Assessment can be many things, but what I want to get at, is the true nature of assessment.
If we just break it down and ask ourselves what assessment really is and why do we do it, it comes down to this - we assess to discover if a student has acquired the understanding of the concepts and information we have taught. Did they reach the learning goal? What do they understand and what do they misunderstand?
Throughout many years of teaching and parenting, I have come across so many teachers who seem to have lost sight of the true nature of assessment. I have seen teachers do some awful things to kids in the name of "assessment". So, I have come up with a list of assessment dos and don'ts to get us thinking about how and why we assess kids.
DO use the assessment to plan instruction.
I've been in planning meetings where someone says. "I'm assessing tomorrow, but I haven't seen the test yet, does anybody have a copy?" *cringe* How in the world did you teach this whole week if you didn't even know what the assessment looked like? I know we use standards to plan instruction, but if you haven't either created your assessment, or at least looked at the required assessment before you teach, then you may not have taught what you are assessing.
DO NOT use the assessment to trick students.
Sadly, I have seen teachers try to trick students on the test in the name of 'paying attention' or 'problem solving.' I remind myself that I want to know what they understand and what they misunderstand, not fool them into getting a wrong answer. Yes, I want them to pay attention and discern relevant information, but let's just be fair about it.
DO make sure your assessments are neat, clear, and correct.
I have seen a few assessments come home with my own boys that are an embarrassment to the profession. My son's class would be instructed to make changes all through the test (change the 7 to a 9 on question 14, on question 6 that should read mode, not median, etc.) before they could even take the test! That is just a sign of a disorganized and unprofessional teacher.
Now, I know (I hope) that is an extreme example, but we should strive to provide clear and accurate assessments so kids can concentrate on the task and not be confused by the corrections.
DO NOT take off points for things you are not assessing.
If I am assessing how well a student solves word problems, I will not take off points if he spelled a word wrong in the answer/explanation. I am not assessing spelling. I am assessing math.
"But how will Billy learn to remember to put his name on his paper if I don't take off points when he forgets?" Well, I guess we have to think of something else, because remembering to put your name on your paper is not math. Maybe that brings down the work study grade, but not the math grade.
If a student's grade becomes a B instead of an A because of organizational things like forgetting a name or date, or making a grammar mistake on a math test, then we have done a disservice to the anyone who views that grade as a marker of the student's knowledge base.
DO use assessment to reflect on teaching.
If 75% of my students bombed the assessment, then the kids didn't fail - I did. Time to rethink and reteach.
Do reassess if you can.
Remember, the whole reason for assessing is to ensure that our students understand what we're teaching. If we reteach, we should reassess. My goal is to get those kids learning, not to teach, assess, and move on.
That being said, the recent trend in high stakes testing has led to teachers being forced to push through a ridiculous amount of material in very short periods of time, making it nearly impossible to find time to reteach:(
If you have more ideas and suggestions for fair and effective assessment, please leave a comment!