Apr 29, 2012
Comments Off on Counting to Mastery

Counting to Mastery

While sitting having lunch with some progressive, insightful educators, the ideas around assessment were being bandied around. The struggle between the quantitative and qualitative, the balance between formative and summative assessment, and how to find a balance of assessment that most benefits students.

This idea came to my head: A student’s final mark should never be lower than their mid-term mark.

I said it, knowing it may sound crazy, explaining that I hadn’t fully thought it through. However, here was my logic:

A student’s quantitative evaluation, according to Growing Success in Ontario, should be based on “observations, conversations and student product.” (39) Nowhere in Growing Success does it explain the necessity to calculate a student’s numeric mark. In fact, if you read through the document enough, there is considerable evidence to suggest that teachers should be considering what students do as demonstrations of their learning.

And this brings it back to my idea.

As the year progresses, a student can not un-demonstrate their skills. They can not un-demonstrate their knowledge. This is where it gets tricky. I believe that Growing Success wants us to look at the curriculum as stated and evaluate where each students’ skills are at that moment, thus “most recent, most consistent”. What that means is a student’s numeric mid-term mark, should be looking at that student’s demonstrations against all the skills necessary for that credit.

The idea that a student’s final mark should never be lower than their mid-term mark is contingent on the idea that the teacher is determining that mid-term mark against the entire curriculum, not just an isolated part of it.  I know the English curriculum and I would suggest that this idea works. Students at mid-term surely have demonstrated the various elements of reading, writing, oral communication and media studies. A more content driven curriculum, does not fit into this notion.

The one hitch: Growing Success still implies that a student’s final evaluation be determined from 70% of their term work and 30% from a summative. Therefore, at most, a student’s mark should only drop by 30%. However, Growing Success also states, “Determining a report card grade will involve teachers’ professional judgement and interpretation of evidence and should reflect the student’s most consistent level of achievement, with special consideration given to more recent evidence,” (39) which implies that summative evidence may be taken with more consideration.

I leave it to you. My question, considering the ideas, as outlined in Growing Success, is my idea accurate. Or is it the random nonsense of a radical?

Is a mid-term mark, the first instance of our counting to mastery and therefore an indication that a student has successfully demonstrated a specific level of the skills? 

Should a student’s final mark ever be lower than their mid-term mark?

Please comment, question, challenge, and be part of this conversation. I’m wrestling with this notion and would love to hear your thoughts.

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