The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.


For all the negative press that assessment in school gets, and for all the heated rhetoric used, I, as an educator, cannot avoid this one very simple point: there is simply no way I can teach without assessing. If I don’t know what my students know, how will I know what to teach in the first place? If I don’t know what they have learned, how will I know if they are ready to move on to new topics? If I don’t know how well they can do something, how will I be able to give them appropriately challenging material?

Now, some may argue that all of the negativity about assessing is actually directed toward high-stakes, one-time standardised testing. I can accept that there are probably better ways to collect large-scale data than what has been used for many years, but I also recognise that large-scale data is important for informing education policy. I am excited about the upcoming changes that are on the horizon, as I believe they will begin to provide better options for such assessment.

Because I understand the need for appropriate assessment so that I can better plan my teaching, I know that there will be times during the year when I will have to more assessment than other times. Today was one of those times. It was the last day of the third quarter, which means we have just a couple of months left before the end of school. I worked with my grade-level partner to develop some math and literacy assessments that we wanted to use with both of our classes to give an idea of where our students are at and where we need to go during the last quarter.

My students took the literacy assessment on Tuesday while I was serving as an election judge. They had to read a couple of short passages and answer questions to show comprehension, understanding of main idea, sentence structure, and grammatical elements. I had them take the math assessment today. It covered the wide range of math concepts and skills expected of fourth graders, such as operations, base-ten, fractions, decimals, measurement, data, and geometry. On top of these broad-range assessments, we also finished a unit on division of multi-digit whole numbers by a single-digit divisor, so I gave my students a quiz on this skill in the morning.

The results of these assessments will be used as I plan for the fourth quarter over the coming week. As the quarter gets underway, I will continue to monitor my students’ progress, assess them at appropriate intervals, and find as many ways as possible for them to demonstrate their understanding. Assessments are not the purpose of teaching, nor are they the final word in determining where a student is in their learning, but they are important tools to guide planning and provide snapshots of what the students are doing, both as a whole and as an individual.

While I am planning for the fourth quarter, I hope everyone takes time to enjoy the warm weather during Spring Break! I will certainly be doing more than lesson planning! I hope to get out of doors as often as possible and encourage everyone else to do the same!


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