1.20.2015

Should I Eliminate Tests?


Here is how assessment works for me currently...

District-Wide

  • End of Course exam (teacher created) given the first few days of school, the last week before Christmas break, and at the end of April. In August it's recorded but not graded, in December it is worth half (so a 50% would be a 100%), and in April it is graded normally and students must pass it to pass the course. If they fail it they can take it again, if they fail the second time then they take summer school. Students must pass the EOC and the class.
  • Discovery Testing which is done by Discovery Education (must have an outside source test) in September, November, and February. Multiple choice, on the computer, and recorded but not graded.

My Class
  • Quizzes that student can retake as many times as they want which average 4 per unit.
  • Unit test which occurs every 4 concepts and students use their INB but can't retake it and I make sure the points for the test outweigh the points for quizzes.
  • Binder check worth 10 points once per quarter.
  • Semester Reflection paper worth 40 points once each semester

New This Year
  • PARCC for students who are in Algebra II only (Illinois is poor) in place of ACT for juniors only
  • Optional ACT for juniors who want to take it 

Cons of Unit Tests
  • I hate givings tests!! The students complain that I wait too long between tests. I do.
  • They complain that the test is over more than one unit. It's not. It's four concepts. Five at most.
  • I let them use their notebooks which is an internal struggle every time.
  • I hate grading tests!! It takes forever.
  • What does the grade on a unit test really mean?

Pros of Unit Tests
  • Mixes concepts together so that students have to apply different strategies
  • Students have to be able to tell the difference between concepts

So what I am thinking is what if I get rid of unit tests? If I write a quality EOC exam, it should be a cumulative review right? I could even give it at the end of each quarter and count that as an extra test grade. 

Does the EOC and Discovery test do a good enough job of applying mixed concepts? Does letting students use their notebooks seem more justifiable on a quarterly test? It is 35 multiple choice questions and 5 open ended questions so it would also be easier to grade and simultaneously less to grade.

If I give a quiz after each concept then I am assessing often. Then again, if I'm assessing right after I teach a concept, how do I show retention? Is the quarterly EOC enough to show retention?

But the question is....how do I know if they are really learning?

I feel like helping them learn how to study for a quarterly exam is more aligned to how college finals work. Ultimately, I'd like to create a syllabus similar to college courses that tell you the entire course is y amount of points, say 1000, and you need x amount of points to get an A, B, etc and have it laid out from the beginning.

Is that feasible?


8 comments:

  1. Your title grabbed my attention right away. Are you thinking about throwing out all graded assessments that aren't district mandated?
    Are you required to have a certain number of grades per week/ semester/ etc.?
    Interested on what you come up with here. I may follow in your wake.

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    Replies
    1. I am not required to have a certain number of grades, I just have to have something. And right now I probably already have the least amount of grades.

      I'm sorry I wasn't clear. I meant getting rid of unit tests. I don't mind quizzes at all and I waste 3 days every unit test- 2 days for study guide/review and one day of testing.

      So I'm wondering if I just teach, quiz, teach, quiz, every concept if I could improve my pacing. Then at the end of each quarter take time for students to study guide/review the part of the EOC we've done up to that point then move on. I feel like that is a more useful way to prepare for college final exams and then I could spend 3-4 days at the end of each quarter rather than per test.

      Thanks for asking!

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  2. I teach middle school and I stopped giving my own unit or chapter tests. We have benchmarks exams every 6 weeks that we are required to give and they are aligned to what we are teaching so I just count that as their test. I give a quiz almost every week though and they are allowed to retake them. I actually require them to retake it if their grade is lower than a 70!

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    1. What do you do if they don't retake it?

      I would love to have a benchmark exam that is aligned to my teaching! But it seems like I change my teaching so much each year that it never stays aligned. :(

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  3. I gave up big tests years ago. I do quizzes on every learning target. I actually give 2 quizzes for each learning target. I use those two scores to get a grade for the learning target. They can retake these as many times as they can, and I only count the most recent two scores for their grade. I have no end of quarter test or anything like that. However I have often thought about using a test like this. What I thought about doing was grading the end of quarter test like a bunch of seperate learning target quizzes. So on their final test they would recieve 6-8 scores, one for each learning target on the test. This grade would be mixed in with their quiz scores they previously earned.

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    Replies
    1. How do you time your two quizzes throughout the curriculum?

      A lot of people do grade big tests like you are talking about. But we have to actually put in a grade for the EOC itself.

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  4. The title of your blog post immediately caught my attention since I have often wondered if there might be a way to avoid giving tests. In my years of teaching I’ve varied what I’ve tried from year to year with regards to how often I give quizzes and how much weight is applied to them in the grade book. I have tried giving short quizzes at the end of each unit so that the material remains fresh in their mind. On the other hand, when I have given longer tests at the end of a unit or chapter then it requires extra days of review and increases the chances that students will forget parts of the material. But without giving big tests, can I really claim to be preparing my students for college? I’m not sure that I can. In addition to that issue, I face the problem of students who claim to “not be good test takers” or they claim that they “understood it during class but just made mistakes on the tests.” I hear this excuse a lot but I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. I feel bad for a student who is a bad test taker, but the reality is that there is a test for most things in this country from employment to driver’s licenses. In the end it comes down to the question you asked, how do we know if they are learning? And I would add to that question, do my grades accurately reflect how much they have learned? I’m not sure it’s possible to have a definite answer for those questions but they are important to ask and reflect upon each year.

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    Replies
    1. I think it would be a great idea to talk to college math professors and see what they think would help students to be prepared for college level exams! Thanks for bringing that up.

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