A forum for discussing what's working -- and what isn't -- in standards and assessments.

Incorporating Standardized Test Scores Into Course Grades As A Student Incentive or Cutting Down the Christmas Tree

Howard Kellogg

There are those at my institution, single high school district, not counting our 2 alternative ed sites, who believe a significant number of students have so little motivation and interest in the state testing that they bubble figures on their answer sheets, put their heads down and take advantage of a the time to nap.

We are one of those institution where the administration does focus on test performance.

There are teachers who have gained the support of the administrators who would like to reward the students who make their best effort on the standard assessment with an increase in their course grade.

Any comments on this as a practice?

Comments (14)

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Learning Specialist: Technology for Stratford Hall

I think the analogy of

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I think the analogy of clearing the bar is a good one for a number of reasons.

Imagine you are back in school at a track meet (which by the way don't happen anymore in a lot of schools) and you have a high jump set up. The bar for the high jump is initially set so that every student has an opportunity to jump over the bar. Students who cannot jump, for whatever reason, do not participate. Over time, the bar is raised until only a few top students manage to make it over, and eventually a tie occurs, or there is a winner of the competition declared. Every child gets to experience some level of success, although for many children this success will still be a relative success as they will naturally compare their ability.

If the high jump was like how we run standardized tests, every child would be expected to be able to jump over the same bar and labelled a failure if they don't succeed. For some children the bar would be set too low, and they would set lower expectations for themselves in the future. For other children the bar is set too high, and they will label themselves a future. Many of them would not participate in future competitions simply by dropping out of the track and field event. For some children, the entire exercise would be ridiculous because they couldn't possibly jump over. Further, we would judge schools and teachers based on their ability to make kids jump over the bar, without concern about who they are working with. As an aside, some school districts (like NYC for example) would be using a special rubber bar that they can flex to ensure that the "right" number of kids are able to pass it.

Learning Specialist: Technology for Stratford Hall

I worked in an inner city

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I worked in an inner city school in Brooklyn where we struggled with student motivation as you suggest. Our students were 95% Title 1, and our school was easily one of the worst managed schools in Brooklyn (we had 4 principals in 3 years, and the last of those ended up being fired for cheating on state exams).

Focus on making what you do fun, rather than on ensuring you meet absolutely every criteria of the state exam. Focus on mastery of a particular topic.

For example, my colleague taught physics, and one year he made sure he covered every topic. The next year he focused on kinematics and made sure that every kid really understood the concepts from that one (fairly large) unit. He took about 6 weeks to cover all of the other topics before the exam. He went from his first year where 2 kids barely passing the Regents exam to nearly every single student in his class passing for the following two years.

In other words, he ignored trying to cover all of the requirements of the state exam, focused in on what his kids needed to be able to do on a particular area of the assessment, and looked for mastery in that area.

It's encouraging to read that

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It's encouraging to read that David has experience in the urban setting. I too teach a physics class, and yes, I end up doing deep mastery in kinematics and a survey of the energy topics. I also have suitable success on the state test. It is a practice that evidences the value of numeracy and scientific literacy in the curriculum.

I like David's interpretation

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I like David's interpretation of the "bar." My own interpretation is related to my "action" sports of snowboarding, whitewater sports, some cycling and equestrian trail riding. You travel where you look. If you fix your visual attention on a hazard, you run into it. So much for fixing attention on what could be content questions on the test. Be equipped to do more than recite. This is where numeracy and literacy comes into play, and how students have a better chance to clear the bar.

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