Reading Assessment Program
With Annenberg funds, middle school teachers have participated in a variety of excellent professional development programs designed specifically to engage previously low-performing students in reading and writing activities. These energetic and creative teachers are deeply committed to meeting the learning needs of all students. Many teachers participate actively in long-term professional development programs.
In one long-term professional development program, a local university professor guides teachers to develop interventions for "reluctant" readers. Typically, these intervention activities allow the students to use several learning modalities-auditory (listening to dramatic reading of poetry or stories), visual and kinesthetic (drawing pictures of images evoked by what they are hearing), and cognitive and kinesthetic (writing journals of their own daily experiences, etc.) Additionally, these activities enable students to draw from their own personal and cultural experiences. Students produce portfolios of their work, classes publish anthologies of their poetry, and students conduct public readings of their compositions at local bookstores.
Necessarily, with such an array of instruction practices, teachers have had to expand their methods of assessment. For example, one sixth-grade teacher has designed and implemented an alternate assessment in language arts. Woodsedge* Middle School teacher Tracy T. combined information from her long-term study group with personal knowledge to create a sophisticated language arts evaluation method. Thibodeaux created a rubric that allows her not only to evaluate the student's work, but the student at work as well.
Using nine learning objectives from the International Baccalaureate (IB) "Middle Years Program" (MYP), Tracy devised a rubric that assesses student knowledge, skills, and critical thinking ability. While the MYP is often used in magnet classes, this teacher incorporated the program's learning objectives into her work with "regular" students, some of whom have been identified "at risk" of academic failure. The MYP stresses intellectual rigor and high academic standards. Additionally, the MYP seeks to develop young people's individual talents and to relate the experience of the classroom to the world beyond.
This middle school teacher chose the following nine learning objectives for her sixth-grade language arts students:
Tracy created a rubric containing eight assessment criteria based on a scale of 0-8. She clearly defined each criterion and provided descriptors of proficiency at every level. The eight criteria are:
A student demonstrating high achievement with the Writer's Notebook is assessed with the following standard:
The student's notebook is incorporated into his/her daily life in a way that demonstrates a truly personal response to life as a writer. It contains evidence of serious reflection, many writing strategies (personal responses to literature, narratives, observations, etc.), and a variety of media (mementos, photos, quotations, etc.) The student has maintained more than one notebook throughout the year.
Tracy uses a variety of assessment techniques to evaluate students' progress on the rubric. In addition to using running records, grades, and tests, she also reviews student portfolios including "Work in Progress" folders, "Pieces Completed" folders, and Student Written Reflections.
Although this assessment approach is very labor-intensive, it enables the teacher to stay student-centered, focusing on the unique needs of each student.
*All school names are pseudonyms.
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