On Tuesdays, the writing community at Two Writing Teachers hosts the Slice of Life. Everyone is welcome to join in by writing, commenting, or just reading slices from around the world!
I have been participating in a district think tank about assessment over the last couple of months. Today, we had a six hour meeting to try to develop a brochure that communicates, articulates, and condenses our beliefs about balanced assessment. Integrating the work of other institutions and districts, I love the concept of balancing growth and achievement, and the other elementary educators and I developed bullets to support this concept, crafting statements about balanced assessment.
Our bullets align to my beliefs about assessment--that we assess for three basic reasons: to make instructional decisions, to determine whether students have learned the objectives, and to hold ourselves (and be held) accountable for student achievement.
And yet, the experience that I had with my own daughters who are high school students are gnawing at me as I reflect on the work and the thinking that we did today. Conceptually, I believe that assessment is a cornerstone to education, right there along with curriculum and instruction in a rock solid triangle. And, I believe that great assessment leads to great learning, driving instructional decisions and curriculum development/revision.
But what about college? Assessment also creates GPAs. At any college admission information presentation, the presenter talks about the rigor and the overall performance as important factors in potential acceptance. How do we get around the fact that assessments create GPAs, and in competitive high schools, GPAs are important components of college applications? Do we count formative assessments into GPAs? Within our conference room of teacher leaders, we did not have consensus. Some teachers do count formative assessment, while others use it only to provide information to students about how they are doing. If they don't average formative assessment into reported grades, should students who reach targets more quickly receive higher grades? Do high quality assessment practices lend themselves to 100 point grading scales, or should we be thinking about reporting meeting and not meeting standards? But then, how would that serve students as they apply to highly selective colleges and universities?
I was so proud of the work we accomplished this morning--of the clarity of our bullets that explain balanced assessment. However, the complexities and questions that surround assessment overwhelm me as I think about communicating these ideas and visions to the rest of the community. The more I think about it, the more questions I have. Oh dear.