I have a question that many teachers have asked and would like your help when thinking through the grading process for common core. How might the children receive grades for the many standards without giving a test? The teachers are doing a lot of processing text together as a class or in partners so they are wondering about the accountability for the students and how to get a grade to measure their knowledge.
Remember there are lots of parts of Common Core, so if you are an elementary teacher and you are teaching foundational skills (e.g., phonological awareness, phonics, oral reading fluency), then using one of the many test instruments (e.g., PALS, DIBELS, AIMS-WEB) still might be a useful way to go to get a sense of where your kids stand.
However, we don’t have good tests of reading comprehension that can be given quickly and that provide that kind of information, so teacher judgment will certainly be necessary. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use the unit tests in your core program, those might help inform your decisions, but ultimately you are going to have to depend on your evaluation of student performance when they are writing about or discussing text.
I would strongly urge you to NOT try to give students scores in each of the standards. That wouldn’t make much sense and I don’t believe that you could do that reliably (nor can any existing tests). I would suggest that you pay attention to how well students do with texts of varying difficulty (so keep track of the Lexile levels, etc.). You might recognize patterns such as: “Johnny reads well when he is trying to understand texts at 400Lexile, but he struggles when they get to 500Lexile.” You could track this kind of thing yourself based on the texts that you teach or you could test the kids more formally with an informal reading inventory or something like Amplify.
You also might consider tracking how kids do with different part of the standards. Again, an example, might be that throughout a grading period you ask students questions that get at Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. I wouldn’t expect big performance differences between these tasks but there might be some patterns there, and you could report on them (and make grading decisions accordingly).
To do any of this you will need a system of observation. Maybe something like this: For each group that you do guided reading with, keep a list of students. Then record the date and Lexile level of the text being read for each student. Keep track of how many questions you ask them and whether they did well. You could break these down by category or just keep track overall. Another possibility would be a multi-point rubric that describes how accurate, thorough, and incisive the students’ answers were.
Of course, CCSS stresses the idea of students writing about texts. You could have students writing about the texts that they read several times during a report card marking and use an average of your ratings of these responses to determine how well the student was doing. Again, I don’t think you will be able to come up with anything highly specific (“Johnny is doing well with standard 3, but he struggles on standard 5” so I’m giving him a B-), but you should be able to say that, “Students by this point of the year should be able to read a text at 450Lexile with at least 75% understanding and he can only do this texts at 350Lexile.”
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