This lesson is the final test and summative assessment for the biomes unit. The test consists of 25 multiple choice questions, and a short essay which students can write on their choice of 1 of any 4 short answer prompts.
Please note that all of the sections below are timed at 0 minutes. This is because this lesson consists mainly of instructions for teachers and an explanation of my rationales.
However, I usually try and allow students to have about 60 minutes with the test. So I have them start pretty much right away once they've come to class (I do take a few minutes to quickly review test policies and allow them to organize their resources before they begin).
Connection to Standards:
In this lesson, students will demonstrate their understanding of the content in the biomes unit by producing clear writing, developing a thesis by selecting relevant, supporting facts, and accurately using domain-specific academic vocabulary.
Call me "old school", but tests are an essential part of school. Regardless about how one might feel about the assessment value of traditional, multiple choice tests, if you consider the SAT and ACT, AP Exams, college finals, then the GRE, MCAT, LSAT, etc., tests are very much a part of the student experience in high school and beyond.
I happen to believe that tests are good practice for students and a great tool for teachers to gauge how well their students have learned the material (and perhaps, by extension, how well the teacher taught the material).
With that said, however, tests are not necessarily the most equitable means of assessing student knowledge. Considering that multiple choice and short essay questions largely depend on a student's ability to read at grade level and both comprehend and produce academic English, ELLs and socioeconomically underprivileged students can be at a distinct disadvantage compared to their native English speaking, more affluent peers.
Therefore, I tend to build in as many resources and support opportunities throughout the unit to make the test less of a test of your background and more a test of your comprehension of the material covered in the unit.
On this test, each multiple choice question is worth 1 point, and the short essay is worth 5 points. The test, then, is worth 30 Points in total.
Once I have reviewed the policies, students have their resources ready, and I've rearranged their seating, I distribute a copy of the test to each student.
While students are working on the test, I occasionally get up from my desk and circulate the room, trying to both dissuade any academic dishonesty and get a sense of how students are progressing through the test.
When students finish the test, I ask that they bring it to my desk immediately. This not only removes opportunities for students to copy answers from each other, it saves me time on grading: as students turn in their tests, I can stagger the grading of their multiple choice segments of the test so as not to save all of the grading for my personal time.
To grade the multiple choice segment, I mark a blank copy of the test to use as an answer key.
I usually have the first homework assignment for the next unit ready on my desk and ask students to pick this up as they turn in their completed test. They can then work quietly on this assignment or on something for another class until the end of the period. If all students finish the test before the end of the period, I will announce that they can enjoy some "chill time" for the last few minutes of class, but this rarely happens... a few students almost always work right up to the end of the period.
My current Environmental Science course is not AP, but I would eventually like to offer an AP Environmental Science course to my students. So, considering that a short essay is part of the AP exam, including short essays or free response questions on my tests seems like a good practice.
I firmly believe that while multiple choice questions can be a measure aspects of student content mastery, they can't fully measure that mastery. In a sense, in a short essay response, there's "nowhere to hide" and students need to demonstrate their ability to make an argument or statement of fact supported by multiple pieces of evidence from their learning throughout the unit.
I grade the written portions of the tests using this rubric.
The short essay question is worth 5 points. On most of my tests, there are 20-25 multiple choice questions and 1 short essay. My rationale for making the short essay worth 5 points is that, even if a student were to answer every multiple choice question correctly, they couldn't receive an "A" on the test without also writing at least a satisfactory essay. I think this is reasonable because I believe an "A" on a test should be a mark of some achievement.
There are 3 domains on the rubric and I weigh each of them equally. This may not be a perfect system, but I am hoping to give students with different academic strengths as good a chance as possible of doing well on this section of the test.
As you can see in the attached student examples, I provide grades vertically for the three aspects of the rubric:
Each domain is worth 5 points and the average of their three scores gives them their total out of 5 points.
As a point of comparison, in this example of a short essay that was scored a 3 out of 5,