Showing posts with label assessment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label assessment. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Assessment and retention

 For many years schools ran to a basic formula:

1. Set Programme based on Syllabus

2. Teach

3. Revise

4. Test 

5. Correct major issues (repeat 2,3,4,5 for each topic)

6. Exam 

7. Grade students to normalised performance (repeat 2,3,4,5,6,7 for each semester)

The major issue with this approach was that the level of students on entry was not evaluated, grades were based on cohort performance, delivery was more important than learning and student anxiety for high stakes testing impacted on health and student performance.

This process changed during outcomes based education to:

1. Diagnose level of students using existing grades and standardised testing

2. Set Programme based on evidence

3. Teach

4. Check level of understanding through formative assessment

5. Revise

6. Perform summative assessment  using appropriate assessment technique  

7. Correct major issues (repeat 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 for each topic)  

8. Grade students to developmental continuum (repeat 2,3,4,5,6,7 for each semester)

The issue with this approach is that the requirement to follow the Syllabus is not clear and the overhead for meeting the needs of every student is higher.  Schools can deviate significantly from the intended curriculum and grading can become difficult as what is being taught in each school is different, as is interpretation of the developmental continuum.

This process changed during the A-E standardised grading period (Australian Curriculum) to:

1. Set Programme based on Syllabus.

2. Diagnose level of students using existing grades and standardised testing

3. Set level of delivery based on evidence gathered

4. Teach

5. Check level of understanding through formative assessment

6. Revise

7. Perform summative assessment using appropriate assessment technique  

8. Correct major issues (repeat 2,3,4,5,6,7,8 for each topic)  

9. Grade students using on grade related descriptors based on their predicted end of year performance (repeat 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 for each semester)

During this iteration, teaching to the test became prevalent as the need for retention reduced without exams.  Over time, without retention, the level of learning decreased resulting in increasing levels of failing students by Year 10.  The standard set for each year level was unable to be achieved for large numbers of students increasing levels of anxiety as they encountered increasing levels of failure.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

April Fools Joke - Not!!!

Today I had a look at the expected standards "C grade descriptors". This document outlines the requirements of a C grade for a student yrs 8-10.

"The descriptors have been informed by population testing data [NAPLAN], draft national curriculum materials and the professional knowledge of experienced teachers. During the consultation process teachers strongly supported the production of concise descriptors and welcomed the inclusion of examples." Department of Education April 2010.

The issue is that the end product was written devoid of common sense.

Here is an outline of the expectation for year 9 students from the C grade descriptor document.

"By the end of Year 9, students use number and algebra to solve routine and non-routine problems involving pattern, finance, rate and measurement including the calculation of area of triangles, circles, quadrilaterals and the surface area and volume of prisms, pyramids, cones and cylinders. They solve problems using Pythagoras’ Theorem and proportional understanding (similar triangles and the tangent ratio). They have a sound understanding of linear functions and are developing fluency with using quadratic and simple non-linear functions, such as with patterns involving doubling. They have a sound understanding of index laws pertaining to positive integral powers."

My issue is that this is a C grade description. The number of students with "sound" understandings of linear functions (by my definition of sound) during year 9 is minimal and students that have a conceptual notion of quadratic and other functions at this stage are the "A" students that have been extended - not the C students. In fact given this description it would be difficult to give many C's or even a single A in many state schools.

If students entered high school have some algebraic knowledge, they may have some chance at reaching this standard. At present I would suggest that this is highly unlikely. As students delivered by national curriculum are 5 years away - starting assessment now at a national curriculum level is ludicrous.

It is obvious the scope and sequence has been modified to include national curriculum requirements (look for the * in the scope and sequence). You can see that linear functions was the main focus of year 9 and then quadratics and 'other functions' were dumped into the sequence with little consideration given as to how time will be found to implement the new curriculum especially as it was hard to fit in the old curriculum (I sat and wrote a lesson by lesson plan for year 9 based on the old scope and sequence and challenge anyone to do the same on the new scope and sequence given the current entry point of students in year 8).

I have no problem with lifting the bar for students, but it requires time to re-instill work ethic at a younger age and subject specialists having access to these students.

To grade students that have not been adequately prepared for national curriculum assessment is grossly unfair. How anyone could propose this for semester one grading 2010 indicates a lack of understanding of the change management required. Either schools will need to fudge grades (easy to spot when comparing NAPLAN to school grade) or masses of students will not get grades higher than a D or E.

When teaching students in low literacy settings, handing out D & E grades to students trying their utmost to succeed is tantamount to child abuse. It is demoralising, unfair and sets up an expectation of failure. I can't say this in stronger words. Someone needs to have a good think about what is being done to our children.

Link to national curriculum media release (Julia Gillard)
Link to expected standards (Department of Education)
Link to mathematics scope and sequence (Department of Education)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Assessment and reporting, not more exemplars!

I notice with despair that systemically we are going through another attempt at defining what an A -E is for a variety of topics and year groups to help teachers accurately mark assessment. I wonder how long it will take "those in the know" that providing A-E definitions either is so cumbersome with detail that it is impossible to use or too vague to be of any real use.

There are good reasons why teachers have used percentage grades (and not exemplars or rubrics) historically to assist in judging grades. Percentages combined with basic teacher judgement has been the only valid tool for judging students A-E on assessments. The simple fact is that teachers gain accuracy in assessing students over many years and by teaching as many year groups as possible in their sector (primary or secondary). By watching students mature into more capable students, teachers are better able to determine the snapshot grade of students and judge what makes a student an A (in any given year) and what type of student deserves B-E or the politically incorrect and now defunct F.

The sheer breadth of the curriculum and the variety of responses by students makes the task of defining A-E for all topics in all learning areas a task that serves no real purpose. Teachers do not have the time to find and refer to these exemplars when marking nor are the exemplars accurate for a variety of socioeconomic sectors (yes, I am saying an A in a low socioeconomic area is lower than a higher socioeconomic area by reducing amounts until TEE examinations). Much of marking is viewing the material of the student, noting key issues and making a teacher judgement on where the student is positioned on a continuum. As more students are guided through to TEE (or yr 7 graduation) by a teacher, teachers get better at giving feedback to students with information that helps them reach their potential.

That is what teachers are paid for, they get better with experience and this experience (or lack of) should be valued where accurate and monitored and augmented by senior staff whilst experience is being gained.

( if we were being given EPW's with solutions for all maths NCOS then I might give a little cheer as a good use of systemic resources).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mid Semester Exams

Yesterday I was asked why run exams in year 8 & 9.

I could think of 8 reasons:

1. To reduce fear of exams (students use the idea of exams as a bugbear for not attempting level 2 subjects.)
2. It gives an anchor to the idea of study/revision.
3. It is good practice for upper school and identifies students bound for more difficult courses.
4. It provides feedback on what has been achieved by individual students during the semester.
5. It supports grades allocated by teachers put into reports.
6. It provides a benchmark of performance from year to year.
7. It is the backbone of academic rigour in a school, short of doing a personal project (which is impractical in most public schools).
8. Students gain confidence in doing exams by.. well.. doing exams.

Then I heard the excuses and heard what was really going on:

1. Such and such is just rewriting the NAPLAN test (fine if that is all you have taught in Sem 1!).
2. It's a lot of work (it's our job!) for little return (see 1-7 above).
3. I have to mark it (well.. yes.. but we teach math, compare that to issues in English & S&E, we have it easy!).
4. The kids can't do exams (some can, and they are severely disadvantaged compared to the rest of the state if the first time they see an exam is term 2 year 10(think league tables, think school numbers people! No results.. no school)).
5. I can't write an exam (huh?? ..nor can anyone else, we don't know what you have taught, nor do we know the level of your students! If you need help with formatting we have loads of support staff and teachers willing to help).

There is some argument that there is a level of over testing in year 9 due to NAPLAN but exams and NAPLAN have very different focus. NAPLAN looks at the student compared to the student cohort of the state. The exam should show a snapshot of the learning and retention of the most recent semester.

I can also understand the argument that some students should not sit an exam. If a student has a learning difficulty or is miles below the level of the exam (and a special exam has not been prepared for them) then it makes sense to exclude them.. these are our 1B kids.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Allowing a resit for a test

This is often a difficult question. If we are only assessing outcomes, the most accurate assessment of a student's performance is the last assessment for a task - and in this case a resit for an assessment is ok.

If we are assessing the ability to learn then a resit is usually not appropriate as it will not give a fair indication of how long it has taken for a student to learn a topic and a modifier to the raw score is required to retain equity with other students.

I try to take a flexible approach when it comes to resits based on prior knowledge of a student and the subject being studied. If a student is frequently absent on test days then it takes a fair bit of effort to convince me that it is necessary and I also start to enquire as to whether the student has valid test/exam anxiety. If this is the case - off to the counsellor they are sent.

In a normal case, where student results are far below normal I will grant a resit with a two week delay between now and the new test. This means that the student does not miss the start of the next topic doing the test and the student has to actively seek me out in two weeks to do the resit. If they are serious about maintaining their grade - they nag me until I dig out a new test. Most of the time, they just forget and life goes on. We then re-evaluate performance at the end of term exam.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Using notes in tests

Having a working memory of four units, I know the necessity of having well prepared notes. Everything I do has a paper trail of sorts that lets me manage the many things I'm juggling at any one point. The programme we use is far more detailed than most - but without it I would be lost as to what I had done and what I still needed to do.

Students coming through junior school (where tests and assignments are not the norm and alternate assessment is more often used) don't know how to prepare for tests. More so, many suffer extreme test anxiety that affects their performance in later years. Making and having notes makes sense as in real life we do not work in a vacuum and normally have our notes/diary/teachnical books at hand.

To alleviate issue of recall and anxiety in year 10, we test often - at least once every two to three weeks and have a 2hr mid year exam. Students know that a test is coming (and have been forewarned when and the topic).

For the first term, the notes consist of their journal and I tell them what to write in it as we go along. At the end of each test the aim is to do some self reflection (5 mins) that I read in spare moments about their performance and how to improve.

In second term, they can still use their journals but I now insist that 2 pages of notes is all they can bring into the test (by the end of the term the journal has too much content to use effectively). Those that bring notes get an extra 10% for being adequately prepared.

In term three I no longer reward students for bringing notes as they are in the habit and know the consequences of not bringing adequate notes.

Interestingly I had one student indicate that her notes never had the material on it that she needed. On reading it I found that the information was there but she was unable to generalise the notes to assist her. This is an issue that I need to investigate further.

By going through this process I believe that my students are better prepared for tests and exams in yr 11 & 12 and have shown anecdotally that they are not as stressed in the assessment process.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Role of assessment

Assessment is a key part of teaching - it gives students/teachers/parents feedback on how the teacher and student is doing.

Yet, the curriculum framework changed the primary source of reporting from teacher judgement to completed assessment. This is wrong and has significantly degraded the accuracy of reporting.

To predominantly use written or oral assessment as the key indicator of performance does not adequately show progress of a student. Students can perform well in a test and not be at the level indicated (especially a week after the test). Students can perform poorly in a test and be well above the indicated mark. A test only is an indication of student understanding - a better indication is normally where a teacher believes the student is at.

After all a teacher sees a student in a range of contexts and under different levels of stress and assistance. We know that experienced teachers can gauge a student with few minutes of seeing their work, and are just as quick to change that opinion given the correct feedback from a student.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Measuring student progress in mathematics

There are key indicators to performance in mathematics. In number/algebra teachers look for certain things at certain stages - these are defined in scope and sequence documents released by DET this year in minimum benchmark form. I think though that minimum benchmarks are poor indicators of how a system is doing. So I propose a different set that parents could use to measure performance. (Note: this is not what to teach - just a general measure of progress)

year 1-4 - Students have 1-1 number correspondence. Students have a clear understanding of place value. Students recognise the relevance of operations, understand concepts such as odd/even and ascending descending and can reconstruct multiples of numbers up to 12.
year 4/5 - Student is confident in recognising and performing all operations (+-÷x) and can recite all tables up to and including 12.
year 6/7 - Student is confident with fractional quantities including estimating, adding, subtracting and multiplying a variety of fractions with a calculator but without using the "a b/c" button
year 8 - Students can perform confidently simple algebraic operations. Students understand the connection between an equation of a line and its drawn equivalent. Students can construct an equation of a line from a table of values or a graph.
year 9 - Students can manipulate linear and quadratic equations to shift them on a cartesian plane. Students can simplify confidently using index laws including negative indices and fractional indices. Students are confident at regrouping and solving simple equations.
year 10 - Students can factorise and use this knowledge to sketch and draw quadratic and linear equations. Students can plot curves, understand critical points on curves and use equations/graphs to perform optimisations, interpolate and extrapolate data.
year 11/12 - Students can use knowledge to solve complex worded problems with application in the real world including problems including statistics, calculus and numeric series.

For many parents these words make no sense - but a quick google of unknown terms can assist a parent in getting a clearer picture of what a student can do.