Common assessments make a change

By Morganne Staring

Quarterly common assessments have joined midterms in the trash bin of cumulative tests this year at East.

Previously, common assessments on a set quarterly schedule have been opportunities for summative evaluations of student learning that also help prepare students for their final exams. There will now be no quarterly testing schedule; however, individual teachers will instead give evaluations and unit tests when they feel it necessary.

This year the emphasis will be on more frequent formative assessments that help students form knowledge while helping teachers form a better idea of what students understand and what needs to be reviewed.

“Common assessments, given frequently and on a smaller scale (called common formative assessments) are not only encouraged, they are required,” principal Eileen Tully said. These formative tests given by teachers will still be punctuated by the final exam at the end of the school year.

Many students have greeted this change with enthusiasm, and perhaps even a Tiger Woods-style celebratory fist pump. For most, it means fewer nights at the end of the quarter spent scrutinizing pages of notes, whipping through flash cards, and cramming endless information into their exhausted craniums.

Some teachers are pleased with this testing change, while others are worried that without quarterly cumulative assessments throughout the year, their students will not have enough experience with cumulative tests and consequently not be ready for final exams.

“I don’t feel that it prepares my students for a final,” said math teacher Susan Taylor. Taylor feels that if the first summative, standardized test a student takes all year is the heavily weighted final exam, they are likely to perform worse than if they had taken quarterly common assessments or a midterm.

“That week [of midterms] in December you’re not stressed, but at the beginning of June you’re dying!” Taylor said.

District superintendent Dr. Neil Pederson made clear in a memo to faculty last year that “summative assessments should continue to occur at the end of a unit of study,” and many teachers do feel that unit or chapter tests will be sufficient.

Science department head Kari Wilkinson said that it “really depends on the class,” and added that the lack of quarter tests will likely be “more of an issue in AP classes.” Overall, she feels that the new plan is more flexible and can still prepare students for final exams.

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