18772781 - VOICES: THE TEACHER How Many Points Is This...

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Unformatted text preview: VOICES: THE TEACHER How Many Points Is This Worth? Craig Huhn 5 any practicing teacher knows, assessment means much more than a one-time multiple— choice test, despite what the media and govern— ment seem to believe. For a teacher who wants his or her students to learn big ideas and gain long—term understanding, assessment means being keenly aware of what students know and understand, having suffi- cient evidence of this understanding, and offering a grade that accurately reflects this. Few teachers disagree with this characterization of assess- ment. Yet somewhere along the way, the process of grading has lost its focus on what really is important: evaluating what students know, understand, and are able to do. Teachers often lament their students’ myopic focus on grades. Frustration mounts when students ask questions like, “How many points will this be worth?” rather than "What should we be thinking about when we do this?“ What continues to surprise me is the way we teachers complain about students attitudes yet continue to systematically reinforce this model. I don’t believe the problem lies with losing track of what grading and assessment are supposed to mean; the problem arises when our American zest for capi- talism bleeds over into our schools. In such a scenario, the more points—or capital—students accumulate, the more successful we consider them. In general, this seems like a logical, practical way to quantify the knowledge and understanding that students demonstrate. But this system can be considered legitimate only if the points actually represent some kind of advancement of knowledge. To illustrate the misuse of the point system, consider the food drive that my high school holds each fall. In a well- meaning attempt to encourage motivation for a good cause, some teachers offer extra credit to students who bring in cans of food to donate. Aside from the facr that not all students have an equal opportunity to boost their grade—some of the Our process of grading has lost its focus on what really is important. recipients of the local food bank attend our school—think about the message that this practice sends to kids about the meaning of “points.” It shifts their focus away from demonstrating what they have leamed and toward collecting as many points as possible. Consider a more subtle example. During an interdisci- plinary staff meeting, I asked for input from my colleagues on how to increase student motivation on a writing task. Their response was, “Make it worth more points." Although in a practical sense such an action may scare students into completing the assignment, it also rein— forces the idea that students are only in class to accumulate points. After years of getting the message that success means collecting more points, its not surprising that students play the “school game." For example, during the week before progress reports are sent home, some students attempt to boost their grade by asking for an extra-credit assignment worth an inordinate number of points. Students seem unaware that artificially boosting an assignments point value abstracts the grade to being nothing more than a symbol of accumulated “wealth,” totally unre- lated to an understanding of the course topics Many teachers also seem to have fallen prey to this phenomenon. A grade of 75%, for example, should not mean that a student has completed enough work to accumulate three—fourths of the points offered, Rather, the grade should show that the student understands roughly three-fourths of the ideas, or has a sufficient (although incomplete) under- standing of most of the ideas. We need to communicate to students that their goal should be knowing more when they walk out of a class than when they walked in it We need to replace comments like “You AssociArtoN FOR SUPERVISION AND CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT 81 32 We Set the Standards! Bridging the Gap with Formative Assessment Exemplars Material Features ' Standards—based rubrics for teachers ' Student rubrics for peer and sehc assessment ' Classroom—tested performance tasks ' Annotated benchmark papers ° Classroom modeling for staff development Aligned to State Standards Math | Science Developing Writers Professional Development www.exemplars.com 800—450—4050 College readiness. It’s all about the core. EXPLORE” and PLAN” are your solutions for college readiness! www. act. org/epas/el 800/294-2875 EDL L-XIIL‘VAI. Iliaoreslttr/Ntu'i Marie 2003 After years of getting the message that success means collecting more points, it’s not surprising that students play the “school game.” have to do this to pass" wrth explana— tions ol‘ how the task Will help students understand the concept at hand. It may take a long time l'or students to unlcarn what they have learned l'rom their expenences with assessment before stepping into our classrooms. But a continued emphasis on grades as measures of learning rather than as accumulated capttal may eventually change their perceptions about their roles in school. When they recognize that the tasks teachers set them are designed to help them advance their understanding. they will begin to see their grades as a result ol' the knowledge they have gained. Only then will students be able to internalize the concept that their ultra mate goal is to learn something. Only then will future generations truly under— stand what learning and assessment are all about. Only then will we be able to have a national conversation about how to make schools accountable [or what their students are able to do. Craig Huhn teaches high school mathe- matics for Holt Public Schools. 5885 W. Holt Rd, Holt, MI 48842; 517-699-7462; Chuhn@hpsk12.net. Copyright of Educational Leadership is the property of Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. The copyright in an individual article may be maintained by the author in certain cases. Content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. ...
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18772781 - VOICES: THE TEACHER How Many Points Is This...

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