Eureka and Middle School Math · UDL in Practice · Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Valuing Student Voice

sunflowers-3640938_1920.jpgThis year, we have one of the earliest ends of the school year that I can remember, ending with a half-day on June 12th.  Although I am certainly not complaining (ha!), one of the unexpected consequences has been the compression of the end-of-year final work:  MCAS (our state assessment; two days in May); our common year-end assessment (two days in May); and iReady (the district-mandated year-end universal screening, also in May, also for at least two days).  That’s A LOT of testing, both teacher-created and standardized, in a short period of time.  One way to increase student buy-in in a situation like this, where, as a teacher, I have to value the testing but I know it’s hard for the kids to do so, is to bring the students on board to have voice in scheduling.

What my colleague and I did know was that we were setting up two different schedules for the two levels of math we teach.  In the post “Co-constructing Assessment Schedules,” I wrote about the process we used to get feedback from the Extended students on their assessment schedule.  Although we didn’t offer Standard classes the option of taking the Year-End cumulative assessment immediately following MCAS, like we did with Extended, we did structure our classes with a combination of high levels of teacher-support mixed with lots of student-directed time.

Each day for the week prior to MCAS, we taught problems from the 2018 MCAS test in small groups or in shorter, full-class instruction (depending on the teacher).  In doing so, students were able to experience the entire test from last year, including exploring the online tools, such as an interactive number line, that aren’t necessarily listed in the standard set of MCAS tools (ruler, etc.).

In addition, we were able to offer targeted review on the content of each problem, regardless of the tools used in the problem.  At the same time, students had options about what material they wanted to focus on, using a format similar to our “By the End of” documents, with one sheet per major topic (Percent, Geometry, Ratios, etc.).

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Once MCAS was completed, the students had three additional days to work on topics of their choice.  As I have mentioned in a recent blog, I’ve been thinking about the ways in which the different math classes understand how to offer constructive and productive feedback.  Although the Standard classes didn’t know how to provide effective feedback on the document I put together for them for a “Brain Break” day, their feedback was more better when preparing for the Year-End cumulative assessment and for MCAS.

Students began by writing a list of topics they wanted to review in small groups.  Right away, I noticed that they had put topics on that we had already told them we were not going to assess them on with the Year-End Assessment, so I reminded the students about that and marked up the board; I also left this list for the week so that students could refer back to it and could return to it as they worked.


As more topics came in, the students and I planned the order in which we would do the small groups in order to cover all of these topics in the days remaining.


Even once we had gone over the expectations for content for the Year-End Assessment, an occasional topic came up again that would not be assessed.


I think this experience of co-constructing the review time was a positive one for me and for the students.  I was happy to be able to take first steps into having my Standard students, often my least engaged students, become differently and more deeply engaged in their own learning and in designing their classes.  From my point of view, it was a powerful learning experience, but, of course, I need to be sure to get feedback from the students as well….that’s in the works for next week!

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