Thursday, March 6, 2014

Feeling Opinionated

Testing season is approaching.  It doesn't really affect me that much, since I teach a senior level elective course, but it bothers me to see our kids over tested and stressing out about their grades.  

Fifty question, multiple choice, scantron tests with one correct answer and a number grade at the end. This in NO way measures the qualities that are so important in our society - compassion, empathy, resilience, curiosity, or resourcefulness.   

Think about an adult, when is the last time you took a multiple choice test with only one correct answer?  However, how many times each day are you presented with a problem that you must solve? And when you solve these problems, you use all available resources and people, correct?  Everything involves collaboration, problem solving, and working together.  Life requires you to look at specific problems or challenges and develop a plan of action.  

For example, your administration tells you to incorporate the SAMR model into your classroom lesson design.  What do you do?  Google SAMR and ask a friend or someone that may know more about it to help or give you suggestions.  Try the lesson, reflect on it, and make adjustments for next time.  You didn’t get a grade on that, right?  There was not one right way to do this.

Maybe my biggest concern isn’t necessarily the testing itself, although that is a problem, maybe I am more concerned with the grading.  This is what I question:

     Student gets a 10 question quiz to see if a skill has been mastered. 
     Student receives a 50 on the quiz - he obviously doesn’t understand. 
     The 50 goes in the gradebook. 

In some cases, the student wants to know why he made a 50 and will actually ask some friends or the educator how they solved the problem.  Some kids just don’t care that they received a 50 and thats the end of it. And really, why does every kid have to take the same quiz in the first place?

What if, instead of that 50 going in the gradebook as a finalized grade, what if that same student can come back and show you that he can solve those problems now and understands what he did wrong. Should that 50 stand?  What does that grade even represent...the fact that he didn’t know what you wanted him to know on the day you wanted him to know it? 

How do we individualize education while being forced to put a number grade in for each kid?  And these same kids are competing for college and careers based somewhat on their GPA. Those grades are important to them, but what do they truly represent? 

I can help my kids learn how to think, problem solve, and be resourceful, but my state mandated curriculum wants me to teach them facts and vocabulary.  The state wants me to assign each of them a numerical grade at the end of the school year that represents what they have learned. What if my kids have learned outstanding collaboration skills, the ability to communicate their needs professionally, and the ability to look at a problem in an innovative way, but haven't memorized the biological properties of the excretory system?

What about a student that goes from doing absolutely nothing and not submitting any work at all to the one that is excited about designing a lab to test an idea he thought of in class?  While this student might not be an A student, should we not be measuring the growth of the individual instead of where he is compared to someone else?

I am really not complaining here, just thinking out loud.  I love my school and being in the classroom with 150 students who motivate me everyday to think outside the box.  I really want a system that works for them, but I don’t know what that might look like.  It would be cool if all my kids would show up each day to do something fantastic just because they wanted to, not because they wanted to maintain their GPA.

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