Beyond Test Scores and Grades: Measuring Student Progress

In 2002, a University of Michigan study found that 80% of students based their self-worth on academic success.

Poor performance in school can lead to low self-esteem and other mental health issues. With the knowledge that grades are often subjective and some students simply don’t test well, we need to ask ourselves: “what are the right methods to assess students’ success?”

Process vs Results in Academics

According to ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) quantitative grades diminish student interest in learning, reduce academic risk-taking, and can actually decrease the quality of thinking.  When grades or test scores are the only way in which progress is measured, we are elevating the outcome, or product, above the actual process.

Simply stated, according to the most common measures, some students ‘do school’ really well, while others do not.

Public schools are held accountable to statewide standards, measured by standardized tests. The most accurate summary of the effectiveness of these measure of success that it’s “like measuring temperature with a tablespoon.”

Unfortunately, when a school fails to meet those standards or benchmarks, the emphasis is typically placed on improving test scores, usually at the expense of quality, engaging, and supportive healthy learning environments.

Another subjective issue when it comes to educational equity and student progression is student behavior. Historically, student grades and identification or eligibility for special programs, such as academically gifted programs, can be impacted by whether or not a student engages in what is known as “teacher-pleasing behavior”: sitting still and quietly in their seat, being highly organized, and making perfect grades. 

The Shift Toward Supporting Students

Thankfully, federal regulations are beginning to shift away from instituting punitive measures for schools who are failing to meet those benchmarks, and instead focusing on ways to help provide support to address educational quality and equity for all students. Many districts and states are slowly moving toward teacher-led, student-focused, classroom-based performance assessments. Some school districts are giving students an opportunity to develop opportunities that could range from assessments rooted in inquiry- and project-based learning, with extensive student choice, to more traditional curriculum, instruction and tests.

School systems are just now starting to look beyond that ‘norm’ to identify gifted learners in their classrooms and to assess student potential and progress in other ways. School systems across the country are creating think tanks, tasked specifically taking a close look at populations that are underrepresented in gifted programs., identifying students who may not look like your traditional ‘good student’, but outperform their peers in a number of ways.

What Does This Mean For My Student?

It is important that students do their best in school each day. Even more important, though, is evaluating student performance and progress in a myriad of different ways; tests, quizzes, and pencil-based work has its place, but so does cooperative, interactive, project-based learning.

Tools that measure grit and persistence can be just as predictive of success toward college as a grade on a report card or a student’s score on the ACT or SAT.  We have to be willing to meet students where they are, rather then where we expect them to be.

At Planting Seeds Tutoring, we are committed to focusing  on building strong relationships, adapting to every students needs and creating personalized lesson plans for students. We believe our unique approach keeps tutoring sessions fresh and productive for all students. This blueprint has been the driving force behind improvement in our students’ overall performance and a driving force in character-building efforts.

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