Thursday, October 29, 2009


The word of the 2009 - 2010 school year is assessment. If teachers can only figure out how to assess what their students know, they will be able to reach everyone and everyone will be able to go on to Harvard and get that PhD in astro-physics.

Of course I am exaggerating. No one cares if these kids get PhDs or even finish college. The only thing that matters is that they move through high school and keep those graduation statistics up. Assessment is just another word to make it look like the teacher is not doing his job.

Every teacher I have ever met assesses their students daily. They assess classwork, homework and exams. They assess body language and facial expressions. They know what their students comprehend and do not comprehend.

A good exam is one of the best ways to see what the student has learned. The teacher can not only check the answers but look at work and see they types of mistakes the student is making. Oh wait....our exams should be 70% multiple choice questions. Exams are supposed to mimic the regents exams from the first day of school. Almost everyone does this, partially out of fear and partially out of laziness. It is much easier to print and mark a few exam gen questions than to actually write your own questions and have to read over work and find the source of an error.

There are a few of us (very few) who disagree with this test model and we make our own exams, exams that cover what was taught and let us assess what was learned. When we mark papers we know exactly why the student is getting the question wrong and can work to correct the problem. We don't openly talk about these exams. We don't share them with others. But, we know what our students know without item analysis. We know what has to be retaught and what does not have to be retaught. Our regents stats might be lower but our students know more.

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