Rethinking Assessment for Mastery over Time

What is mastery?  When does it happen?  What does a grade measure?  What ‘should’ it measure?  What should go into a gradebook?  Once it’s in the gradebook, does it have to be in ‘permanent marker’?  Or is it ok if the grade is in pencil?

These are all questions I plan on exploring at my #CMCSouth Session in Palm Springs, CA, on Saturday, November 16, 2019.

I don’t promise to have all the answers.  I don’t think I have even most of the answers.  But I think the conversation surrounding these questions is important enough to have, because our students are suffering under our grading practices.

What are we trying to teach our students?  What do our grades communicate to our students about our beliefs in their ability to be resilient, to persevere, to learn deeply over time, to make mistakes, to learn from their mistakes, in their potential as human beings, or hope that they can achieve?

I want my students to learn the tools for success for their own learning of mathematics so that no matter who is their teacher next year, they can be successful.  Education isn’t being done to them, they are active participants.  They need to become experts in their own learning.  Rethinking assessment puts them in the driver seat.

Learning takes time.  And mathematics is sequential.  So, if students need a strong foundation to be successful at the next level, then we need to give them time to show mastery.  Why would we penalize those that take longer to master a topic, if they eventually master the content?

My best friend in high school took her driving test twice.  The first time, she failed because she did one of those automatic fail things.  Does that mean her driver’s license is a lower level than mine because I passed it the first time?  She also got a very high score on the SAT the first time she took it.  I took the SAT three times before our scores were similar.  Did the colleges penalize me for taking the SAT three times?  Did I get a “minus” on my SAT score to show that it took me longer to get that score? NO!!!!!!!

Over that past 7-8 years, I’ve changed my teacher practice to reflect the new standards and mathematical practices.  I asked more open-ended questions, included tasks with a low-floor and high ceiling, put students into groups, got them up on whiteboards to do interesting math, etc.  But here is the tough question, we all need to consider.  Does my assessment practice match my teaching practice?

 

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