Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Excuse me while I anthroposophize...

Reading through the Black, et al. and Kohn articles -- highlighter cocked in its holster and green pen held in a triangle death grip -- I found myself responding in verbal affirmatives to both authors, lamenting the height of the pedestal upon which E.P.S. places quantitative test data, and wondering W.W.R.D (What Would Rudolf Do?).

Rudolf Steiner, late philosopher of such gorgeous ideas as anthroposophy and Waldorf education, had such a firm grip on Kohn's third level -- challenging why we evaluate students as opposed to how we are doing it (Kohn, p. 38) -- that he fathered a society of k-12 schools with nary a grade offered. This stands in stark contrast to our own system, one in which we summatively assess our students so often that it cuts deeply into valuable classroom time. (To what end? )

Daydreams of Waldorf aside, we are a district that must grade; and not one in which the general feeling leans towards doing everything in our power to help students forget about them (Kohn, p. 40-41). Despite Kohn's contention that one should "never give a separate grade for effort (p. 41)," every elementary report card that went home last week required specialists to grade the students specifically on both effort and participation. Enter, the Black Box.

Black, et al. offer both theoretical and practical advice that might diminish the ill effects of all of this assessment, and help teachers and students to undertake assessment as usefully as possible. Ideas such as the wait time (p. 11), the "big question" (p. 12), and use of a self-assessment semaphore (p. 15) offer concrete starting points for successful formative assessment. However, as we move closer and closer to a being a district whose elementary curriculum moves in lockstep, these small decisions will require sanctions from the larger school community.

Debi, please pass those TUMS over when you're done.

1 comment:

  1. You have hit the nail on the head, or rather, inserted the dagger into the heart of the matter. Kohn is irrelevant to our current situation. Grades, which have always been important to this community, are an integral component of our students's school experience. I don't see this mindset changing anytime soon.