As teachers, we all know how valuable assessment can be. We make anecdotal notes, administer benchmarks, and review portfolios. Then, if all goes as planned, we utilize the information to "inform instruction." It is often a flurry of papers and post-its, which we then have to try not to misplace. My greatest frustration with assessment has always been the organization of the information and the time I wasted going back and forth between pages of notes and charts of information. I have tried binders, clipboards, cute notebooks, and graphs, but until the middle of last year, I really didn't have a way to take visual snapshot of it all at once. Moreover, my previous methods made it difficult to see class trends in growth and development. I was often in assessment overload.
This last year, one of my professional goals was to create a digital system to simplify the recording of assessments. In addition, I wanted this system to synthesize the data so that I could easily note trends in achievement and identify outliers that need scaffolded support. After a lot of trial and error, I came up with a two part approach to assessment recording.
The first piece was to have my students use Evernote for digital portfolios. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but soon discovered that my little nuggets were very capable of this task. They caught on quickly and eagerly added to their portfolios. There are many amazing things that come out of utilizing Evernote for this purpose. First, because I gave parents open access to their child's portfolio, there was a constant, open line of communication from school to home. Parents could easily view what the students were doing and their growth therein. They were able to read their child's reflections for their portfolio pieces and have a deeper understanding of their child's learning. They were also able to easily note any struggles that their child might have. Ultimately, it was akin to a never-ending report card and my parents LOVED it! Also, in addition to having the students add to their portfolios, I added rubrics, audio recordings of assessment interviews & students reading aloud, conferring notes from Daily 5, and photos and videos that also could be used for assessment purposes. This was tremendously helpful. If you have not tried Evernote, I suggest that you run, not walk, to get started. It is a free (unless you want additional space) on-line tool that can be accessed via the web, IPAD, IPhone, Andriod, and even email. So, as I am walking around the room documenting student learning (i.e. recording, taping, or photographing) I can, in the matter of seconds, upload the information directly to their portfolio. It is truly "da-bomb!"
The next piece to my assessment system is an Excel macro that I created to easily document and compare assessment data from benchmarks. I must say, this took countless hours of creating formulas, testing features, fixing errors, and adding and removing components. I believe that I finally have it set (thank goodness) and it has become an invaluable tool. At our school, we use SRA Imagine It for our language arts program. The macro that I created is specific to this program. In this macro you merely enter the raw benchmark scores for each student and it calculates and populates graphs and charts, for both individual students and the class as a whole. It also notes if a student has fallen below the benchmark line. It has saved me so much time and makes it very easy to group students and note trends. Down the road I would like to turn it into an app that can sync with their Evernote portfolios (because I need more to do- ha ha). Before I offer this macro to the general public though, I would like to find a few testers who could try it out and let me know what else I can change, add, or do to improve it. I currently only have the macro completed for 2nd grade SRA Imagine it (I believe that it would work for Open Court as well). If you would like to be a tester, please comment on this post. The first 3 comments will be sent a free copy of the file.
Check back tomorrow for a little glitter!