A Pain in my Assessment

Hey y’all, it’s been a while. I miss writing. I mostly miss having time for writing. I keep thinking, if I can just get to the next quarter I’ll be able to breathe. I doubt it though.

This year has been fun. But it has been pretty rough. Writing a curriculum as you go is hard. Doing that plus having one core class (science) to teach every day is even harder. Breaking hard headedness and apathy has become a huge focus of my day,  and that is exhausting emotionally and mentally. All this exhaustion steams from one thing though. Grades. Grading. Assessments.

This year our district has a mandatory grading scale. This has never been something we have worried about. No
matter my frustrations I’ve had at my school over the years, the admin has always trusted us to make grades fair and reflective of learning in our classroom. Majority of coworkers and I rarely give homework because kids were not doing it and the zeros were causing us to grade on laziness and apathy instead of learning. But now we can give homework to kids every night and they could make only zeroes and it would barely make a difference in their grade. But the opposite is happening. They kids are working hard in class but their grades do not reflect it.

Here is the grading scale: Classwork/Homework is worth 20%, Assessments 70%, and 9 weeks benchmark test 10%. Makes sense. Grades based on students learning the standards, not doing work. But it’s not helping. It’s literally killing me and my students. Here is why:

1. Kids blow off tests. I know assessments aren’t always tests but many of them are. When the are 3 units during a 9 weeks,  you have 3 tests plus other activities but most done after standard has been learned so not much time to this, not that many things can be done. My students do not associate what they learned with tests. It’s the most insane thing I’ve ever experienced. We can sit and talk about causes tides or Google strategies all day long but I ask about it on a multiple choice test and no clue. Because it’s on a test. And it wasn’t asked the exact same way as a study guide was. So kids bomb a test or two. The moment that happens, the grade a dropped to a point the kid can no longer bring the grade up to desired grade. Yes test says that they don’t know the standard but we all know how that isn’t always accurate.

2. There is more to learning and school than just standards. Questioning skills, problem solving, learning to work together, and digital citizenship are so important. In the past I made these part of my grading system. Not negatively, kids did not fail because they couldn’t get along with others but if kids worked hard on something and during that learning part of a standard has occured, but not mastery. So it goes into that 20%, and the more I put into that 20%, the less value it holds.

3. Grading on mastery means grading on correctness. When you are fighting apathy and a power struggle there isn’t much correctness to grade. For example in my science class I had a lab that focused on a standard.  At the end of class on the last day of lab, I asked them to turn it in before leaving. 12 of my 28 did not turn it in.  For days I begged for them. Still waiting on 6 and it’s been 7 weeks.  Last week my tech class was struggling with a search strategies activity. So I stood in front of the class and said “ok let’s walk through this together…” told them exactly what to write for the first part hoping it would be a starting point. Pulled the whole “let’s all stop what we are doing and write this together,” and told them the answer. Of my 120 students, 43 did that. Did same thing on the test for it. Gave the answer,  maybe 1/8 wrote it. I let them put all the answers to the test on a “reference card” and no one used it. This whole apathy and ‘I know this without you’ attitude has completely drained me.

4. Again,  grading mastery means grading correctness. I’m swimming in rubrics, tests,  and kids work. I can’t get it done. Parents are bombarding me mad bc kids grades so I spend and free time (maybe 15 min of my off period) calling, meeting, or emailing them back instead of grading papers that could help with accurate grades. 140 is a lot of kids.

5. I take my students grades personally and my hands are tied. This hurts.

6. In science I don’t get to choose the benchmark 9 weeks test and have no idea what the questions will be. So I don’t know if I’ve prepared them. Or science standards are kinda vague.

7. Grading morals is rough. In my tech class our focus had been on digital citizenship. But if hate speech or stealing are not things they think are wrong offline, how do I assess cyberbullying and plagiarism? That one is bugging me.

8. No room for failure and the learning that comes with it.

Ok I feel better getting all of this my chest. I hope I find a life raft soon. Once digital citizenship is done, my tech class will be almost 100% project based so that will help. I hope. If not, I hope someone knows CPR.

3 thoughts on “A Pain in my Assessment

  1. Amanda,

    I can feel your frustration. First, I do think it is healthy that you shared this. It does get it off your chest. Second, your effort and care can be seen in this post. Some would have already given up or simply thrown their arms in the air.

    I’m surprised that your district is putting so much emphasis on assessments. I’m a believer in the process not necessarily the results. It appears your district is putting it’s “eggs” on results. I realize this may not be changed this year, but do you believe it could be changed in the future?

    Finally, I agree with this comment, “There is more to learning and school than just standards. Questioning skills, problem solving, learning to work together, and digital citizenship are so important.” To me this is the process, this is what matters. I think you understand that, and because of this you will find a way to help your students succeed.

    Wishing you the best,
    -Ben

  2. You have summed up a lot of my recent frustrations in class! We are at the end of the quarter this week, and many of the long-term assessments are coming to a head. Student apathy is starting to have a big impact on their grades as everything MUST be completed this week.

    You very succinctly put into words what I have been seeing with assessments in #1 as well. It is hard to understand why students get a question wrong on a test, but can answer it for you in person just fine. I’ve been trying to move to testing for mastery in my classes (students retake quizzes with different questions until they get them all right), and the last step in their retakes is explaining to me verbally the correct answer to their mistakes. It seems to help, but does not cut down on the work load or class time for testing.

    Know that you are not alone!

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