Month: January 2016

Being Vulnerable with Assessment


Usually, when the word ‘assessment’ is brought up, the room becomes an echo chamber as it is so silent. Honestly, it’s not everyone’s favorite word or topic with which to work. There are very good and valid reasons why it is dreaded. Standardized tests anyone? Assessment data being used as weapons against teachers? And the list goes on. No wonder there are crickets chirping when the word is brought up, or suddenly all the data looks just peachy with one person or grade level and it completely crashes when those same students get to the next grade.

It’s hard to be vulnerable when the stakes are high. Sometimes it feels impossible. And sometimes we, as teachers, don’t want to know the data after we poured our heart and souls into working with our kids. Teaching can be so personal, an extension of your being to which our internal thought runs something like, “If the data isn’t good, what does that say about me?” All of this pressure can make one very anxious.

Let’s stop a minute and think about what our assessment is truly for. The data is used by many people for different reasons, but it’s for teachers to see where our students are working independently. We find out with what they are completely independent, approximating, and struggling. If we don’t truly know where they are, how can we help move them forward with learning and a systematic and targeted way?  We can’t. Instead, we throw things at students hoping our information will fit with their learning needs.  It makes us work harder than we really need to. By doing pre-assessment and formative assessment, we can figure out exactly what our students need and teach the strategies that will help them with the skills they need.

Summative assessment, such as state tests or end of unit tests, can give us great information too. They give us information on what we helped our students do well with, and what we need to work on. Having a reflective moment with yourself can be hard. We all want to do well. That’s a given. For me, it depends on how I look at the data.  Am I looking at it from a success/failure standpoint, or am I looking at it from a strength/ growth area(s) standpoint? The mindset you have makes a huge difference.  Personally, I try to look for areas to grow because I am an avid learner. I want to know more. I want to do more. I want to be the best I can be. While I am the best I can be at any given moment, it doesn’t mean I stay there. I am always looking at ways to refine and improve my teaching practice. It’s modeling the lifelong learning that we ask of students.

As we move into this assessment heavy part of the year, let’s keep in mind the reason for assessment. Teach with passion. Teach with vigor. Teach with heart. Teach with data. Be a teacher on fire by being the best you can be. Focus your energy on the amazing instruction you give. Let the assessment be the tool it is meant to be by helping you focus and helping you grow.


Have a reading and writing -tastic week!

twitter: @ICchiller