The blogosphere's been buzzin' about assessment. (Not the NCLB kind.)
First, Marie, Rich, and Jackie have been asking some sharp questions on math assessment over in an earlier post.
Second, the Teacher Leaders Network blog is picking through the question, "How do you handle a student with an A on tests and an F on homework?"
My answer there, without even a little equivocation, is to pass her and then figure out why your homework is so totally inessential to class success. If you're gutsy, you give her an A, but regardless you evaluate what it means to pass a student. Does it mean she did her homework, attended, participated in class discussion, raised her hand x times, wasn't a discipline issue, brought baked goods on her assigned day, etc. etc., getting increasingly petty here. Basically, which of those behaviors is worth sandbagging a kid for a semester who knows the material, knows how to compute fractions, write persuasive essays, identify continents?
Third, Todd wrote an extraordinary post awhile back called "The Shrinking Educational Middle Class" which I've been meaning to pick up.
Todd sez, back in the day, you'd have histograms like this, with a bell-shaped distribution of grades (the graphics are his):
But that nowadays, the middle class is shrinking: the good grades get better, the bad grades get worse.
He's right on; it's a phenomenon that seems particularly exaggerated in low-performing populations. I'm going to proceed totally anecdotally here.