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Educators talk about assessing learning

“The first month of school should not be spent reviewing the materials the students learned the year before. There may be a need to review some basic skills, however, this should not be your main focus. Students are excited and ready to learn, and teachers should take advantage of this and start teaching content immediately. However, it is difficult to start teaching the content if you do not know what your students already know and what they still need to learn. Formal assessments are one way to get a clear idea about what your students already know. National, state and district-wide testing can give you valuable information about your students. However, these tests are not usually done during the beginning of the school year and can take months to get back results. This is when it is important to do informal assessments with your students. Informal assessments occur while you are actually teaching. You need to really think about this when you are doing your planning for the beginning of the year. For example, when you bake cookies you do not “review” how to crack an egg or practice removing baked cookies from a cookie sheet. Instead you take an inventory of the ingredients in your cupboard (the knowledge of your students already bring with them to class), the ingredients you are missing (the gaps in their learning that must be filled), and your cooking tools (your curriculum). That is why assessment is vital to teaching because you cannot even start to bake your cookies until you see what ingredients you already have to start with. If you try to start making your cookies and you realize that you are missing sugar or flour, you will have a major problem trying to complete your cookies.”

–-Cindy McCormick – 3rd-grade teacher

“Proper assessment is the key to having an authentic understanding of students' knowledge. It also lays the framework for effective planning and enables the teacher to meet the needs of all students. The most powerful, informative message (and easiest) is ongoing, daily observations and anecdotal recording of student learning. By simply walking around the room while students work and taking notes on the various behaviors exhibited, I am able to learn a great deal about my students. I look for areas my students may be struggling with or are confused about, behaviors that appear to impede student learning time during a lesson, and the responses and ways that my students are thinking about their work. After doing these assessments I am able to make simplifications and extensions where needed to meet all of their needs. It is also crucial to look over students' finished work before they place it in the completed pile. This affords me the opportunity to catch mistakes and turn these errors into meaningful teachable moments.”

--Dawn Croley – 1st-grade teacher