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Buzz Words

There are always buzz words in education. There seems to be words that become popular in educational circles and if you use them at the right time and in the right company, others will think you know what you are doing. I find that it is easy to use the buzz words, but much harder to implement and use them. Several buzz words have been running through my mind recently, such as formative assessment, summative assessment, essential questions, and number sense.

Assessment has become the new testing word in recent years. We shouldn’t give tests or quizzes anymore, but assessments. Is there really a difference and if so what is the difference? I started giving assessments three years ago thanks to Dan Meyer and his blog on How Math Must Assess. I have tweaked his system over the years to fit my style, but it hasn’t been until this year that I feel that I have successfully implemented the formative and summative pieces of assessment.

I give my students small assessments once or twice a week that measure learning on two to three standards. If seventy percent of the class doesn’t show mastery, I back up and reteach. If seventy percent do show proficiency, I continue the lessons, but provide remediation to those needing it and retesting opportunities. If assessment, test, or quiz results do not affect your teaching and planning, they are not formative assessments. If you test kids and move on regardless of the results so you can cover the material, you are not utilizing formative assessments. I know this because until this year, that’s what I did. I had too many standards and not enough time. Instead of using assessment to inform and direct my instruction, I was using it to check off a list.

I give several summative assessments throughout the semester that model Tennessee’s End of Course test. Although these do direct my instruction, they are accumulative so I view them as summative. I guess the true summative assessment is the state test at the end of the course. The more I study forms of assessment and alternative assessments, the more intrigued I become. I want to constantly assess my students and use that information to guide their learning. I think there are several ways to do this and I’m always looking for the most efficient and effective ways.

Essential questions and number sense are teacher buzz words that will have to wait until another day, but until then, I promise not to overuse them in educational circles. At least not without researching them and putting them into practice.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Jen
    October 28, 2011 at 1:52 am

    interesting! Good for you! 🙂

    Do you have to give school/district written tests? We had to give 6 weeks benchmark tests that all students took across the district so that would certainly make it difficult to reteach as needed. I always felt like assessment was where I needed most improvements because I never had time to do anything with my ‘data’- I only managed to reteach the most missed questions through a warm-up which I never felt was very effective.

    • October 28, 2011 at 2:26 am

      The school asks us to give benchmark tests every nine weeks. I give mine every three weeks and count those as my summative assessments. I allow students to retest the formative but not the summative. I weight the summative assessments as 15 percent of their grade so it doesn’t hurt students. It gives me a big picture while not hurting the students. Most remediation is done in last 15 minutes of class, before school, after school, or during lunch. It is difficult, but doable. The students show up for remediation because they know they are in control of their grades with reassessments. Thanks for the comment.

  2. October 28, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Love it.

  3. October 29, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    If you have a good radar for education buzzwords, then you’ll love this: http://www.sciencegeek.net/lingo.html

    • November 8, 2011 at 2:02 am

      I love this! I am now brainstorming ways to use this in my next professional development activity. 🙂 Thanks.

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