Many people whine about standardized tests. I love them.
I love them because I find them to be accurate at gauging my students’ understanding of the mathematics. Students who got A’s in my class get high scores on the state test. Students who got D’s or F’s get low scores.
I know this sounds anecdotal, but I actually try to make it more scientific. Every year, I run the numbers to see how accurate I am as a grader.
The graph above shows my current students’ grades as compared with their preliminary scores returned from this year’s CAASPP test. That number on the side is the most important – it means that 66% of the variability in scale scores can be explained by their grade.
Furthermore, every student who got over 80% in my grade book received a scale score that indicates they either met or exceeded standards. Conversely, every student who received below a 60% in my class received a score that indicates they nearly met or did not meet standards.
How do I get the grades to be this accurate? My grades are entirely based on tests and performance tasks. No homework is included in the grade. No classwork is included in the grade. No group work is included in the grade. All those things go into their “Work Habits” grade, which is separate. Their letter grade is entirely based on assessments.
Students are graded only on what they know and what they do not know.
This is not a revolutionary idea. It is a riff on standards-based grading. It isn’t exactly the same thing, because I have to give a single letter grade at the end of the year.
But I think students and parents appreciate it when the letter grade is a good predictor of their student’s success on the test. Parents and students do not want to be surprised. Sure, they want to have a good grade – but they also get really annoyed when an A-student gets a letter in the mail in August saying that they did not meet standards on state tests.
When teachers, students and parents are realistic and honest about progress – that is when real learning can occur.