In my Science Solutions series, I answer common questions I get from teachers.
In the good, the bad, and the ugly of education, assessment is usually seen as “the ugly”. In some ways, I agree with that, but we need to assess to check for understanding. Grades have always been something I struggle with. What do I grade? How often do I grade? Should I grade work students are still learning? How about reteaching and reassessing?
Based on a survey I recently conducted, many teachers are struggling with assessment like I am. It’s good to know I’m not alone.
In Texas, students are tested in 5th grade for science. It takes most students about 2 hours and their score tells the state, district, and administration if the students learned the content and skills they were supposed to and if I am an effective teacher. Yikes…no pressure or anything.
Because the students are held to a high standard in their state assessment, which tests their ability to use critical thinking skills as well as their content knowledge, I feel like I need to mimic this through my assessment of students throughout the year.
Here’s how I currently handle assessment:
1. Students take a standardized test called STAAR at the end of April.
2. The district requires that students take a district provided assessment for every unit. We have about 11 district assessments in a school year. My opinion is that the district assessments are for the most part more difficult than the STAAR itself. I modify the test for SPED students so it resembles the modified assessment they receive. The test is read aloud to SPED students because that is another accommodation they receive on the “real thing”.
3. Something new I am trying is Major Unit Assessments. Students are going to take a 22 question earth science test in January. The test has 2 questions for each 5th grade earth science standard and 1-2 questions for tested 3rd/4th earth science standards. Students are going to graph their data and assess their own learning. We will also work on goal setting.
4. On the weeks that students don’t take a district assessment, I give them a 10 question quiz on Friday that addresses the content they should have mastered that week. That quiz is used as a grade.
I use a variety of resources to write a 10 question multiple choice quiz. About half of the quiz includes questions that require basic understanding. The other half is higher level and requires much more thought. Since not all questions are originally written by me, I cannot give this away or sell it due to copyright.
Special education students receive the same quiz, but it is modified. Here are the differences:
1. There are 3 answer choices as opposed to 4.
2. The quiz is read aloud.
3. There may be an explanation of a term.
4. I use simple sentence structure.
Grading and Going Over the Quiz
It takes about 20 minutes to take the quiz since I read it aloud to some students in each class that receive the accommodation in their IEPs. When I’m done reading or if I have a special ed teacher in the room to read to students, I immediately score the quizzes. This goes pretty quickly…about 5-10 minutes at the most after all students are done.
I pull students who made below an 80 to meet with me while my other students work on an enrichment activity. I like to IMMEDIATELY address any issues students had with the quiz. Following district guidelines, the students who missed questions can correct their work for an 80.
I go over any commonly missed questions (usually 1-3) as a whole class. This gives students who met with me to go over the quiz another opportunity to discuss and explain their answers. I like to project the question and give students a chance to “turn and talk”. They discuss what the answer is and why. Then, we go over it as a whole class.
Handling Corrections and Grades
The majority of my 70 students make a B in my class. Maybe 10-15% make an A. If a student is making an A in my class, I have faith that he or she will score Advanced Performance on STAAR (a 90% or better). Quite a few make a C in science. With all of the opportunities given for improvement, no one should fail.
The weekly quiz and district assessments are graded. Notebooks are graded each quarter on a scale from 1-4 using the rubric provided to the students. I also grade mini-projects, stations, and other activities a few times a quarter.
I don’t give any extra credit. Ever.
I’m not sure what the answer is to handling assessment and grading. How do you assess students?