Sunday, April 1, 2018

Choose Your Own Assessment - "Functional but Hideous"

I am in the process of getting back to standards based learning and grading in my math classes.

Back in November of 2012 I wrote this post on Grading Irony which is a great reminder of the power of a zero in the grade book.  It also reminded me that an overall test score provides little information to me and my students on their actual understanding of mathematics.

My transition back into the classroom has had it's ups and downs.  The one thing I know for certain is that I am extremely happy to be back with students.  Back in November, I wrote about a few constraints I'm dealing with Click Here so my shifts right now are small.

In the article "Teaching in BETA" by Jennifer Gonzales, I love the explanation by Joel Lee "the beta phase begins when a product propels from 'functional but hideous' to 'polished and ready to go.' Bugs are hunted down and fixed, features are improved or revamped for maximum usability, the interface and graphics receive an overhaul, and performance issues are optimized."

I have been in BETA all year as I work to innovate my math teaching one baby step at a time.  This is my first, ugly, baby step back into standards based learning.  This however, is more about standards based grading.  As I said baby steps so I at least begin the process.

The assessment I gave on circles was my "functional but hideous" first attempt to journey back to standards based grading in my math classes.  It was a first step and overall it was successful in helping students experience assessment in a different way.  Here is what I did and what I created:

The Functional Part:
  1. Gather Resources 
    • Common Core Math Standards 
    • Our district common assessment is the Topic 11 Test in Pearson Digits
    • Illustrative Mathematics 7th Grade  - Unit 3 Circles - Click Here
  2. Go through the problems and create tiers:
    • "C" problems: Click Here all students must do EVERY Problem 
    • "B" problems: Click Here if you want to get a B you need to do 3 of the 5 problems
    • "A" problems: Click Here if you want to get an A you need to do 1 of the 3 problems
What happened and what I noticed:
    • Some of my students who had not passed a test all year EASILY earned a C by successfully completing the "C" test
    • Students started taking risks because they knew they had the "C" and tried the "B" and "A" problems knowing they would not be punished if they missed them.
    • Students did more/extra problems because they wanted to make sure they got the right number correct.
The Hideous Part:
    • If it were truly standards based, the tests would not be titled according to the grades "C", "B", and "A".  Since it is so late in the year, this is how I labeled them.  This will change to something that does not connect to a grade but a rubric score or a description.  It will involve student input and a lengthy discussion about what is a grade?
    • Although these assessments will provide the students with more specific feedback on the standards they mastered and the ones they did not, this is not the level of specific feedback I am working towards.  I want to get back to standards check off sheets where the students take the feedback and track their understanding of each standard.
    • As I continue this process through the end of the year, I will provide more specific feedback to students and experiment so that I can start the next school year with an assessment that will truly guide student learning and proof of understanding.
This is something that will probably stay ugly and hideous for a while as the students and I work together to make learning and assessment about proof of understanding and not about a meaningless grade.

This process will become one of my math #eduprotocols that will drive learning and instruction in my math classroom. I will continue to share my process and shift here on my blog.