Friday, January 20, 2006

State Benchmarks, Weekly Data Collection, Life long learning

The other night I was on a conference call with people around the state. I heard the comment about how much testing is being done in school and how much data collection is being done. Several people felt that collecting the data (taking state benchmarks) was interfering with instruction.


I have several reactions to the statement.

1) If we give benchmarks once a year, then we are only collecting a snapshot that probably is not a big enough picture to inform instruction. For example, for students to write two essays in three hours in an English Regents means that each essay is really a draft, not a finished product.


2) The benchmark results are transformed into data that is supposed to help improve instruction. However, with most benchmarks, the students in that year's class have gone to the next grade level; the data should go to their next year's teachers, not the present year's teachers.


3) Teachers need to build formative standard-based assessments into their weekly instruction so that as they assess part of the state standard, they can build in adjustments (Remember M. Hunter's Modify and Adjust?) I believe that unless we do this on a weekly or very regularly basis, then we will not truly improve student learning. Cramming at the end is not educationally sound. Gradually improvement (building on success) is sound.


4) Teachers need to have students collect their own data on how well they are doing. For example, how many students monitor their vocabulary strategy to see if it is effective for them? How many students monitor the words they write in a daily journal to see if they improve on the quantity of the writing (getting in the zone)? I have done both of these and find that students like to be able to monitor their own learning and make improvements. Sounds like life long learning to me ( I remember when that was a purpose of schools.)


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