Common Assessment w/ non CI Colleague and an Uninformed Principal

The subject matter of this report from Sarah Downey is nothing new, regrettably. She is in a really backwards-looking school and requests help from the group:

Common Assessment Analysis

Here’s the story:

Earlier this month my principal visited a school and came back with the form below that we all need to fill in monthly. I am 100% using CI (OWIs, the invisibles, sometimes a MovieTalk, SSR…) my 8th grade colleague is not. We agreed to make our monthly common assessment a free write that we would track monthly. My principal is unsure of what we are planning to do and might not allow us to deviate from a multiple choice test.

Our principal also loves the 7th grade teachers who teach page by page from the textbook. Currently I want to change proficiency targets to writing proficiency (novice mid) that I would like for them to be at by the end of the year. I also want to change that entire row that states % mastered.

I think this form only works for a multiple choice test from a textbook that tracks the questions and standards with reports on percentage of students mastering certain standards from a generated test.

I do not want to put my students through this. I want to make it as painless as possible for them and I want to appease my principal but have great suggestions and research to backup my suggestions so she can’t do anything but accept the final product I present her. She’s not a bad principal – she was a math teacher originally, she doesn’t understand and doesn’t want to learn. She also listens to my misinformed and lazy 7th grade colleague who wants to be a principal (could not happen soon enough).

Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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23 thoughts on “Common Assessment w/ non CI Colleague and an Uninformed Principal”

  1. Sarah the situation is not a good one. On the one hand, it seems that one option for you would be to try to make what you are doing fit their chart. But that won’t work – the chart is a waste of paper. On the other hand, your option is to try to educate a fence post. As usual, the only way out, as I see it and did it when faced with similar stupid things, was to fake data and do such a good job of it that they shut up. Sounds unprofessional, like we are advocating deceit, right? It’s not. It’s protecting our instruction. The best thing is to shut them up by giving them what they want and continuing to do your own thing in your classroom. I don’t see any other way out of it. Then, if they come after you, which they won’t, re-educate them. But you don’t want that. I never really tried it, but going out and trying to impart new ideas to a pile of fence posts seems rather futile, even with the great ammunition we have here in the Primers and in the Admin/Parent/Teacher Re-education category.

  2. Thank you Ben. I want to try to re-work that chart so I can do what I am already doing and make it look great so the boss decides to leave me alone. I have been doing a monthly free write which I track the number of words they write in 10 minutes. I have convinced my colleague to do this, it is easily trackable. I have a rubric but I only grade with it their first and last free write of the year.

    I’m ok with deceit if it makes my students less stressed and more apt to learn. I want to ask my principal what is her end game with this form ? (btw the picture isn’t loading) How many word should I expect students at the end of year 1 and year 2 to write on a free write? 100 something?

  3. I think that rather than convincing anyone of CI, the route you need to take is to get her to change her assessments to the ACTFL modes: interpretive, presentational, interpersonal.

    You might want to get Paul Sandrock’s book on Assessment from ACTFL and point out the quotes from Krashen in there.

    I believe that our main enemy in these battles is the grammatical syllabus, followed by thematic units, and followed by forced output.

    It’s very hard to co-exist with the grammar syllabus. Thematic units and forced output are not ideal but it is easier to co-exist with them if you absolutely have to.

    I tell students in Spanish 1 that we should “try” for 100 words by end of semester 1 in Spanish 1 (none of these kids are TRUE beginners). I’m learning that whatever bar you set you have to determine what they can reasonably do and then make the bar slightly LESS than that.
    I had a re-tell assessment recently. I think most of my Spanish 1’s can retell for about 1 minute, so I set the bar at 45 seconds.

    The fact that we are even setting bars and expectations for acquisition is totally contrary to the research, but I have found my above approach to work quite well since we are teaching in a broken system.

    1. Sarah this from Greg is gold:

      …rather than convincing anyone of CI, the route you need to take is to get her to change her assessments to the ACTFL modes: interpretive, presentational, interpersonal….

        1. Sarah you asked about the presentational mode – and what percentage of kids are below, average or above. I don’t see a way out of this one. Two things I would do: (1) stay under the radar. It’s likely no one will read it. (2) if someone says something, then let us know here and we will set up and aim the big guns (primers, other articles, Greg, Robert Harrell, etc.) on it. The general plan is to lay low until someone challenges, and then….shock and awe them with the research. Speak quietly and carry a big stick is the image. I think that there is a at least a 95% chance that if you were to fudge in numbers there nobody would challenge you. I would have zero qualms doing it. Zero. Less than zero.

  4. I’ve been meaning to get that assessment book front ACTFL. I am currently reading and loving Bill Van Patten’s Book. I don’t believe in grading for acquisition. I absolutely agree with you about our worst enemies.

    The suggestion about word count is going to be really helpful. If I use proficiency as a measure then what is a reasonable expectation for Spanish 1 and Spanish 2? Should I make the proficiency target goal for the end of the year and monthly track % of students who meet, exceed and fall below that proficiency level?

  5. Sarah asks:

    …should I make the proficiency target goal for the end of the year and monthly track % of students who meet, exceed and fall below that proficiency level?…

    You could do that as a way of placating the administrator. I personally only compare kids to themselves via the bar graphs. One kid may start at 40 words and end at 110 words and another may start at 70 and end up at 320 words by year’s end. Each child is different. I need to protect the confidence and desire to learn of the kid who writes less – that is my job. At some point the idea that education is about academics must fall and be replaced by the urgent need in our society to help form the whole child.

  6. I was only planing on comparing kids to themselves and only allowing them to see growth after the year is done. I wanted them to compare where they started and where they ended.

    I think of this as crap that I’m going to package up nicely with a bow for my administration but students won’t see this and they won’t know anything about this.

    The row I don’t know what to do with is the “Items mastered by 90%/80%/70%/60% of students” with writing. I really don’t want to track ser and estar usage, subject verb agreement, adjective placement,….! I could think or a million things to better spend my time with and that would benefit my students better. Any suggestions on something I could put there that would placate administration?

  7. For my department, we have adopted the Ohio Department of Education proficiency targets as our own targets.

    https://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Ohio-s-New-Learning-Standards/Foreign-Language/World-Languages-Model-Curriculum/World-Languages-Model-Curriculum-Framework/Introduction-to-Learning-Standards/Proficiency-and-Research-Based-Proficiency-Targets/Proficiency_target_charts_MCwebsite.pdf.aspx

    The work is done already and in my view the targets seem reasonable. Main thing is, as many people have said before on this blog, these are all documents that people will probably not look at ever, so don’t waste a lot of time on it. That’s why I decided to adopt the Ohio State targets. We could either do that or spend hours and hours in meetings coming up with our own.

    In my department we are giving the AAPPL Exam in February. We will see how the targets line up.

  8. a question re: proficiency assessment. Wouldn’t it make sense if we are trying to determine proficiency levels to assess interpretive versus production? I am wary of measuring proficiency levels based on *output* because we can understand far more than we can produce…

    1. Yes, that’s right it should be interpretive for the first few years at least in my view. That would seem to align with the research, but try to get a teacher to read any research- good luck on that one. The only teachers who are interested in this stuff are those that have come to it based on their own conclusions, based on being dissatisfied with the lack of results over the years.

      Most traditional teachers or ACTFL eclectic teachers think that you need to assess based on all modes: interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational from the beginning.

      In fact, assessing based on all modes from the beginning is ACTFL’s position. It’s not based on any research. That’s the reality though.

      Hence the need for “fudging” the interpersonal and presentational modes.

      1. Would an interpretive assessment be like a reading comprehension or a listening comprehension?

        That still leaves that bottom row of the form that states the % of students mastering, exceeding and falling bellow. That is the portion of the document that bothers me the most. I use the Interpersonal rubric but my counterpart doesn’t so we could use that as a common assessment.

        I would like do something with SSR but my colleague doesn’t do that and I need to get her on board w/out loosing the integrity of my instruction.

  9. This post and the feedback has been so helpful to me.

    On Monday I have a “curriculum planning” meeting with my district leads. I have three strong allies in CI, but none of them will be at the meeting. I am in my first year of full implementation and after only 10 weeks, and on an every other day schedule, I can see the benefits of what my students can do.

    I appreciate enormously all the generousity of ideas and strategies to help us newbies find success. Hope all goes well Sarah!

    1. Thank you Kara. I was the only CI teacher invited to our District curriculum mapping. It turns out another teacher had turned to CI due to the process and the research and examples from my students that I brought. I was steadfast on the ACTFL proficiencies and what the reasonable expectations should be, that whatever was written by the textbook folks didn’t need to be followed and a focus on interpersonal and reading at the early years. Good luck! I stayed positive but I dug my heels in with the proficiency and focus in early years other than that I was flexible which is probably why I got a few things to go my way. Good Luck to you on your curriculum planning.

  10. Sarah, you might consider a writing rubric that speaks more generally. I used to work in an IB school and came up with a rubric that appeased the IB framework.

    Writing production rubric:
    1) quantity of language produced in time frame
    2) range of vocabulary
    3) accuracy of language (i.e., spelling, grammar bits, verb forms and tenses, and such)
    4) conventions of written language (i.e., punctuation and such)
    5) organization, with use of cohesive devices (e.g., narrative goes from beginning to middle to end)

    5 criteria may be too much. Please take or leave what you will. I think you could pump out a one-page rubric where you use words like “always,” “often,” “sometimes,” and “hardly,” to distinguish between high scorers on the rubric and low scorers. Like “Students always uses proper conventions of language with punctuation, capitalization, spacing, (etc.).”

    The difference between year 1 and year 2 could be something like this:

    #3 – “After year 1 student uses the present forms of familiar, high frequency verbs, both imperfect and preterite, properly.” … “After year 2 student uses the present forms of an increasing range of verbs properly and the past forms of familiar, high frequency verbs.”

    It seems that when we hand admin an elaborate rubric they seem to leave us alone.

    1. Thank you Sean. I work at an MYP IB school and was debating on “grading” the monthly writing on an IB rubric and not entering it in the grade book or giving that info to students. Using the IB angle might get my admin off this common assessment and even make her happy. The IB rubrics are just really difficult for students and the writing rubrics are exceptionally difficult but if the students never see the scores then I think that should be fine.

      1. Sarah one very effective stance might be to juxtapose what your colleagues want with what the IB teachers will want. Clearly, your position could be, that since you consider it one of your prime professional responsibilities to align your instruction vertically with the IB program, then you have to use “pre-IB strategies” and that means doing it differently, more rubric-oriented, than your colleagues, and, of course, this will effect how you assess. You may even want to know from your administrating team in your building how your colleagues themselves are addressing the vertical alignment piece in your building.

        Related: https://benslavic.com/blog/back-from-atlanta/

  11. Real quick, I had to come together to do a common assessment with a non CI colleague. I gave the comment assessment as a multiple choice test using Google forms and then students took it on their laptops. I tell students that it is for me not for them but that they should do their best. It’s not grades and nor do I skew the test by having them memorize or review before hand. Actually it guides my NT CI by letting me know how what could be interesting to the students and what could not. We later share the data in Dept meetings. That said, students shouldn’t feel stressed tell them it’s a survey and move on.

  12. Stephen said:

    …tell them it’s a survey and move on….

    And Amy suggested that we call our CI instruction a “listening activity”.

    These are two good terms to avoid conflict.

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