Karl Fisch recently wrote about his proposed assessment scheme for next year's Algebra class.  He plans to weight his grades:

  • 10% - Preparation
  • 70% - Formative Assessment
  • 20% - Summative Assessment
Karl admits that a Dan Meyer-esque system is the ideal, but he's just not ready to take it to the next level in his own classroom yet.  Karl's proposed system is much better, in my opinion, that the majority of the grading schemes in your typical secondary classroom, so this post is in no way intended to downplay his current effort, but instead it has helped me examine my own practice as you'll see at the end of this post.  His writing brings up a question that I'm often asked in my conversations with colleagues and speaking engagements:
"Should a formative assessment ever be entered into the gradebook?"
I've written about the classic "grading practice" question once before, but it's worth revisiting.

Karl says he is going to report out learning by skill.  Standards-based grading, I like it.  Are these assessments still considered formative though, if they don't inform future instruction?
"One distinction is to think of formative assessment as "practice." We do not hold students accountable in "grade book fashion" for skills and concepts they have just been introduced to or are learning." - National Middle School Association
 I don't know how much feedback Karl will be giving his students before he administers the "formative" assessments he's referring to in his post.  He will giving repeated assessments until a student understands/masters the skills.  Is this an example of a repeated summative assessment or a formative assessment in action?  I might be getting hung up on the fact that it is entered into the grade book each time.  Two more questions come to mind:
  1. Are these types of assessments truly formative if we're entering them into the grade book...or is this just semantics?  Or are we kidding ourselves into thinking they're formative just because there's a second chance down the road?
  2. Assuming the types of assessments Karl refers to his post are not "formative," what types of assessments should we be doing in our classroom that are formative?  More ungraded quizzes?  Exit slips?  A closer look at daily homework/practice?
Sometimes I think my assessment system is on the right track.  Other times, I question if it needs revamped.  Since I critiqued Karl's system, I am also going to provide a brief overview of my current Geometry assessment scheme:
  1. Teach the big ideas using direct instruction, inquiry activities or some combination of the two.
  2. Students complete some "homework" problems I assign.  Answers are posted on the board immediately for students to check at anytime and to encourage asking questions of each other or me.
  3. The next day, students finish checking their answers, write the troublesome problem numbers on the board.  Either I go over a few of the requested problems or students work in groups to get their questions answered.  Students turn in their homework assignments and record the number of assignments they've completed without regard to their level of content mastery.
  4. Every two to four days, I give the students a quiz covering the big ideas they've learned since the last assessment.  The next day I hand back the quizzes with marks on a lykert scale indicated how each student is doing in relation to mastery of each of the assessed learning targets.  Students with relative strengths and weaknesses are paired together for 5-10 minutes to ask questions of each other or me for the sake of learning from their mistakes.  These quizzes are not entered into the grade book.
  5. At the end of every chapter, students are given a test.  The tests are not reported as a single score.  Instead, a score of 0-4 is recorded for each learning target.  More information about the grade book can be found here.
  6. Students who would like to improve their learning target scores come in outside of class and are given opportunities to replace their learning target scores based on new evidence of understanding. 
I hope to write more about this assessment system in detail sometime in the near future as I've recently realized that I have never put it all together in one place, but I think the outline above will give at least the avid reader enough of a refresher to engage in a meaningful conversation.  

I critiqued Karl.  Now I'm leaving myself open to criticism, too.  Have I gone far enough with 'formative" assessments or do I have room for improvement, too?  

(Update: see Jason's post for more reaction to this conversation)