The other day I finally admitted to my team colleague that this year’s move to standards based assessment has felt like cause for a dip in my teaching performance. I had been thinking it already for several days as I worked to complete third trimester grades for all my students. Then I said it.
Yes, I felt fairly confident about the numbers I was entering: 2, 3 or 4 or NA. (There were no 1s.) Every student was either approaching the standard (2), met the standard (3), or exceeded the standard (4) on any of the total of 8(!) indicators in 3 categories: learning behaviors, movement concepts and movement skills. And whenever my colleague and I compared notes on how we defined a 3 or 4, we often agreed and could share finer points with each other quite easily.
We devised a series of spreadsheets on which to enter our scores for the specific skills we agreed we would assess at each grade level and approximately in which time frame. We had a plan. We had agreement. We taught our units, shared our wins and let downs. Scores were entered.
But alas, I let go of the previous program I was using to track performance and behavior which my colleague felt was too cumbersome and time-consuming. Perhaps because my colleague had come from a standards based system I suddenly felt a bit insecure about how I had been assessing students all along. I wondered if all those years I had been doing PE wrong. And of course it wasn’t PE in general, this was really just about the assessment process.
I used to write report card comments for all of my students. It was my way of saying: “I see you. This is what I’ve observed and what I make of it.” Now that we have the standards and so many indicators, as specialists we are no longer required to write comments for every student. That makes work load sense. Really, it does. At the same time I am loathe to surrender the meaning to be given a trimester’s worth of amazing learning and discovery to long-winded indicators followed by a 2, 3, or a 4. Comments help me compensate for my sense of disconnect.
I suppose a big part of teaching requires letting go of the idea that what we do will ever be complete. The end of one school year is a signpost on the road, not the trip itself. What I missed this year I’ll aim to do better next year. Now is the time for listening to students – for hearing their wishes and thank you’s. If I’ve done the work I believe I am proud of this year, then my students know what they loved, liked and avoided in PE. They can tell me (and you, too) what was awesome, frustrating, and the best ever. That’s more of what counts and what matters.