Learning goals and common assessments

Yesterday we had our final workshop of the summer, so we must be ready (hah!) to return to school on Tuesday. This workshop was titled “Learning Goals and Common Assessments.”

You might be wondering what that means. I’ll tell you.

Associated with each of our courses is a list of learning goals for that course — not every single thing that the kids will be learning, just a sample of the most important ones. We are also embarking on the creation of district-determined measures, commonly called DDMs of course. In contrast to national measures, such as Common Core or SATs, the DDMs are determined by our school district, as the name suggests. The idea is that ultimately we will be able to trace each student’s progress in learning throughout the years. Furthermore, in any particular course, say geometry, students will take a brief pre-test at the beginning of the year and then a similar post-test at the end of the year. We certainly hope that comparing the results of the two tests will demonstrate progress in learning!

So we spent most of yesterday in small teams developing these DDMs for most of our math courses. We’re intentionally giving the same test at both college-prep and honors level, although we probably have different expectations of the sophistication and depth of students’ responses at the two levels. Because of a small glitch, we ended up with an English teacher in the workshop mix along with six of our math teachers. Although that was not intended, it actually ended up being quite useful, as he was able to give us advice about wording problems and could give us feedback about whether the pre-test problems are likely to be understandable before a student has taken the course. Developing appropriate pre-tests is a bit tricky, as we don’t want students to look at one and say “I can’t do this! I haven’t taken the course yet!” On the other hand, we can’t expect them to do well on the pre-test problems, since they will presumably be learning things during the course. So the goal is that they should at least be able to understand what a question is asking and should make at least some progress in answering it, rather than submitting a blank paper.

We shall see.

Categories: Teaching & Learning, Weston