Weekly Reflection: I still got me the OTJ blues

Last year I lamented the process of making my first set of Overall Teacher Judgments. I would like to say with a year of experience that I would be a lot more at ease of the process but instead find myself more uncomfortable assessing students as being ‘up to standard.’

The problem is that while National Standards deal in absolutes learning does not. Two different reading tests showing a clear mismatch in data on a number of students while I also had the displeasure of sitting through a learning conference where the National Standards judgements of the previous school  didn’t match that data I had in front of me.  Does my experience show that teachers and schools judgements are just ‘ropey’ and we need to spend millions of dollars and countless hours on moderation or even worse move to a system of national testing.

Ultimately too many variables that effect students performance on standardized tests. They could have had a bad night’s sleep, a disagreement with a friend and just being in an unfamiliar classroom which might throw kids off their best. Ultimately I found the most  effective assessment I conducted over the course of this year was when I sat down and did a GLOSS or PROBE on the students. I could hear them thinking and see them struggle. There was no guess work, and the observation aids how I approach teaching the child far more than having them fill in multichoice bubbles.

Because in the end I’m more interested in where to from here than where the kids are now. However as has pointed out on twitter more and more the levels do matter. Reporting to the Boards and the Ministry demands robust data however in the search for robust data there comes a point the kids’ disappear into numbers.

Yet we know each child is different.

When children learn to walk, we accept that they do so at their own pace and might not crawl before they learn to walk. As adults we can model, guide and encourage but in the end it’s up to an individual child. Some are walking at 9 months while others might take up to 18 months to master this physical skill.  We accept this as a difference which has nothing to do with a child’s future yet when it comes to complex mental tasks like reading, writing doing maths,  we now demand that our kids progress uniformly.

To counter some of this standardization I’m getting the kids to document their year on video. Twice a term I’m getting the kids to interview each other and the story gained from this will tell a far deeper story than any report. Instead of worrying about tests and where they are the first few weeks were about getting to make friends and worrying about their teacher.

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2 thoughts on “Weekly Reflection: I still got me the OTJ blues

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  1. Great work Stephanie. I have had similar experiences in the past and I am reliving them again. I don’t like the standards at all. I prefer the way we used to do it, against each individual’s chronological age – because each child is an individual.

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  2. I agree completely Stephanie. Standards aren’t useful for bot of govt because of the lack of consistency across schools. However, is spending millions on moderation to get valid, reliable data going to improve students learning? How much do we value student learning or do we just want data so that govts have something to talk about? Would it be better to spend the money on PD for assessing what the next learning step is and matching individual children with practical interventions that might work in the classroom? It seems to me teachers need more knowledge of what they could do not more information about how to assess children.

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