This past week I began our winter assessment cycle. This a routine I completed and coordinated for over two decades. One would think the task would be a chore, a mundane thing with nothing to learn. This couldn’t be further from the truth, especially in our current reality.
As with everything in our learning community today, we have to adapt. I sign in to each room to create potential contact tracing. We strategically make decisions about who will asses each room to reduce risk. All of the assessment materials are in sheet protectors. The caring members of my learning community found safe places in their rooms for me to spend time with their class. Which so much different, how can it possible feel the same?
But it does. These moments spent in classrooms catching glimpses of the routines, spending time chatting, noticing, recording each child’s assessment in class after class fuels my practice. I notice so much. These moments feel like the important work. They give me solace in our difficult time.
One teacher created a shared writing with her class requesting that the pigeon be able to drive the bus. The bus driver responded. Other teachers pull small groups and confer with amazing efficiency. Students adopt the routine, work independently. In one class, I caught a glimpse of myself in a self-made teaching video. We settle in and as I accumulate classes I begin to notice patterns. Math seems to be more of a challenge. When each student reaches that 3 + 5= problem, they stop short for a moment. Can I use my fingers? Of course, I say. 21 and 12 look very similar when your six. The word nab doesn’t make any sense to a first grader. Neither do the names Spot and Harry for pets. On and on it goes, note data that similar across students and classes in subtle ways that computer generated data will never reveal. Are the students anxious about the assessment? Are they confident? Do they say as one first grader did, “this isn’t a REAL story!” These are the subtleties of one on one assessment and quite honestly one of the secrets to my success as a coach. Spending time, if even a little with a great number of students across the grades and getting a clear(ish) picture of what’s going on in the learning community.
But this is soon to be extinguished. My joy in the examination, my collaborative tool, our shared moments will be replaced as they have been in all the other classes in our district. This time-consuming, granular examination of student growth is soon to be replaced by computer-based, child-driven assessments. A computer will ask the students the questions, record their answers never noting whether these were obvious random guesses or lip-biting tense considerations. I won’t be present. I won’t observe dozens of classrooms over weeks. I won’t talk to most of our student population anymore. Oh, it’s efficient, don’t get me wrong. But was efficiency what we were looking for?