“Assessment” has its place in schools, but maybe, just maybe, it shouldn’t be in the driver’s seat. Case in point: a rubric used for scoring kindergarten “opinion writing,” required by our district to assess how a kindergarten is doing.
For anyone who hasn’t been in a kindergarten classroom lately, here’s an example of what teachers tell me is fairly typical work for a five-year-old at about this time of year. (I have the parent’s permission to use this, incidentally.)
Now, honestly, should a teacher really be required to spend time scoring this paper from 1-3, according to a rubric, in each of the following areas?
Talk about overkill…Using the rubric, the teacher was required to give one little girl—one of the best writers in the class—a lower score than she deserved on a paper because she didn’t use a transition “such as because.” Never mind that nothing in the writing itself demanded a transition. The rubric did.
Sigh. I spent a couple of days last fall testing kids on letter sounds and letter identification, filling out two different spreadsheets, compiling the results, and then making a list of which kids needed more work on which letters and which sounds—information the teacher then had to enter into a computer and take to a meeting. The result of all this work was that we found out exactly what the teacher already knew: Certain kids (and she knew which ones) needed more work in certain areas (and she knew which ones). Even I, helping out just one morning a week, was aware of most of the same information.
A good teacher pays attention. A good teacher spends more time interacting with her students than filling out rubrics and charts...but only if she has time. So many teachers these days are finding less and less time available for what really matters. “Assessment" all too often moves “common sense” to the backseat.