Authentic Classroom Assessment in Action: Ms. Rodriguez's Classroom

Below are three "snapshots" of Ms. Rodriguez's fourth-grade class from the beginning, middle, and end of the school year. Following each is a synopsis of how she is using the principles of good authentic assessment.

Ms. Rodriguez has implemented several assessment principles within the first two weeks of school. She has used a variety of types of information -- informal and formal, individual and group -- to help her get to know each child and to plan reading and writing instruction. She has immediately established a collaborative learning and evaluation environment by setting up a portfolio culture and valuing students' individual interests and goals. She has communicated clearly to students that she and the students will both contribute to the portfolio -- both are responsible for assessment. She has also reinforced the concept that assessment is an authentic, ongoing part of classroom life. The work that students do in class will be used to determine how well they are learning important outcomes. They understand too, that reflection on learning is a habit that is valued and nurtured in discussion, assessment, and goal-setting.

Ms. Rodriguez has prepared and enlisted her students as collaborators in assessment. The message is clear to both the students and the parents. She has taught students how to think about and evaluate their own work and requested that they take seriously their responsibility to set personal goals. She also has taken her role seriously by supplementing students' findings with her own documentation and professional judgment. In addition, the portfolio work is aligned with the instructional emphasis of the recent themes, reading and writing narratives. The work chosen to go in the portfolios is authentic evidence of progress toward this goal. Both process and products of learning are included. Finally, as she did in September, Ms. Rodriguez is relying on multiple, ongoing indicators of student performance.

Ms. Rodriguez has again used a combination of formal and informal assessments to evaluate students' progress. This combination guards against any one piece of evidence carrying too much importance and allows individual differences to be honored. Because Ms. Rodriguez and her students have systematically collected evidence of learning and used their portfolios throughout the year, they have concrete examples of growth and a way to talk about changes in their reading and writing.

The shared responsibility for assessment is confirmed by having both the teacher and student select work to send on to the next grade. The new teacher receives important information about the students' learning and also gains insight into what individual students value and what they judge to be good work. The celebration acknowledges pride in growth and learning, and it reaffirms the students' role in the assessment process.

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