As the College Board overhauls the panic-inducing SAT admissions exam, it’ll be giving Khan Academy access to actual test questions in the hopes of creating a sophisticated learning program aimed at test prep otherwise reserved to wealthier students. “So big picture success is that access to college (and success in life) becomes much less dependent on income and much more dependent on merit,” Khan Academy Founder, Sal Khan, writes to me. “We think we can make the playing field more level by making the best-in-class tool and making it free. We hope that beyond individual students, these tools become adopted by after-school and college readiness programs.”

So here is the skinny on grading and assessment. I must first admit, it is something that we constantly have to work on in my building. Do the assignments that we ask our students to complete in our classrooms have a purpose? If the answer is no – then stop assigning them – like, now.

There are several areas that we should focus on when bringing purposeful assessment to your building:

Drop the Zero

100-point grading scales are mathematically inaccurate – it is a fact. We must stop the use of the zero in our buildings immediately. The zero holds six times more weight than any other grade that we can assign students. Use of the zero in our grading practices could potentially eliminate a student’s chances of passing a course in the first semester. This is what I refer to as the Grading Abyss. It is a pitfall, that when students fall into it, they will act a fool in your class as they have no mathematical chance of passing your course – even with a 100%.

Laws of Averaging State: 0% + 100% = 100%; when we divide that by 2, we get 50%. A failing grade. Bummer.

Read more about dropping the use of the zero here.

Are Your Grades Polluted?

Do you know why we grade students? You should.

Grades, at least at the middle and secondary levels, are about student proficiency with the standards that we teach. Anything else that we grade students on – other than proficiency on the standards – pollutes your grades. Say, if you grade students on participation (subjective) or behavior (subjective) – the grade becomes a reflection of much more than the student’s proficiency on the standards you are teaching. Parents when they see an A or a D on a progress report would not know whether the students are proficient on the standards, or are just a compliant student in your class.

Your grades are polluted. You can read more about grading pollution here.

Meaningful Feedback

Grading for completion? C’mon… you know you’ve done it. I was guilty of it during my early years in the classroom.

If we assign students work, we owe it to them to provide them with meaningful feedback. Checking (and assigning grades) for completion is nothing but “busy work”. Our students know that and they are on to us.

What if we grade for completion, but a student actually doesn’t have a clue about what they are talking about. Hypothetically one could pass a student that knows nothing about the content area that we are teaching them in. Again, bummer. We would be guilty of contributing to just passing students on.

If you assign work – provide your students with meaningful feedback.

In schools across this country, we must tighten up our grading and assessment practices. The ability to assign grades comes with a lot of power. With great power, comes great responsibility.

If we haphazardly assign grades and award credit without reason, we are going to produce students that are not proficient in any areas. On the other end, we are also failing hundreds of thousands of students every year based on what? This question is especially important when we reflect on the reasons for the 1.2 million high school dropouts that we encounter each year in the United States.

So, I ask that as you begin the new school year that you look hard and redefine assessment in your classroom, schoolhouse, or district. Go forth and do great things.

Plenty of Fish Assessments

One of the most interesting things about Plenty of Fish (other than all these fish who can’t spell for shit and don’t use any punctuation whatsoever) is that it is chock full of seemingly dead-on personality assessments that are designed to help you find a match and understand what you need and want out of a relationship.

First, there is the Relationship Needs Assessment:

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After taking this 100+ question test, Plenty of Fish gives you a shockingly thorough assessment on your personal relationship needs according to the categories above. Then they summarize your assessment and you can choose to make it visible on your profile or not.

(It is so thorough and long, I won’t post my results here. Don’t worry, I post other results below.)

Then there is the Psychological Assessment which consists of only 30 questions and aims to “determine what you really want versus what you say you want” in a potential match based on the theory that there are three key issues that lead to misunderstand and conflict in relationships: (1) Accomplishment (2) Physical Chemistry and (3) Drive. 

I had some big doubts about whether this site could actually tell me this with any accuracy because, um, I’m not even sure I know what I want half the time I’m a very nuanced, unique flower but WHOA GUYS. They kinda nailed it:

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So naturally, when I saw that there was a “Seduction Style Guide” I had to see what it was about. I mean, it says, ”If you dare to proceed, this test will generate a complete step by step guide on how someone would seduce you and you wouldn’t be able to resist.”

Yeah alright.

I’m game.

This was far more than 30 questions and they got super detailed especially when it comes to fetishes, fantasies, and locations where you may or may not want to get it on.  For example:

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I honestly had no confidence that this assessment would actually get it right. But again, Plenty of Fish shocked me. Here is a selection of my results:

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I mean, without going in to more detail than the ridiculously detailed assessment above, I can say very confidently that this is scary accurate.

You do not have to be a member of Plenty of Fish to take the test! Access it here.

So why are there so many sucky people on this website?! The science is there…. but the people are just not. It’s a travesty, really.

Although, I have to confess: I did go out on a date with one person from Plenty of Fish….

And it was a really great date.

So we went on another…

… and another…..

and a few others….

… and we’re still hanging out.

And he’s pretty fucking cool.

So, you know, there’s that.

(Winkyface)

For the last five years, one charter middle school in Manhattan has been conducting a radical experiment in doing exactly that. The Equity Project pays its teachers a salary of $125,000 a year, with extra bonuses based on performance. It also expects a lot more from them, including longer hours and slightly larger classes, four weeks of professional development a year, and regular reviews once hired.

The result? According to the Wall Street Journal, the first long-term study to evaluate the school shows that its unusual model is producing results.

Reflecting on my new assessment practice and taking some advice

So before the year began I really wanted to improve my assessment practices. I wanted to have an easy and detailed way to track all my notes, thoughts, and my students goals.

I came up with this method:

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I made a new spreadsheet or sheet as Google calls them for each of my students and a new tabs for each strand. I loved how organized it was and as I started using it this week I loved it even more.

BUT then, I began documenting all my students work and opening up different sheets and tabs for each of the students took forever.

So I’m adapting and following advice from Joel Frey, and Kimberly Pollishuke. Thanks guys for taking the time and commenting on my post!

I’m creating a form for me to use to make notes about my students progress and to conference with them and make new goals.

Here is what it looks like:

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I’m excited to try it this way and hope it is easier and quicker to use!

First Steps

Sawyer’s assessment went very well on Tuesday.  There will be two specialists that come once a week to work with him.  From what I got, Sawyer may not fully understand what we’re doing or saying when we try to communicate with him.  He has no way to distinguish words with their meanings.  I hope I understood that correctly, but it’s a learning process I guess.

It just kind of breaks my heart that he is dealing with this, but who am I to judge?  He’s such a happy kid, and the biggest sweetheart.  I just wish that I could fix whatever problems he is having, or help him understand and learn.  I don’t know, I’m just a big worry wart.  

Halloween Candy Assessment:

Okay everyone how’d you do this Halloween? Were you able to treat yourself, but maintain control? Or did you go a tad bit overboard?

I had 3 miniature Reese’s cups, and 2 Skittles snack packs. This came out to 7 points.

Victory for me!!

Don’t forget if you did over do it Saturday is a new day to start over. Don’t let yourself keep snacking away, and head out and enjoy the day with a smile!

We send students to spend half a day at a testing center to take the SAT. We ought to invest equal time in sending them to assessment centers to gauge their values and their social, emotional and creative capabilities. If colleges did this, they would gain a much better picture of their prospective students. More students would have a fair chance to demonstrate their distinctive talents and qualifications, and colleges might be less likely to reject the next Walt Disney.

Never make a huge decision on the basis of a single test score because of both reliability and validity issues. It violates the ethics of measurement to do so.

That’s what makes the current one-shot high-stakes test situation in education so untenable. Judgments about students and teachers are being made on the basis of a single result. It’s wrong, and people who know better in the measurement community know it’s wrong, and ought to be up and arms about it.

The irony is that critics of testing typically claim that the tests are not valid. But that’s where they probably go wrong. The better argument concerns the questionable reliability of a single high-stakes score.

It’s no accident, in fact, that the World Series is best four out of seven.

But before we go with pitchforks to state education buildings, ACT and ETS, the same argument applies to YOUR tests and quizzes. What is the margin of error on a 20-question quiz in arithmetic? Most likely the answer is around plus or minus 3 points. So a 14, 17, and 20 are the same score – just as on the SAT.

In short, before the pot calls the kettle black, let’s look at local assessments carefully for validity AND reliability.

Companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review, as well as smaller boutique test prep businesses, can charge more than $1,000 per course. Private tutors often charge more than $15,000 a year. According to the College Board, the industry is largely built on teaching kids “tricks” and gimmicks to outsmart the test, as well as other skills and facts that even Coleman now admits have been disconnected from what kids learn in school. Part of Coleman’s SAT overhaul will scrap esoteric vocabulary and the non-evidence-based essay, with the goal of making the test more tied to schools’ curricula so that any student who studies hard can be sufficiently prepared for the test.