Inside a kindergarten classroom with Augustana students

Assessing Assessments

This week proved to be an unexpected one which came equipped with picture day and substitutes, so we only had the chance to work on math with Mrs. Peterson’s class on Tuesday. During the previous Thursday with Mrs. Carmack’s students, however, we had worked with the students to practice their math assessments they would be taking for the end of the kindergarten trimester. We hadn’t ended up video-taping any of the students while they took the assessment, but after having gone through it with numerous kids we realized that we had a few questions and concerns regarding the assessment itself. After our weekly meeting, we decided to go in to Mrs. Peterson’s class on Tuesday and work with her students on the same practice assessment, this time getting some good video footage.

During our meeting, we discussed how a few questions on the assessment in particular raised a red flag. For example, one of the questions stated that someone “planted 7 flowers in a garden and then went back to plant one more flower” and then asked the students “how many flowers were planted in all?” Accompanying this question was a picture of 7 flowers, which led many students to automatically attend to the picture, count the 7 flowers, and then select the incorrect answer of 7. Some of the students may not have known or understood what 7 and 1 more was, but many were knew and understood this concept but perhaps did not listen to all the instructions, or were so used to seeing a picture and counting it to find the correct answer that they did not realize that they were incorrect. This was a pattern that Jackie and Leesa saw in many of their students, and was one that I saw in a couple. I found it very interesting, however, that many of my students selected the answer of 8 automatically. This suggests that perhaps they no longer use pictures or visuals in order to solve math problems, or perhaps they are used to challenging themselves to figure addition problems in their heads and therefore did not want to count the flowers in the picture. I also saw a number of students draw an extra rose to the row without being prompted to do so. Taking this all into account, this assessment would have shown a handful of students who got the correct answer of 8, and more who answered 7, when in fact other evidence suggests that there were many more students who knew that 7 and 1 more is 8. This is just one example of concerns that were raised over how accurately the assessment was actually measuring the math skills that it had set out to measure. Especially on an assessment such as this where the data is sent off to people who did not witness the test being administered, it is impossible to tell if the errors on the assessment were due to a lack of knowledge of the content being assessed or other factors.

With Mrs. Peterson’s class on Tuesday I saw similar patterns. I saw many students choose 8 automatically, without even taking the time to count the roses and realize that there were only 7 in the picture. I did, however, have some students exhibit the same difficulties with this problem that had been seen earlier. After one student in particular answered 7 after counting the flowers, I reread the question, and emphasized that the 7 flowers on the page were the flowers that were planted before one more was planted. I then prompted her to draw another flower to show how many flowers were planted in all, and she was able to figure the correct answer. The actual test is given on the iPad, however, and the students will not have the option of adding to the picture to glean an answer, which may result in them simply counting the objects in the picture and then selecting that answer. One separate example I noted was that on one problem there were four boxes shown, three of which had numbers in them and one of the middle boxes was left blank. The question asked which number was missing. The number in the last box was 9, and one of the options in the answers was 10, and I had one student in particular choose 10 as his answer because 10 came after 9. I then drew his attention to the empty box, which the question had not made mention of, and he was immediately able to select the correct missing number. This is another instance of the student misunderstanding the question and answering incorrectly, although the actual math content that was being assessed was known.

There’s more that could be said, but that’s already more than plenty for this week!

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