Experiment with flexibility: tech + assessment
At Edmunds Middle School, in Burlington Vermont, Sarah Wright is rethinking assessment to create a self-paced Spanish class. Students can re-take exams as many times as possible, and work towards proficiency as it’s defined in the real world; the ability to communicate is what defines mastery of the subject. A stellar example of experimenting with schedule/assessment/instruction changes to meet proficiencies.
Unlimited retakes for assignments below the 80% standard
“At the school, you pass with a sixty,” explains educator Sarah Wright. “But that’s not enough. So I wrote a sentence on the board with only 60% of the words there. And I said to the kids, ‘The problem is that with language, in the moment, when you’re really talking to someone, that’s not enough.'”
Wright changed out the normal testing schedule for an ad hoc / as-needed exam schedule, where students could approach her to demonstrate verbal Spanish proficiency in various subjects at whatever time feels suitable for them. If they’re unable to achieve 80% proficiency on the exam, they can retry unlimited times until they achieve it, with no academic penalty. Using the school’s LMS, Canvas, students are also able to turn in written Spanish assignments online in a similar manner — unlimited retakes, no penalties. The focus is on the overall goal of proficient communication rather than a specific academic mark.
Tech tools used:
- Canvas: links to vocabulary, notes & practice
- Paper copies of vocabulary for easy access
- 1:1 netbooks
Edmunds Middle School is 1:1 with netbooks.
Why We Like This:
In a class that is structured around proficiencies, learners are able to move at their own pace. Once they have demonstrated mastery in a certain area they are free to move on. The flip side is that they need to be able to demonstrate mastery. Sarah’s assessment strategy allows for continued learning while pushing for higher achievement. Middle School is not a Building, a publication of Vermont Middle Grades Task Force, describes assessments that are right for young adolescents. It describes many properties of best practices for assessment in the middle grades, including using them as a tool to improve learning, rather than just to report out on a student. This is how Sarah is using her assessments.
This strategy is moving closer to the vision of proficiency-based assessment.