I’ve already had a bone to pick with the system but DAMN do I have a bone to pick with the system and it has to do with assessment (shocker). Friday was supposed to be quiz day for both Mr. M’s seniors and my juniors but due to electrical issues we closed (oh the irony as we are an Electrical & Tech vo school). We decided to give the quiz on Monday but allow students 10-15 minutes individual and/or class review time.
Let me explain what happened during the seniors quiz time. Mr. M reviewed EVERYTHING that would be on the quiz and completed quiz-like problems on the board. Then students requested we leave all the worked out problems, procedures and solutions on the board to help with the quiz, and so we did! Now I was already balking at that, how is this testing their understanding of hourly and overtime wage if they’re just switching out numbers left on the board? However I was asking the wrong question since the information on the board was barely used. Students were raising their hands left and right and demanding procedural help as well as answers from me and Mr. M. And let me tell you, they were so pissed when I refused to tell them how to do the problems. I mean, it’s a quiz – right?! As I sat back I watched Mr. M go around and help each student as if it were homework, pointing out the important information then just telling the student what to do; Also every student asked at the end of each problem, “Is this right?”
I was completely dumbfounded at the lack of “test etiquette” these kids showed. When I talked to Mr. M he explained to me that if he didn’t help these kids would fail and there is no point in failing these kids because at the end of the year the principal is going to come up to him and ask, “What can we do to pass them?” He also argued that those failing students get discouraged and disruptive since they usually adopt the attitude, “What’s the point I’m failing anyway.”
Still I’m concerned this is all wrong. If quiz grades don’t matter or reflect meaningful information, why give them at all? Is there a better way to asses learning, maybe in school projects? What is the point of all this if it’s not even vaguely accurate?!
Both the juniors and the seniors have severe learned helplessness and I keep going back to this idea of the gradual release of responsiblity that I wrote about before. For the seniors I think my goal needs to be more life-centered rather than school-centered. I need to encourage individual thinking and problem-solving skills to help them become successful humans in the world not better test takers because for many this will be their last year in a school environment.
But most importantly I think this whole idea of a “quiz” needs to be scratched. If the information gathered is bogus, inaccurate and at the end not even used, why do it at all? And now more importantly, what can I do better instead?