I have put off my summer homework. Now, like a high school student on August 30, I need some help.
My summer homework had been to find efficient and valid pre-assessments to understand 9th-grade student strengths and needs as quickly and effectively as possible at the beginning of the school year. I am to pass those methods onto my 9th-grade team when we get back together in (gulp) two weeks.
Personally, I have what I think is a common, pre-assessment tool belt. I have a reading and writing survey I give to students. I have them produce some writing. I look at middle school SBA scores. I would describe myself as fine-with-but-underwhelmed with these methods. I do get information, but how to organize it? In general, I know that September pre-assessments are good, but are they doing my teaching any good?
So, I have some questions and reflections for you pre-assessment wizards out there. My hope is that I’ll learn from you and readers of the blog will learn something, too.
Question 1: What are some cool things you do with student survey results? Are there questions you ask that you feel really get some good, memorable, and actionable information?
I give out a reading and writing survey at the beginning of the year. This survey covers topics from how often they read to what teachers do to help them learn. While I find the student information interesting, I also find it overwhelming, and I rarely do anything meaningful with it. How do you best use it?
Question 2: How do you best keep pre-assessment results in mind when planning and working with students?
Last year I discovered a helpful differentiation tool. I accidentally bought colored popsicle sticks to use when calling on students. I realized the popsicle stick colors matched SBA-result colors. Before I wrote student names, I looked at their SBA results. Students who passed, I wrote their names on green popsicle sticks. Students who nearly passed, I wrote their names on yellow ones. Students who weren’t near passing, I wrote their names on the red ones. That helped me, on a daily basis, keep in the fore who needed the most help, whatever that looked like. It isn’t the most precise method, but it at least was a method.
Question 3: When it comes to using test-release items or any sort of standardized assessment, what do you all use and how do you organize the results so they’re helpful?
This is an area where I’d like to improve and keep it real. (I don’t want to be giving something to students where they’re randomly clicking on stuff and I’m snuffing out intrinsic motivation.) Do you all use SBA release questions? MAP? How do you drill down to know who needs what? How do you put that information to work?
As I wrap this up, I realize this is an inquiry into: How do we make sure pre-assessment work best impacts teaching and learning?
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