Standards based assessment in practice

This first semester has been a huge experiment in the 2D art classroom. Each assignment has been structured to meet specific standards. Each standard has been evaluated at some point during the semester. From those statements, you’d assume that everything was easy and moving along smoothly. It is not.

When I began the semester, I tried to evaluate three and four standards per assignment. I used a complex rubric, and students were able to calculate some of their progress, but the process of evaluating often overshadowed the actual growth students were making. I quickly determined that it was important to evaluate only one standard at a time. This allowed the assessment to be more in-depth, and focused. My plan is to begin my classes next time with a series of small assignments, each targeted at a single specific standard. This will set the base line for students, and allow them to quickly experience a variety of assessments.

The second major problem I ran into was that beginning students cannot meet end-of-year standards in the first week of class. My fancy rubrics assumed that students could achieve a 4/4 in each standard on the first project. I had not thought about what would happen if a student had perfect scores in the first week. The result was that I had students who were ready to quit creating after they had achieved perfect scores.  To correct this, I am working to devise a plan where students standard scores fluctuate up or down (previously only up) based on the most recent assessment. The limiting factor in this is the school grade book application I’m using to track growth.

So far, I have opted to record scores in GoEdustar, our district’s chosen grade recording system. To make standard scores visible, but not count towards a mathematically calculated grade, I have entered a letter followed by the score. “x2.5” This fools the grade book into thinking that there is no value for a particular assignment. This system of recording presents one obvious problem. If a new value is entered in the grade book, the old value disappears. I believe that new data should be more important that old data, but in the art room, it is possible that early data is more accurate than late data. If early data represents an ability in a comfortable media like pencil, and later data represents ability in a more challenging media like watercolor, then I would rather take the early pencil data into account for the end of quarter reckoning. If the early data is erased, I have no choice but to record the later data.

One of my colleagues, @chrisludwig, uses a series of spreadsheets for his grade book. Each student has their own page of the spreadsheet on which is recored individual assignment with appropriate standard assessments. While @chrisludwig‘s approach is more informational than mine, and solves most of the problems I’ve encountered, it is also noticeably more complex and time consuming. Maybe I’m just being lazy. My plan for next semester is to record each project’s assessment separated by a letter. “x2-y3.5-z3” We’ll see if I like this better. I fear that I will eventually succumb to the @chrisludwig system of long hand recording.

Next post I will try to detail my the progress in making my assessments as authentic as possible.

Comments and critiques are always welcome.


About Mr. Miller

I teach Visual Arts in La Junta, Colorado. I am also an artist and printmaker. But more importantly, I am a husband and father to a beautiful and inspiring family.
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