Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Assessing Applied Skills

DiMartino, J. (n.d.). Assessing applied skills. (2007).Educational Leadership64(7).

This article discusses the direct conflict between authentic assessment and the traditional Carnegie Unit used in most American high schools. Due to the Carnegie Unit, most schools are divided into 7 period days where each period is a different content area. Even if schools rearrange their schedules into a 4x4 block being creative with cross-curricular projects is difficult. This traditional method of teaching is not adequately preparing students for the workforce, such as communication, time management, critical thinking, problem solving, personal accountability and collaboration.

According to the article, authentic assessments require students to use the skills mentioned above and better prepare them for the work place. Some examples of these assessments include senior projects, exhibitions, portfolios and capstone projects. Unfortunately, these require a multidisciplinary approach that is not possible with a traditional schedule.

Several school districts across the country have abandoned the traditional schedule in order to better prepare their students. The MET school in Providence, Rhode Island. In MET, students work in groups to accomplish semester long projects. These often include working with community members and traveling to different countries. The culminating experience for each project is to present their project to a panel of peers, community members and faculty. Even though MET's students would be referred to as "hard to reach" in many traditional schools, they have an extremely high college acceptance rate.

Federal Hocking High School in Stewart, OH has had similar results. The school reduced the number of required course credits to 14 to make room for senior projects and portfolio assessments. During 9th and 10th grade, students take courses specifically designed to foster skills such as self-confidence, self-motivation, resilience, and adaptability. Students are assessed based on three portfolios that they compile over all 4 years: career readiness folio, democratic citizenship folio, and lifelong learning folio. In addition, students complete a senior project where they choose a topic, research it, and exhibit their work to an audience outside of the classroom.

In 2005, New Hampshire eliminated the Carnegie unit all together. In it's place, districts must identify core competencies and develop authentic assessments to check for mastery. They must also provide the state with evidence that their competencies are based on local and national standards.

"Authentic assessments require students to use prior knowledge, recent learning, and relevant skills to solve realistic, complex problems."

This new system moves authentic assessment from the trunk of the car to the driver's seat, where it will now serve as the predominant mechanism for awarding student credit both in and out of the classroom."

This article offered some interesting options for authentic assessment in the classroom. Although High Tech does not have to worry about the traditional battle with Carnegie units, they do have other restrictions. For example, most of these projects are designed for seniors in high school. It is reasonable to expect them to come up with their own projects, plan their own trips and organize their own exhibitions. Unfortunately, it would not be reasonable to expect middle school students to expect the same thing. We run into limited finances and resources to create opportunities like the article discusses. It makes me wonder how we can adapt them to work for our students as well.

As with many other articles I've found, this article talks of exhibition as an end of the year presentation (much like our POL's). I question what ways the schools mentioned here share their students' work on a more regular basis.


Stacey said...

I love that you are questioning this:
"As with many other articles I've found, this article talks of exhibition as an end of the year presentation (much like our POL's). I question what ways the schools mentioned here share their students' work on a more regular basis."

How might you find articles/resources that talk about deeper connections with the community? What keywords might you search for?

Did you go to the session by Genessee Charter at DL2013? They are one of Ron Berger's favorite schools, are EL school and are in Rochester, NY. They do really great service-oriented projects where students investigate a need, craft a proposal and then work with community members to do/create something for that need. It would be great to get their thoughts on your question, and see if they have resources for you!

Also, talk with Margaret Noble upstairs in HTHMA - she does amazing projects, in collaboration with outside organizations, and has developed some really cool mentoring partnerships for her students. For example, in a recent film project, she had film students from UCSD working with her students and participating in critique sessions!

Stacey said...

By the way, you can find the names of the people from Genessee in the DL2013 program (or on the website!)

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