UDL and ASSESSMENTS

Can "one size fits all" become "all sizes can be fit"

Assessment in a first/second grade class

Because I teach first and second grade in Vermont I can look at high-stakes standardized testing from a distance and be thankful that my students, while they are in my class, do not have to take any of those tests. I do know, though, that the scores my former students achieve on high -stakes testing in third and fourth grade are partly reflective of the kind of learning they gained while in my class.

But . . . I am responsible for many assessments in many different subject areas for my students and take them very seriously. My favorite assessments are ones that are closely aligned to the skills and knowledge I think are very important for my students to have and give me specific and accurate information about what my students know and next steps for my teaching. That information does not and will not ever come from high stakes "one size fits all" standardized tests.

I agree there is a place for some standardized testing to look at education globally but we should not fool ourselves by thinking we can determine what individual students need by looking at those kinds of test results.

As a teacher I want the best assessments to show most accurately what my students can "do", the process they used to "do" and where they still need more instruction. Using UDL to design assessments will help teachers do that. Having read more about UDL and assessments I realize I have done that with lots of assessments and need to consider the design element of the assessment for many others. Since I teach first and second graders, one of the biggest barriers to assessing what kids know is their reading and writing level. If they can't read and write efficiently, a test based on reading and writing will not accurately reflect their skills and knowledge in other areas.
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I have been frustrated with some of our district science assessments that have students do an inquiry project - which they do beautifully and then have to document it with three pages of questions and writing which doesn't reflect what they actually did during the inquiry but reflects what they can spell and write! We have unit spelling assessments, which test students on words practiced in a particular unit and translate into a mark on the report card. Whether students spell words correctly in their daily work does not factor into either the teaching or the testing - if you are following the program. With both of these assessments I think about the supports students normally get as they learn - working with a partner, having someone identify misspelled words for them to correct and talking about what they notice and realize those supports are not present for the assessments. If science assessments included videos and discussion of inquiries, photos of results and interviews with students instead of pages of questions, the actual learning students gained would be much more evident than in the paper and pencil document. If spelling assessments focused on the student work that showed evidence of incorporating the skills taught in spelling in the daily work rather than a spelling test instruction could be more targeted to what students need instead of what comes next in the lesson book.

In a classroom where I have access to only one computer most of the time and one iPad I need to think about how to make sure all students access assessments that will best show their learning. Scribing, reading to them, giving them options to draw, build and act out their learnings are all possibilities of ways to design assessments that go beyond a "one size fits all" approach.