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Formative Assessment… Now what?

November 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Over the past two weeks I have had the pleasure of meeting with most EOC teachers to discuss the results of the 6-week benchmark tests and how the results will drive their instruction for the next 6 weeks. It is exciting to see that we are beginning to reframe our questions as we strive to achieve 17 of 17 targets and meet AYP.

pics for 11-2We are moving away from asking, “What labels do students have? to asking, “What are their interests and needs?” We are not looking at just what deficits students have, but we are also looking at what strengths our students bring to their classrooms. We are moving beyond thinking solely about questions such as, “How do we remediate?” We are starting to focus on how we can maximize access to the richest possible curriculum and instruction.

We are no longer simply asking, “How do we motivate?” but we are beginning to explore what it would it take to tap the motivation already within our learners. We are moving to the point that all of us are asking, “What circumstances maximize the student’s full possibilities?”

additional picsBy asking these questions, we are moving from the blame frame to exploration of potential for all kids. In her article “Deciding to Teach Them All,” Tomlinson (2003) outlines principles for fostering equity and excellence in academically diverse learners. I thought that this might be a quick reference for exploring ways to reach and teach all of our students now that we have the data about student performance for the first six weeks of school.

Good curriculum comes first. The teacher’s first job is always to ensure a coherent, important, inviting, and thoughtful curriculum. All tasks should respect each learner.

Every student deserves work that is focused on the essential knowledge, understanding, and skills targeted for the lesson. Every student should be required to think at a high level and should find his or her work interesting and powerful.

11-2When in doubt, teach up! Good instruction stretches learners. The best tasks are those that students find a little too difficult to complete comfortably. Be sure there’s a support system in place to facilitate the student’s success at a level that he or she doubted was attainable.

Use flexible grouping. Find ways and time for the class to work as a whole, for students to demonstrate competence alone, and for students to work with varied groups of peers. Using only one or two types of groups causes students to see themselves and one another in more limited ways, keeps the teacher from “auditioning” students in varied contexts, and limits potentially rich exchanges in the classroom.

Become an assessment junkie. Everything that a student says and does is a potential source of assessment data. Assessment should be an ongoing process, conducted in flexible but distinct stages, and it should maximize opportunities for each student to open the widest possible window on his or her learning.

more pics for 11-2Grade to reflect growth. The most we can ask of any person—and the least we ought to ask—is to be and become their best. The teacher’s job is to guide and support the learner in this endeavor. Grading should, in part, reflect a learner’s growth.

References

Tomlinson, C. A. (2003). Deciding to teach them all. Educational Leadership, 61(2), 6-11.

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