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How much do they know?

I had a minor epiphany a couple of days ago.

As a math teacher, I am used to evaluating kids based on their CST performances: Proficient, Far Below Basic, etc.

My ELA colleagues often refer to their kids reading level – second grade, 5th grade, and so on.

And I had a bit of envy. They have a battery of tests that will tell them not how well or poorly read at an 8th grade level, but at which level they can read. And that’s what I want for math, too. I want to know what they can do, so I can build on that. Sure, I can write these all myself. I need to figure it out anyways. But wouldn’t it be great if not only did I have this information coming in, but that I along with every other teacher in my school (district? state? country?) had the same benchmarks to evaluate to?

That thing is an abolone scale. If the abalone can’t fit through the gap (in its widest orientation) then you may harvest it. It’s fast and easy to use. That’s important if you’re holding your breath underwater, and you don’t actually care about anything except whether it’s of legal size or not.

That’s how our standardized tests work right now. For all the claim of data, all they really tell us is whether a student passed a certain bar or not. They do very little to tell us how far they missed by, especially if they’re missing my a couple of grade levels.

What I really want is one of these:

It’s not as quick to use as that abalone gauge. But the information you get from it is a lot more useful, for a lot more things.

We already kill them with standardized tests. Why not make those tests measure more than just whether they know that years standards or not? Why can’t we place the somewhere along the continuum of learning, rather than telling them (again) that they haven’t made it?

A day after I had this epiphany, a more in depth (albeit invective and ad hominem filled) analysis of this showed up in my feed reader. If you have an idea for how to actually bring this about, to make our testing more useful, please let me know.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Per | August 26, 2008 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    There is one big difference, reading is ONE skill math is many skills so it would be alot harder to make one good test that gave you a simple answere…

  2. Michael Paul Goldenberg | October 11, 2008 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    I would suggest that reading is a great deal more than one skill. And of course, reading is a skill that has a great deal of impact on success in school mathematics.