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27 October 2010


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Christy Porucznik

Can I suggest something that I have tried successfully with my grad students?
Ask the students themselves to write questions (and answers) for the test. Probably not useful for the youngest, but for older students I think that the idea of re-evaluating material with the question of 'what would I ask' can help you see what they think you think are the important points. Also can be a nicely cooperative means of honoring everyone's perspective and contribution to learning. Also, then they know that there will be at least one familiar question on the test and learn to appreciate how hard it can be to write a good question. Once again, depending on age, YMMV.


Hey, Christy, that is a brilliant idea. You're right that it probably won't work for the younger kids, but I'm sure I could try that with the ten- and twelve-year-olds.

Christy Porucznik

Glad to be of service. Web 2.0!

Judy Kingston-Smith

Thanks Christy! I will also try this with my 12 year old boy.


I struggle with the 'what do I need to have confidence the child has mastered the material and so we can move forward' vs 'what does the state need' vs 'what will he need as credentials for college' as well... more so now that I have a senior!

Riley Lark at Point of Inflection blog (http://larkolicio.us/blog/) has been having a number of posts over the past month on the topic of assessments and weighting, especially as they relate to the standards covered during the course. It's mostly math-focused, and as we learn at home we may not be quite as standards-focused, but the conversations - especially in the comments - have been very interesting and given much to think about.


Having slept on it, I'm increasingly convinced of the assertion in my last paragraph: "a single method of assessment cannot serve two masters." I think the homeschool teacher would do best to separate the functions with different assessments.

In other words, you have one kind of assessment for credentialing (including for communicating to the student where he is or isn't capable, where he has or has not passed external milestones); another for measuring and correcting the effectiveness of the teaching/learning dyad midstream; and maybe another as a retention tool.

Then you can decide which of these, if any, you'll retain as part of your paper trail.

Schools sort-of do this when they give low-stakes quizzes throughout a course as well as high-stakes exams or projects that serve as credentialing. We could do this, but why should we behave like schools when our strengths and weaknesses are so different from those of schools?

We can never measure our own children with objectivity like a school can, but a school can never *know* them like we can. We should be really, really good at doing the assessment-for-improvement functions our own way. And then we should look for some other way to assess for credentialing.

Barbara C.

I tend to differentiate sometimes between assessment and tests. Assessments to me literally "assess" where my daughter is on a subject whether I have formally exposed it to her or not. They don't involve studying. (For instance, at the end of first grade I had her take a series of first and second grade spelling tests cold on Spelling City. We had never studied spelling.)

To me "tests" involve review and studying and a certain amount of pressure (time constraints, extremely limited assistance). Let me just say that at this point I am very glad that testing is not mandatory in IL. Otherwise my very bright daughter (almost 8) would completely bomb. Her mind completely shuts down when exposed to the tiniest amount of real or perceived pressure.

In the past I've given her a "final exams" for math (we use Singapore so a lot of people use the placement tests for this). I did it as much as early preparation for standardized testing as assessment. But it's been very hard for me to know what level of "help" it is appropriate to give and not to mention dealing with her screaming and crying from the stress.

I just pray that she outgrows this before it is time for her ACT/SAT, and in the meantime I am debating whether I will really give her the next final when she finishes her current math level.

Barbara C.

I also know what you mean about wanting your child to do well on an "objective" test so that it will reflect better on you as a teacher. After the last "final exam" I went through a real period of self-doubt and self-examination as a teacher and a parent.

While I realized that some of her less than stellar performance was due to behavioral and psychological issues, I had to reassess what my goals are for her age. Somewhere and for some unknown reason I had slipped from trying to "plant seeds" to expecting complete mastery.

I had forgotten that sometimes if I just plant the seeds they may not be ready to germinate for days or even months later. There are some lessons (formal or informal) that she doesn't seem to pay attention to at all or is actively rejecting (especially during Religion) but then she'll pull out an amazing insight or I will overhear something she told her Granny about it much later.

So, I think I am becoming more and more leery of doing any testing until my kids are at least 10. And even then it would probably be more to prepare them on how to take tests than to truly assess their learning.

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