I have been posting a lot about feedback in the past weeks. This post looks at a different kind of “talking with kids”–asking the students for their opinions about structuring their assessment schedule. In general, as teachers, when we think about asking students when they want a test, I think we mostly assume they will say “never” and leave it at that. However, my colleague, Irene, and I had a very different experience when we recently asked the students in our three Extended math classes for their vote in making some scheduling decisions.
Like all teachers, Irene and I spend a lot of time considering the pros and cons of various scheduling choices–do we schedule a test on a Monday, did we schedule enough days for part of each Module, did we leave time for a review day? For the most part, once a decision is made, we simply tell the students when things will be happening, especially when it comes to major assessments. However, we recently found ourselves in a tough situation, juggling MCAS (our state assessment, the dates of which are fixed by administration and the State), time to prepare for MCAS, the Module Assessment (unit test) for the first Module in the Algebra work we do in our advanced classes, the Year-End (cumulative) assessment for the entire year’s work, and iReady (a grade-wide assessment). And a half-day (for students) right in the middle of things.
No schedule that we worked out seemed good; all had screaming issues. MCAS was fixed on the 13th and 14th….did we want to have the kids take the (two-day) Year-End Assessment on the 15th and 16th? Would they be burnt out from MCAS or would they be “in the mode” because we had been reviewing for MCAS? Did we want to start the next Module (forms of Linear Equations) on the 15th and 16th and then take a pause to administer the iReady? Less chance of burnout, but would it create a choppy experience for the students, rather than a cohesive start to our final (and most difficult) Module? How could we have something for early finishers to do after iReady if we waited to start the final Module?
After going around and around in circles, we did something new for us–we decided to ask the students. (Irene did a show of hands; I created a Google Doc.) In my class and in one of Irene’s, the vote was unanimous–despite the difficulty inherent in testing for four straight days, the students voted to have the Year-End Assessment the two days right after MCAS. (Irene had one student vote for a different schedule in her third class.)
When I reflect on this experience, above all else, I am so proud of my students. In reading over their comments, I see thoughtful, thought-out responses. I guess it’s almost time to let this year’s munchkins head off to 8th grade!