Periodic Assessment No. 3: The Ghost Writer’s Last Stand

The metaphor here is, as always, heavy handed.  A bit tapped out from last week, the Ghost Writer needed a bit of a spark to light up one more time...

The metaphor here is, as always, heavy handed. A bit tapped out from last week, the Ghost Writer needed a bit of a spark to light up one more time…

The Third Periodic Assessment for LAUSD, the one that is a writing test, is a done deal. For me, it was a completed task on Monday…most other english teachers, in all grade levels, are finishing up by tomorrow. It’s a pretty similar assignment to the CST Writing this year…students read two passages, and then attempt to find a common theme between them, and prove it in an expository paper.

Not that tough, and the basic kind of writing that you need all through high school and college. In effect, more than any multiple guess test, it is the most important set of skills that students will acquire. Sadly, this performance based assessment is used for very little.

Interestingly enough, the universally flawed Periodic Asessment Number Two is a fairly accurate indicator of student performance on the CST exam, at the end of the year. For the years I am able to see data for, there has been at most a two percent variance in student cohort performance on the two exams. Who would have thought?

Returning to the point though…my student essays on Number Three looked pretty good. I was impressed at how well most of them took to the formula of academic writing, and applied it decently. I won’t be grading the tests, although I could. It seems pretty unfair though, to grade my own performance based assignments. With knowledge of the student, I think it is too easy to be unfair, to grade either too easy, or too hard. Instead, I will be swapping with another teacher, who I don’t know the students of…to preserve both of our impartiality.

That having been said, I’ve been taking a sample paper around to administrators, for feedback. To see what they think about the sample, and constructive criticism that they might give me. They generally are impressed with the paper…and when I have been revealing that only a few months ago, that student was English as a Second Language status, they are blown away.

I’m no genius. The girl works HARD, and we have been writing our fingers off. With constant real time feedback. Ditching the idea of a multimedia, computer driven academic system was the smartest thing to do for this purpose, as it put the students, and my curriculum, back on track in a “writer’s workshop” style environment that was truly empowering to the kids.

As the District looms closer to fulfilling the threat of giving every student at my school and iPad or other tablet, I worry that this sort of old fashioned, student teacher interaction driven model of writing and editing will become even more suspect. The Edumentals made no secret that their goal was to minimize teacher influence and maximize the standardization of content and content delivery.

Like any technology, the tool is only as good as the use it is put to. My students with computers aren’t necessarily better off than those without. However, the students that are using them for academic reasons…those students start to rise above. That having been said…a student has yet to e-mail me an essay.

They tend to write those by hand, while asking me questions, and then turn them in. To put a very fine point on the matter.

With all of that being said, I’m pretty confident about this essay test, in a way that I wasn’t four weeks ago. That’s also impressive, because it says a great deal about what you can do in 40 instructional hours, with a focused lesson plan and motivated students.

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