Making Do With Less Assessment

Assessments are not as fun for kids as they are for teachers. I need to remember to teach lessons that add value to students’ lives and not focus on assessments all the time. They are not what’s most important to families.

I realize the almighty standardized test is what measures our effectiveness as teachers, in some settings. At the same time, what do you remember most fondly about school? I know for me, tests are not at the top end of the list. I remember learning songs from other cultures, writing creative stories, learning about society and culture and other stuff that was non-assessment related. Here in California, the standards test has become the arbiter of success for teachers. We work all year to get a final stamp showing if we as teachers passed or failed. I don’t know if this is the best measure for our public school system. Still, the pressure exists. There can as a result be an emphasis on “practice tests” for the kids on a regular basis. We can use these tests to map what we need to review and/or reteach altogether.

At the same time, we can get a “rush” from seeing the kids perform as we have taught them to. But we aren’t in teaching to get a rush. If there are any rushes to be mentioned, they are the rushes students should get from the learning transaction. I have learned this year that I can assign way too many assessments. These can actually burn the kids out on tests.

I have always given the analogy in my writing on this topic of the “briar patch” method of teaching. Just like Brer Rabbit knew how to escape Brer Bear and Brer Fox through the briar patch where he was born, so I hoope my students can sail through the standards test in May because they have “lived” with it the way Brer Rabbit lived in the briar patch. Unfortunately, I think I have become a little stodgy thinking they can handle the rote, ABCD multiple choice drills day after day.

Kids need real life examples and experiences to really have success in school.

I think it’s time in my career and also on my blog to be promoting those real life things in school. Instead of being concerned about teat scores, shouldn’t I as a teacher be more concerned on real life value my teaching will bring them? Every lesson in our curriculum has a human application. I will be focusing more on that rather than whether a benchmark test matches closely to the standards test. Tests are assessments of one sort. Success in life and enjoyment of school (real learning) are another sort. One can’t exist without the other because we have to measure what is happening with students. Having said that, how much faith do you have that if you strive to connect the curriculum to real life it will translate into good test scores? Maybe we are at the point where we all need to have that sort of faith as we plan lessons for our students.

If we give 10 assessments a year, let’s make it 5. The results will be an impassioned set of students connected to the stuff they are tested on. This is my current thought: I assess too much. I plan between now and May to focus more on creating valuable lessons and letting the assessments go however they go. Of course, I assume they will go positively. I can’t think of a better teaching focus than real life value for the student.

Author: Damien Riley

Having been a public school teacher since 1997, I've gained valuable classroom experience. Sometimes a great tool is a dynamite lesson plan. These posts are from a real teaching journey. I hope they inspire you. Thanks for reading!

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