When working with my students in language and literacy I am always looking for data. I don’t, however, rely much on standardized scores and summative assessments. While helpful in a very small way, those types of assessments give me information more about me, the teacher, than about the student. I look for data that I can use.
Every time I have a conversation with students I make notes about their learning, sometimes mental notes and sometimes written notes. I try to keep track of their use of language and their thinking. Every time I read student writing I make notes about their use of language, their ability to express themselves and their accuracy. This is the data that I use.
This is the real-time data that shows me what students know and can do right now. That data is then turned into large group, small group and individual instruction as needed to move all students forward. I encourage students to make mistakes, use big words, enter into debates and not be afraid. It is through making mistakes, I tell them, that I can know what the next steps are in their learning. All done in a supportive environment.
Give it a try; it’s not rocket science. When we pay attention to the students they will show us what they need. When we listen and watch, we will know what to teach.
Below is the list that the New York City Department of Education would like to see banned from standardized testing. I found it here. I also found it ridiculous. I truly believe in the power of students to read about topics with which they disagree or find disagreeable. I believe they are able to constructively deal with those topics in an appropriate manner.
If I were a student I would feel offended at such a colossal waste of time and energy on the part of the NYC dept. of Ed. And at the lack of respect shown to students regarding their abilities to think deeply about life.
Would anyone like to create a story with all words/topics? Here they are:
Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)
Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs
Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)
Cancer (and other diseases)
Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes)
Children dealing with serious issues
Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)
Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)
Death and disease
Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes
Gambling involving money
Homes with swimming pools
In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge
Loss of employment
Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)
Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)
Television and video games (excessive use)
Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)