Last week we received my kid’s first report card from his new school and we had our first parent-teacher conference. So you all know, Mac is 3 and 11/12ths years old and he is in preschool. So this is all new to us. The report card and the conference have me thinking about assessment (of course) because really, that’s what it’s all about. Is Mac learning what we want him to learn, and what evidence do we have to prove it?
The report card is not a card that says “A” or “C” or any other grade, but is, in fact, a rubric. There is a description of where his learning levels are in several categories, accordingly:
(E) = Exceeding – consistently exceeding grade-level expectations; a strength
(M) = Meeting – developmentally appropriate or meeting grade-level expectations
(D) = Developing – working towards grade-level expectations
(X) – Not assessed at this time; not applicable
For each category, there are specific learning items that are assessed using this framework (some are skills; some are knowledge areas; and a lot is behavior, as you might expect for students who are 3 and 11/12ths years old). Here is an example from the listening category:
- Effort – M
- Demonstrates comprehension in the daily routine – M
- Listens attentively to spoken language – M
(No comment here about how I would assess his listening skills. Let me just say we might have a case of grade inflation happening here. Or an inability to transfer skills from one context to another. Either way … )
Thus, across several categories and skills, we now know where his teacher sees his strengths and where we can help support his improvement. For example, he can count from 1-6 (E) and sort objects by color, shape, and size (E), but he needs more work in demonstrating self-control (D) and accepting responsibility for his own actions (D). He is doing as expected in recognizing his own name in print (M) and cutting across paper with scissors (M).
This takes us to the parent-teacher conference, which was also about assessing his learning and was evidence-based. His teacher had an iPad with about 30 pictures of Mac taken from the beginning of the year. Together, we looked at evidence of how he held a marker in September, October, and November; we were able to see differences in technique by looking at actual letters, shapes, and pictures he had drawn in an accompanying portfolio of work. She also had samples of his writing in which we saw evidence of how he wrote M – A – C in September compared to how he writes M – A – C now (not much improvement there, frankly. The M is still upside down thus spelling WAC instead of MAC. No comment…)
THIS IS ASSESSMENT, AND IT’S AWESOME!
We pose questions: What and how well is he learning? What evidence do we have? And what do we need to keep working on? And in answering these questions, we learn and his teacher learns and his school learns! Assessment = Learning = Assessment = Learning and around and around we go through the learning cycle. And we love it because we care.
Overall, Mac seems to be learning and doing pretty well in school (which is awesome considering that he is 3 and 11/12ths years old and has trouble listening … but apparently only with us). To provide further evidence that he is learning, here is a conversation between Mac and his dad this morning:
Mac: I want to wear these pants today.
Dado: Cool! These are cords!
Mac: Oh – I can’t touch those. I am not supposed to play with cords. They’re dangerous!
This after yesterday’s moment of inquiry, accordingly:
Mac: After the champion wins, is that when they get the chips?
Dado: The chips? What chips?
Mac: Yeah, the champion chips, Dado.
(Yep – most certainly grade inflation.)