the appropriate time to let parents know how their child was doing. 

So now I have all this marking and reporting looming in front of me, and I’m sad that all of it is just to arrive at a number to go in a box on a piece of paper.  There are days that I fantasize about teaching and learning without formal assessment.  I know it’s completely unrealistic and that learning must be guided by assessment (I KNOW this), but sometimes I like to fantasize.  Can you forgive this Piscean dreamer teacher?

 And on that note, I will now immerse myself in Twelfth Night stage ideas (pretty funny), original short stories (some funny, some sad, most good), and drawings of Roald Dahl characters (absolutely hilarious).  At least it will be interesting!

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