Approaching end of Marking Period One

Fall is truly a great season and I might actually admit to liking it if winter wasn’t following directly behind.  If truth be told, the idea of winter is less appealing as the years go on and the blood gets thinner!  As we approach the end of marking period one, I wanted to share a few comments about our new assessment procedures.  We have progressed from a calendar that contained two high stakes tests – a mid-term and a final each worth 10% of the final grade (20% total)- to a calendar that incorporates quarterly assessments that are as much or more about student growth as they are about determining a grade.  These quarterly benchmarks  will start this week and finish after the break.  There will be two per day and each will last a double period.  Our focus this year includes developing performance based quarterly benchmarks which will provide one type of data used to determine a student’s overall academic progress.  Each of the quarterly benchmarks will contribute 5% to the overall final grade and while they will be visible in the Genesis gradebook, they will not show up separately on the report card.

Parents and students often question whether these types of assessments will be cumulative. If we are going to have any impact on the academic progress of our students, our assessments by nature will have to be cumulative for skills and knowledge.  A major focus is to move away from the cram and memorize type of test and strategically move toward incorporating the right amount of review, repetition and memory enhancement to ensure the ability to apply skills and knowledge.  In our work this year with formative assessments and reading how to “Make It Stick”,  we are studying the current research behind the science of true learning.  Some of the things we have discovered include that sometimes a level of difficulty can actually increase learning and the review of assessments and types of feedback provided are instrumental in supplementing student learning.  The whole idea of student directed learning is also powerful and I have already observed some terrific lessons during which the students become the driving force of the lesson and the teacher becomes facilitator – very exciting!

Our staff remains focused on the area of assessment and while this will be at least a 3 year initiative I am pleased with the types of discussions surrounding this topic and have seen some major enhancements in how we are utilizing formative data to evaluate student learning.

I will end with a quote from an absolute guru in education, Carol Ann Tomlinson…”I began by seeing assessment as judging performance, then as informing teaching, and finally as informing learning.  In reality, all those perspectives play a role in effective teaching.  The key is where we place the emphasis.”

Stay tuned!

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