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Tracking Student Progress: They're More Than Data

IMG_7049.JPGEach child must learn the necessary skills demanded by the state to reach graduation proficiency during their tenure in an academic institution.

Each boy and girl must adequately be able to communicate that learning before being able to walk on that fateful day after 12 long years of study.

Too often, we let teachers, not the learners themselves dictate what students know and can do.

This isn't the most efficient or effective way.

Why you might ask?

The fact of the matter is teachers are often biased and lack mind-reading skills; some have favorites and well, least favorites. Too often this colors our assessment.

Sure some students who have become good at playing the game of school can show what they know in their compliance, but others know a lot and choose not to show it in the way some systems dictate. And because they make this woeful decision, they are often left behind, forced to fight until their spirits are broken.

What if, we decided that students were capable of making important assessment decisions about their learning, teaching them about the standards and providing them opportunities to show what they know, receive formative feedback and continually improve until the end?

What if the summative part was an exit portfolio presentation that was an amalgamation of their learning, developed by themselves to show what they have learned?

Shouldn't this supplant a report card and random credits? Shouldn't kids be innovating and creating rather than test-taking?

Students in my classes are currently grading themselves.

Since I've removed grades from my classes, I couldn't bring myself to put a letter on their report cards, thereby rendering the mindshift we've been working on obsolete. The contradiction is more than I can bear.

How can I tell them grades won't be given and then give them anyway on the highest stake they have, their transcripts?

The hypocrisy in education is baffling.

But good karma and an overwhelming drive to see kids succeed have overrun my old need to control. Students aren't numbers. They are people and each is unique and special. We need to tailor learning experiences to best suit them so they can understand what they have to offer the world.

So rather than whittle all of my students' learning into a measly letter, I choose to let their words and our conversations to be louder.

We choose learning over compliance; the kind that engages deeply and connects broadly, spanning their many content areas. We practice skills that will aid them now and in future successful endeavors and we make mistakes acceptable and cheerable learning moments.

How can you give students a voice where it matters in your classes?

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