Category: assessment

Total 37 Posts

Colchester, VT: Standards-Based Grading

[BTW: I updated the SBG prompts below with some answers from the comments.]

In addition to the material I facilitated on instructional design, the staff at Colchester High School wanted to work on their implementation of standards-based grading. Happily, they had already agreed on the fundamentals:

  1. We should assess students on what they know now, as opposed to what they knew when we first assessed them.
  2. Assessment should be atomized to the point that it empowers teachers and students in their remediation.

This left me all the creative, interesting parts. We talked about reporting methods for keeping students apprised of their progress, both individually and as a class. We talked about the effect of SBG on retention. Then we picked a concept and had pairs come up with a score of 1, 2, and 3.

We debated productively about marginal scores – when a 2 turns into a 3, specifically – and concluded that, in a system this forgiving, we’d rather underestimate a student (who could return to improve her score whenever, wherever) than overestimate her.

We discussed, afterwards, how to construct valid, manageable assessments. I gave them four test questions, each of which, in its own way, invalidated what it claimed to measure or was unmanageable at scale. I’ll leave them here. Feel free to kick them around in the comments.


The trouble with the two-step equation problem is that it’s also an intimidating decimal arithmetic question. If a student fails it, you don’t know which skill needs work.


The issue with the Law of Sines / Cosines problem is that you do not have to use the Law of Sines / Cosines to solve it. A student can get those right WITHOUT using the Law of Sines / Cosines, especially the 30-60-90.

Also, the concept is too broad. If a student has a 2/4 on “Law of Sines / Cosines,” how do you know which one to remediate?

“Quadrilaterals” is also too broad a concept. If a student has a 3/4 on “Quadrilaterals,” do you know what the student knows about quadrilaterals? Which ones she understands and doesn’t?

We decided “Linear Pairs of Angles” is too small a concept. If every concept were this granular, we’d have several hundred concepts to manage by semester’s end.

Final Exam Question #51

Who is better at Doodle Jump? Mike or Dan? Why?

The first semester ended, not with a bang, but with two days of canceled class… because you can’t be too careful with those Santa Cruz tornadoes. and two days of hasty final exams. My remedial Algebra class spent a lot of time this semester on what California calls computational fluency and what I would rather call the awesome descriptive power of numbers.

Which has meant, thus far, everything from times tables to proportions to infographics all leading to the motivation for the question above: when your friend is being kind of insufferable about how good he is at Doodle Jump, you can use numbers to shut him up!

It is a feature not a bug, in my opinion, that Mike and Dan can draw their own self-serving conclusions from the same set of numbers.

On Getting The Concept Checklist Wrong These Last Six Years

May as well get this out of the way as long as I’m in this public state of contrition.

The concept checklist, in theory, is where students track their progress towards mastery. They write down concept names in rows as we test them and then record their scores (on a four-point scale) along that row, one after the other, each time they retake a concept quiz. I log only their highest scores in the gradebook and whenever they record two perfect scores on a concept, they never have to take that concept again.

The concept checklist is a mess. I run through the same script every year, illustrating the same process with better and more precise visuals every year to no avail. The process confuses students. The process puts students farther from meaningful self-assessment not closer. I saw another checklist crumpled in the trash last week and figured it out.

Their highest score matters much more to me than the specific ordering of low scores preceding it. So forget the earlier low scores. Students add length to the bar as they improve on earlier scores. This checklist design is consistent with our class ethic that “what you know now matters to us more than what you used to know,” whereas the other design maintains a permanent record of “what you used to know.”

So here’s an updated attachment.

BTW: Reader Jacob Morrill does me one (or two or three) better with his adaptation, which is superbly designed:

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I’m still compiling my notes from a very strange and very cool CMC-North. Until then, consider this graphic, ripped from children’s television by Bill Farren as a visual assessment for engineering students:

I have underrated the assessment question, “what’s wrong here?” I need to do more of that. It isn’t that tricky, though it is tricky to deliver that assessment visually, as Bill has done here. It’s trickier still to rip that visual from a kid’s show, packaging the whole assessment in the sort of scientific put-down of children’s entertainment that appeals directly to the inner misanthrope I keep loosely tethered on a fraying leash.

Comments are closed here. Tell Bill what’s wrong over there.

They’re On To Me

Jessica, last week, working through a classwork assignment:

Mr. Meyer, where does this go in PowerSchool? Because I check and my grade doesn’t change.

Christy, next to her, jumping in:

It doesn’t. I checked. But I’m sure he’d take away points if we didn’t do it.

Which, um, isn’t exactly true.

Perhaps I’ll mention some day before the end of the year that none of the classwork they’ve done all year long has had any direct positive or negative effect on their grade, that the only direct effect of their practice has been on the level of waste material in our recycling bin.

That admission might provoke an interesting conversation about the point of the practice. Or it might provoke riots.

More likely is that I’ll chicken out of that conversation until a student distributes printed copies of this blog post to the entire class. That will be fun.

[BTW: It took five weeks, it turns out, for a student to call me out.]