Friday, 22 June 2012 11:26

New policy helps PRSD teachers assess student achievement

Written by  Rose Sanchez
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Trustees with Prairie Rose School Division had a lesson in marking students and the lesson was it can be subjective, up to the individual and a lot harder than it looks.

That will hopefully no longer be the case now the board has approved a new student assessment and achievement policy that was more than two years in the making.
At the June 12 regular board meeting, Deputy Superintendent Brian Andjelic, had trustees decide what to grade four different students based on a set of marks.
The exercise was meant to show how difficult it can be to determine a student’s grade as it can be done by an average (mean), choosing a number in the middle (median) or choosing the most frequent number (mode) as the final grade.
“The concept of reporting student achievement is a complicated one,” said Andjelic. “It’s complicated mathematically and it’s complicated philosophically.”
The new policy which has been in the works for more than two years with input from teachers and administrative staff, will provide guidelines for teachers when it comes to student assessment. It boils down to the fact that teachers will be encouraged to grade students based on what they know about a subject, as opposed to including a student’s behaviour or work completed.
“This will help guide our teachers’ thinking in what should and should not be included in an achievement evaluation,” said Andjelic.
Surrounding this topic was discussion about whether students will be given zeros. This topic has received media attention of late, as a teacher in Edmonton was suspended for handing out zeros to students who didn’t finish their assignments.
PRSD’s new policy states “teachers should strive to eliminate reductions for late assignments and assignments not completed” but continues on that if a student fails to submit a sufficient number of assessments or learning and every effort to obtain them has been exhausted, then failing marks or zeros can be handed out.
“A zero is an easy way out for the teacher and the kid,” pointed out Brad Volkman, assistant superintendent. “It’s more work for me to keep after the child ... don’t cloud it with assessment.”
Board chair Marian Peers wanted to know what the motivating factor is for students to complete their assignments.
Andjelic said there needs to be a reward not a punishment for students. Students need to understand it’s easier to get the work done the first time, otherwise it has to be done in study halls, over lunch hours or on weekends.
It was important to update policies on how teachers are grading because a new database is being used within the division.
“All of our teachers are using the same grade book, so the numbers they are putting in now becomes significant,” added Andjelic.

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