Rick Wormeli and standards-based assessment and grading

Last night I attended Rick Wormeli’s lecture in the Cumberland, RI. He was invited to speak and train at the Cumberland High School in the day and talk with the parents in the evening. He was bringing his expertise in standards-based assessment and grading. When I first heard about the lecture I thought, “Ok, I will go and listen to a Common Core advocate because I need to understand the opposition.” I expected to be annoyed throughout the lecture. My expectations could not have been more wrong.

When Wormeli says “standards-based” he is not talking about any particular instructional program. What he means is that the student will be assessed and graded only on evidence of mastery of the standards. It is not based on student behaviors, neat notebooks, hygiene, or other subjective judgments. To do so is “grade falsification” and that is unethical. (He raises the unethical issue often.)

With a standard everyone involved has a clear picture of what needs to be mastered and how the evidence of mastery contributes to the grade. How the student achieves mastery does not contribute to the grade. The path, as it were, can be different for different children. And it is the teacher’s professional role to find that path with the student. Thomas Guskey in Education Leadership asks of teachers “Is my purpose to select talent or develop it?” Clearly it is to develop it.

He advocates for rework. “When,” he asks, “is a professional evaluated on the average of his or her work over time?” When you pass your driving test on the second try you have passed the driving test. You have shown evidence of mastery. You are not told that based on the average of the two tests you will need to take and pass a third test so as to raise your average. What matters most is the current level of achievement and not the past levels. The same is true for students. If the student shows evidence of mastery of the standard then the student has passed. Formative tests and quizzes are to aid the student and teacher in evaluating progress towards mastery. They are not graded. They are diagnostics. It is only the summative tests that are. And these can be retaken/reworked.

He is quite formal with how he consent to rework. He wants to know when and how the student expects to spend their time to improve their understanding of the standard? This then becomes a contract between him, the student, and the parents. In Mr Wormeli’s class rework is not an opportunity to skip the preparation for the original test or assignment.

Wormeli state that the standards should be atleast school-wide if not wider. Without that there is no way to fairly accesses students. If Ms World’s History 101 class uses a different standard than Mr Universe’s History 101 then how can either teacher know that the student is prepared for Ms Congeniality’s History 202 class? All that the teachers know for sure is that the student was passed along. And that is all the administration knows. And that is all the parents know. The student, you can be sure, knows the truth.

Wormeli is a dynamic speaker. He has vast teaching experience at elementary and secondary schools. He seems to have countless experiences and examples to draw upon. He is funny, playful, and, when needed, skewering. He is also very well rehearsed.

He covered lots of other ground and had time, mental, and physical conditions allowed he and the audience would have remained in the auditorium well into the night. I do plan to follow up on his lecture by reading his writings and viewing the videos he has done.

1 comment:

Tom Hoffman said...

Standards based assessment is very reasonable, and it sounds like the guy presented it well. As someone who has advocated for standards based assessment, I am frustrated that the Common Core isn't well designed for standards based assessment (in ELA at least).