Friday, April 10, 2009

Assessment for Learning and Student Information Systems

Interesting question that was discussed in an Iowa Core conversation.

How will our emphasis on student information systems in our school districts mesh with Assessment for Learning (1 of the 5 characteristics of effective instruction identified in the Core)?

To break that down a bit, when we moved to online accessible grades through our student information system (JMC) five years ago, it was the greatest thing for parents. Literally. The community survey, the parental committee at the site visit, SIAC, every chance for community input, they loved being able to access grades online.

Some took it to extremes of course, taking away their child's privileges for the weekend on the basis of what the Friday's grades were. And of course, each teacher was expected to turn in two grades a week because of this feedback. But generally, the teachers felt it was a good thing, since parents were getting on their kids' case early and often. And if the teacher and the parent is happy, the principal is ecstatic.

Problem is, grading is counter-productive in assessment for learning. There are stages to the process that should never be graded, such as rough drafts or trial runs on experiments. Students are encouraged to give critical self- and peer-feedback to improve learning. That's not going to happen if there is a grade hanging over it. The work of Popham, Heritage, and Wiliam all suggest that grading should be de-emphasized for more standards-based reporting.

This becomes an interesting quandary for schools to navigate.

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