From guest blogger, Dr. David M. Schmittou
So many numbers!
35 students in one class. 70 standards to teach. 180 school days. Teaching is so much more than just numbers, but numbers can tell a powerful story.
Many numbers are overused – scale values, RIT points, standard deviations, percentiles, percentages and value-added measures, numbers that are often used by those responsible as final data, but are often rejected by real change agents working in the classroom. Due to the fact that so many “experts” intervene to fill the data gap in so many schools with numbers that many of us do not understand, do not appreciate and do not appreciate, we have often over-simplified our own confidence in more readily available ones Data in our own schools.
Crisis lessons & grading
In spring 2020, many classrooms introduced pass-fail and credit-no-credit guidelines to reduce the burden on students and staff. At the same time, practically every country in America has decided to take a break at the end of the year-end estimates to focus more on anecdotal records and teacher feedback that many of us have asked for since the turn of the century. What we often forget is that the only reason we have high marks in our schools is that many policy makers feel that teachers are often struggling to get an honest and reflective picture of student learning and growth convey if they left it up to their own actions over the past two decades to spend billions of dollars for others to collect data for them. The belief is that as educators we are inherently optimistic and believe in both our ability to teach and our students’ wishes to improve. We often have a bias bias that causes us to often exceed our standards of success.
Regardless of whether you had a credit / non-credit policy or were submitting grades based on rubrics, letters, or percentiles, I ask you how sure you are that the numbers assigned to your students at the end of the past school year are based on them Based on your own observations and the collection of evidence for students, do you reflect exactly what your students know, can, or deal with? As the parent of four children who have studied from home for three months, I will honestly say that a large part of what my own children received recognition for was the result of what their 42-year-old father (I) knew and was able to help them produce. I heard from other educators who said that “not all children were so lucky. Those who did not have the same level of “support” were often less successful at learning from home than at school. “Much of this may be related to issues of justice related to digital access and the financial divide, but I also wonder how much of it was actually an honest reflection of student independence, also known as what the students were actually able to do alone in other words, an accurate reflection of learning.
Unlike many other numbers that we place too much emphasis on in schools, number three is perhaps the least used. Three blows and you’re out. Three outs and your team sits down. You play and you poke. Three branches of government. Three sides to the strongest form. Three folds into one chord. Three data points for triangulating a theory. Three is a powerful but largely untapped number in our schools.
Make numbers meaningful
Now let me throw in to find out that I firmly believe in masterful teaching. I believe that standards-based grading is a crucial component to help students find the highest levels of academic growth and learning, but I am not advocating this in this post. It can serve as a starting point and building block, but the end result does not have to be a complete conversion of your evaluation scales or certificates. Instead, the goal is simpler and frankly more difficult and important. I am looking for honest and accurate reporting on student learning. I am looking for objective feedback based on reliable and consistent evidence.
Although many of us have tried to simplify your class reporting mechanisms over the past school year, as is the case with many systems, this spring has exacerbated many of our current shortcomings and struggles. In particular, one and finished is not enough. We often complain when our students get a test one day in March to prove that they are competent. In our own classrooms, however, we often tell students that on a Friday they have a chance to prove that they have mastered everything they learned during the week. Administrators preach that students are given the opportunity to do reps and repetitions. However, they only enter the teachers’ classrooms once or twice a year and expect them to become masters in all areas. One and done is not enough. It is not enough for those who can fight; It is also not enough for those who can demonstrate competence. As a former class teacher, I was great at rolling out the red carpet on the day of the evaluation and inspiring my administrator. As a former student, I was great and stuffed the night before a test and earned an A for my efforts before quickly clearing my short-term memory the moment I took my test so I could continue studying for the next Game can start … um … rating i would be asked to play. So today I am committed to something that I never did as a teacher and that I should never do as a student. I ask all of us to rethink our consistent approach to classifying, evaluating and demonstrating the championship. Today I ask teachers to expect consistency and reliability by playing Tic Tac Toe with evidence.
Assume that your administrator has observed you 12 times this year. This is your assessment of job performance. The first nine times you were observed, you were rated as “effective” (this corresponds to a 3 out of 4 in one category). After each observation you received feedback and coaching, so that your last three observations consistently led to “highly effective” (4 out of 4) evaluations by the end of the year. If you were my teacher and I were your administrator at the end of the year, your overall name would be “HIGHLY EFFECTIVE”. My job is to encourage teachers and help everyone improve their practice. By the end of the year, you had responded consistently to the feedback. Therefore, it would simply not be fair to use observations from the beginning of the year before my incredible coaching and teaching were done against you. I would never advocate that I use the average and only need to “average” your scores. Using the mean is only mean. If I only visit your classroom once during the school year, I cannot get a complete picture of your growth and skills.
Now look at the picture below. Under the same condition, you have three observations this time, which were classified as highly effective and nine as effective during the school year. However, should I draw the same conclusions about your final naming? Did you master teaching this year? I would argue no. There is no consistent pattern. There is no frequency of results. There is no evidence that what was taught actually existed. Yes, you have three highly effective reviews that are sporadic and inconsistent. Yes, frequency is important, but also topicality and consistency.
The same mindset can be used when evaluating evidence for students. I am a big supporter of using rubrics and grids as a guide for collecting evidence for students. I believe this enables any assessment / task to be used as a diagnosis to help with future planning and instruction. However, there is always the question of how often a student has to prove that he can do something to get credit. I say three.
If you are unfamiliar with rubric assessment in your classroom, give a more traditional assessment / task with paper pen to measure student learning. How many questions does a student have to answer to prove that they understand a concept? Should you answer ten questions? One hundred? Any odd questions? How about all the evening How many do you need to get right? Is it 60%, 80%, 100%? If a child can answer nine out of ten, why did they miss one? Is that important? If we try to use percentages, we lose amazing opportunities.
If I gave the students problems in a math class, I would say to my students, “As soon as you answer three in a row correctly, you are done.” For some students, these may be the first three questions they answer. For others, they may need more feedback, guidance, and practice. These students may need twenty or thirty attempts before getting three in a row. Both are great because they are consistent and timely. Both student groups are masters.
If you accept the concept of Spiral assessment (https://schmittou.net/2019/10/15/spiraling-to-assess-learning/) Perhaps you believe that a student must show 80% accuracy in each assessment to show understanding. If you submit future ratings and bring historical rating elements (again … read them post Office for more information) and the request to prove that they have maintained this knowledge three more times would be good evidence.
Perhaps you evaluate using several methods and tools. Students can present their evidence through a project, test, debate, paper, collage, etc. To increase your confidence in the assessment and make your conclusions more valid, ask students to use three different methods for each. A particular unit, marker period, or lesson can give you more confidence that students understand the topic.
I have shared this method with literally thousands of educators. The vast majority think that makes a lot of sense. The biggest obstacle is always the question: “But how is this translated into a letter?”
Trust me, I understand the reason for the question and have written a lot about this topic. In fact, feel free to call me or email me and I’ll talk to you about it. Or, even better, attend one of my upcoming webinars: visit bit.ly/SBGPart2 sign up.
However, for now, it’s a good place to start by simply getting a piece of paper for every student you teach (this may require an entire notebook in high school). Add a child’s name to the top of the page. In the left column, simply list the main standards that you will be teaching this year. Make a grid. Each time a student judges against a standard, determine whether the student was a master or not. You can do this with a score of 1,2,3,4. You can do this with a check mark. You can do it with a percentage. Once you have three in a row, you are done. The child is now a master. Go on. Teach something new. Concentrate on progress. Celebrate Success.
Regardless of whether you have your students in class personally or remotely this year, whether you use standards-based grading or traditional points and percentages, I urge you to find a way to your Make feedback as accurate as possible. In our classrooms, grades are just an abbreviation to give the feedback we appreciate. Do not allow a unified approach to determine success or struggle. Always support, encourage, and keep your students growing, focus, and remember that three in a row will help you win at Tic Tac Toe and also in your classroom.
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