End of Year AssessmentsHow do your schools do final assessments for grades that do not have a state regents exam?  Are your local exams cumulative, based on what you taught during the year?  Or...

End of Year Assessments

How do your schools do final assessments for grades that do not have a state regents exam?  Are your local exams cumulative, based on what you taught during the year?  Or are they mini-versions of the state tests to come?  For 9th grade, our school uses 60 multiple choice questions (35 based on cumulative material, 25 based on a short story and three poems the students read at the exam) and an essay (based on the NYS ELA task IV, the critical lens essay).  For 10th grade, they have to write two of the ELA style essays as an exam with no cumulative material (except for referring to 2 novels read in class for the critical lens essay).  11th grade is the state test, and I'm not sure WHAT they do for 12th grade.

Does this seem like we are teaching to the test too much?  It feels like it to me, and I know kids who do hardly anything during the school year that are able to BS their way through a critical lens essay just enough to get a passing grade.  What does this show us??

What do your schools do for final assessments?  How do we know that kids LEARNED something?

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm with #3!  I've taught in both public and private schools, but since the push for final assessments I've only been in private education.  Good for me.

I write my own tests, covering the material for a semester, and I always write an essay exam.  The review sheet is a list of works we've read plus a list of literary elements and other concepts we've worked on which I want them to be mindful of when they write. 

I generally ask one question, occasionally two, which requires them to analyze common elements, themes, styles, characters, or whatever is apt for the works.  It's challenging and forces them to be effective readers, thinkers, and writers--all good things.  The two-hour exam period flies by when they have to do all that, though I must admit the grading is a huge time commitment.

They are usually apprehensive the first time they take this kind of test; however, I've had so many students come back and thank me for getting them ready for the kind of tests they're encountering more and more in college.  They've had multiple choice, matching, and fill-in-the-blank tests all of their lives; writing what they think in an organized, effective, and analytical way is more demanding but also more applicable to real life in many ways. 

Teaching to the test is every teacher's fear, I think.  You can only do the best you can with what you're given, I'm afraid.  I'm sorry you don't have the freedom to do it the way you'd like to see it done. Unfortunately, it's the kids who lode the most.

jilllessa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wow! all that talk of testing makes me glad I do not teach in public schools.  I do give a cumulative literature final each semester based on all of the texts read during the semester.  The final is generally essay based exploring themes that we have discussed in several texts.  By the time of the finals, my students know that I expect to see thoughtful essays that demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the characters, events, and themes of each text.  This shows me that they have actually learned something beyond merely the plot of the text.  I want them to be able to take themes out of the texts and apply them to their lives so I make my questions relevant to that end.  For example, my medieval literature students have to answer a question first defining honor as presented in medieval literature: then comparing the codes of honor of the different characters we have met in the literature and, finally, creating a personal code of honor for themselves.  If they can do all of these things well, I feel as if they have learned from the literature they read.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am fortunate in being able to write my own exams that really test what we have been studying and are not just tests for testing's sake. I do agree amethystrose that there is a real danger of teaching to the test which can distract from your own teaching and what you want students to learn. I also agree that in some cases tests don't actually show us that much or really reveal where students are at. Is there any way you can become involved in test policy?

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I assess cumulatively, but it is tempting to want to see what lasted all year.  I think that I will do an end of the year grammar test and in-class essay based on a story for a final exam.  They will read the story, annotate it, analyze it, and write an essay on it.  I anticipate this taking several days.  It should be interesting.  I am also thinking of having a cummulative vocabulary test, since we have a stand-alone vocabulary book.

sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with #4.  Our school requires that each department come up with a standardized exam for each course - the exam can be 20% individualized, but must be 80% standardized.  Although we collaborate together to create the exam each year, I am the ONLY member of my department that likes essay exams.  The others, becuase of the turn around, want multiple choice.  Erg!

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Right now, each teacher writes his or her own exam in my district. The exam is supposed to be comprehensive, covering the entire semester, and it counts 15% of the final grade. We're hearing that very soon the state will start providing exams for us. I don't look forward to that day.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I wish I had the luxury of being able to give essay exams. We have a two-day turnaround between exams and graduation/report card, so most of us resort to multiple choice and let the scanner do the grading for us. I can hear the groans out there!