Changing the Test!

I’ve never been comfortable with how we traditionally evaluate students in math. It has bugged me that I test on a specific date, then move on. We tell the kids to not forget that material, but never really give them credit for doing that!

Yet our curriculum documents say we should do otherwise…..

First one,

From The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12: Mathematics, 2007 (revised)

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 3.12.02 PMThis document DOESN’T say that students will know __________ skill by Nov. 3 (or any other date). We have traditionally done this! We have set a unit test after we have taught the unit…..the student prepares for the test; writes the test……then they concept and skill is not assessed or evaluated formally again until the exam!!!

We’ve got all year/semester to get them to demonstrate these skills. We should have an assessment/evaluation policy that reflects this.

Second one,

From Growing Success:

“The primary purpose of assessment and evaluation is to improve student learning.”


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Our main goal should be to help students learn math “better”!!! Our assessments should be apart of this!

Traditional teachers are going to argue “We need to prepare them for university”—- My argument is that I want them to know their stuff well! I want to show them that they can always do a little better. I want their minds to grow, their math knowledge isn’t static. (Also, I remember from my university days, professors saying that if you did better on the final then they would take this mark as your whole mark…..rewarding learning!)

My new philosophy:

Everything is upgradeable!!

Here is what I’ve been doing for grade 12 evaluations lately:

1. I still have the test on test day! No different than before.

2. I mark the test and hand it back. I remind the students that all skills/concepts are upgradeable!!

3. The students then sign up for help/upgrade session at lunch, or down time during class.

The student is to bring their test/evaluation with them….we go over it together discussing missed concepts. We pick together curriculum expectations that they can upgrade.

Say, for example A student received 1 out of 4 on a question testing the skill  “Solving polynomial Equations”. We discuss the mistakes and the students can re-do that question. Once that question is correct I give the student another, new question that tests the same concept. If that student can prove they know the concept two times in a row….then I give the original test marks to the student….they now get 4/4 on that question. (I keep helping and giving questions to the student until they can complete it on their own. )

5. I then go into my markbook and change the marks!

Here is a recording sheet (nothing revolutionary) I use so that I can track their upgrades. Most upgrades span multiple days.

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They can do this for any concept/skill from the test….they can do this for every test.

So can a student get 100% on a test? My answer: Sure! Does every student in my class get 100%  Not even close…. I wish they would! They have that option.

If my students know and can demonstrate the skills and concepts of my course consistently why wouldn’t I give them full marks!!! Their mark is supposed to represent their learning and knowledge…..not their work ethic!

The students’ attitude toward test days have changed. Some are working harder before the test so they don’t have to spend their lunch time upgrading…..some have told me their anxiety towards their tests have been lifted!

Other teachers who helped my with my thinking:

Dan Meyer:  The Comprehensive Math Assessment Resource

Evan Weinburg: Standards Based Grading: Bridging the Gap

Most recently: Mary Bourassa: Rethinking Tests – who inspired me to write this post.

This process is most likely debatable and definitely can be improved upon. I am still learning this process myself and would love to discuss these ideas, so please leave some feedback!