Unit Assessment

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SWBAT complete the Unit VII assessment | (Note: This lesson also features information and resources on how I create, administer, and analyze the actual test)

Big Idea

In this lesson, I give an overview on how I plan for, implement, and analyze assessment data from my class. We start with assessment creation - how do you (or where do you) come up with questions, and how do you organize them to make a cohesive assessment?

Lesson Introduction

This lesson resource is going to be very different from most to all of my traditional lessons - in this lesson, I wanted to talk assessments - how I think about them, design them, administer them, and do some post-administration grading and analysis. You can find the Unit VII Assessment (Student's Copy) and Unit VII Assessment (Teacher's Copy) as resources, and you can find some additional context, links, and videos posted below on how I build out what is for me, a very, very important day - assessment day!

Assessment Creation

60 minutes

As noted in the Lesson Introduction section above, I think assessments are extremely important. They tell you what students know (and don't know), they're great for breaking down knowledge and skills for practice and remediation (even beyond content), and they're excellent at giving students feedback and making them (and you) better at it. I value them, and I think they're especially important for guiding your overall course design and structure. I'm a firm believer and practitioner of backwards planning - I like to have all of my interim assessments and unit assessments done before I even start the unit. In true fashion, the assessments are the actual drivers of what I'm teaching. 

For a course like mine, which is based in New York, assessments come a lot easier, mostly due to the fact that all of my assessment questions come from the Regents exam itself. For those of you outside of New York State, the Regents Examinations are high-stakes end-of-year assessments given to students who are enrolled in Regents courses. In many respects (and this is true in Earth Science), students are required to pass the test in order to pass the course, and many of these courses are needed for graduation. While there are loopholes, the general graduation requirements in NYS indicate that by senior year of high school, students need to have passed 2 Regents examinations in the sciences. Traditionally, they're offered in Living Environment (Biology), Earth Science, Chemistry, and Physics. For my students, they're enrolled in the Living Environment course as 8th graders, and then in the Earth Science course as 9th graders, so the exam has very important implications for their success in high school. Failure to pass the exam usually means they either have to take the course/exam again in summer school, or repeat the course the following year. I say all this to note that I rely on assessment data for predictive and analytical data to tell me where my students are at - I need that information to teach them! Additionally, all of my assessment questions are taken directly from the Regents itself (former, archived Regents exams are readily available - here's the link for some Earth Science ones). This is done to both match the rigor of what they'll see at the end of the year, make my life easier (have you ever tried to make a test from scratch?), and mimic the style of questions they'll see in June, when they take the culminating exam itself. 

Below, you'll see an embedded video describing how I build assessments using one of my most valuable and time-saving resources - Test Wizard:




60 minutes

I love giving tests - the look and feel of an entire classroom full of students intensely focused and trying their best is one I always oddly cherish. But moving around to different teachers, it seems that we all have different styles for administering actual exams. While I wanted to provide some videos of my kids testing - it's kind of boring. They're just kind of working, so there isn't too much to see there!

For one - and if you've seen or looked at a few of my lessons...this might be obvious - I get the students working as soon as they enter. They know when tests are coming - I announce them up to a week before, and usually give them daily reminders, while also having studying looped into their homework and all that fun stuff, so test day is a surprise to no one. On non-testing days, they grab a Do Now and get to work as soon as they enter, and I want to be faithful to that process. I feel that my students (and this is anecdotally true from watching them in other classes) don't respond well to coming in and sitting down with nothing to do save for waiting for teachers to give instructions. I feel that's wasted time, and like to get them working as soon as they come in, which they've always responded well to. It immediately focuses the room (tests are out!) and it reinforces the hard-working student culture I try to establish.

If I have announcements to make (which is exceedingly rare), I post them on the board and shout them out when all students are seated and working after the bell rings. If students need anything, I just have them raise their hands. Additionally, (you'll see this in the next section), I pass out their individualized bubble sheets when they're all seated and working - usually in the first five minutes or so. When they're finished with the assessment, I have them slide their bubble sheets into the pages of their test, which makes collection easy.

In terms of allotted time for questions, I sometimes deviate from this, but I try to use what I've termed the Regents formula, so that students are prepped for the exam in June. On that assessment, they have exactly three (3) hours to complete 85 questions. Doing the math, 180 minutes divided by 85 question comes out to about 02:07/question. So, when I build tests have have 60 minutes for a period, I usually (but not always) allot 25-30 questions in a testing block (that's for my non-extended time kiddos). Sometimes, when I either have more content, or know that many of the questions are straightforward, I might eke this up a bit, but for the most part, I try to keep the question range relatively stable. 

Also, in terms of collecting and finishing tests, I don't collect them until the end of the period, or allotted test time. That makes it much easier for me (I don't like to hop-scotch around the room, chasing after students who are done), but more importantly, I think it keeps the test environment stable and forces students to take their time. What I mean by that is this - when I start to collect tests, I feel that students either consciously or sub-consciously pick up on that, and the students around that first collected test usually end of finishing relatively soon after that first test is picked up. It's like some kind of unintentional class groupthink. So I usually just leave the test there, and at the end of the testing block or period, I utilize the same procedure I implement for homework. They're all passed over to one row, and those sitting it the far row pass their exams up to the desk closest to the door, where I collect them. It's quick, I don't have to even move to do it, and it's easy to check to make sure all students are done.


60 minutes

In terms of student analysis, I categorize all of my assessment questions by standard. The Earth Science Standards List is a long one, but I'm careful to do this for the purposes of grading and analysis. For one, and you'll see a video capturing this below, another technologically-based resource I truly cannot recommend enough is GradeCam. I started teaching before it was a thing, but now find it absolutely indispensable. I truly couldn't teach without it. I use it on everything from brief quizzes to practice Regents exams. Feel free to visit the link above, but it basically consists of printing out student bubble sheets (Student Bubble Sheet Sample), which students then fill out, and you can then scan instantaneously. A lot of programs (mine included) also utilize them in such a way that you can link them to grade books or data analysis, making the whole post-test process of figuring out what to do a breeze compared to what it used to be.  

How I grade also is reflected in the Regents course, as I value their ability to learn to correct their mistakes. So once the free response section is graded, and the information is scanned, I can go to the scanning webpage and immediately see what questions students got right and wrong. What I do do on each person's test is write down their score and the question number of all of their wrong answers (so if they got 9 wrong, I would write down 23/32 and then write down the question numbers on the front page of the assessment]. I then staple together their test booklet, bubble sheet, and a Test Corrections sheet (two if they got 9 wrong, as each sheet has 5 question spaces). When the corrected assessment is passed back, students' homework is to correct all of their incorrect questions by filling out the Test Corrections document fully for every wrong response. This is then handed in to me, which serves as another grade.