Sunday, September 30, 2007

WASL Primer

Our fearless leader here at Washington Teachers (a/k/a Jim Anderson) suggested that I collect some of my posts about how I approach the WASL and include the links in a handy-dandy guide. Always ready for a challenge, I couldn't resist picking up the gauntlet he had thrown.

Even better than blog posts is a book by Betsy Rupp-Fulwiler entitled Writing in Science. Betsy works for Seattle schools. The book is targeted at the elementary science classroom, but I have to tell you that the writing frames and scaffolds she provides are just as useful with secondary students. Some kids already have the necessary tools to explain their thinking when doing expository writing, but many of them don't. Worse still, there aren't a lot of guides for teachers about how to help students improve. Betsy was the inspiration for the introduction of But-Man! to my classroom (she doesn't use this exact term, mind you) and I can tell you that I am getting some significantly improved work out of my high school kids. Get this book!

I know we're all apprehensive of Teaching to the Test, but doing so within the context of the regular classroom is the best thing we can do for kids. There has been a significant amount of research in assessment and evaluation in recent years---likely more recently than the university training many of us received. There are some wonderful guidelines available for test and item construction. (More on this soon.) It makes a teacher's job much simpler in terms of being able to directly identify holes in student learning.

Are your kids not writing to the prompt when you give them short answer and extended response items? Perhaps the packet I developed from released items will help you guide students to better identify what they need to do and show you what they know.

Finally, although I have a "WASL" label that I use with some posts---it's something I typically reserve for general observations about this assessment rather than how I personally deal with it. I would instead offer up a survey of my posts on standards-based grading. There, you'll find tools I use---such as my policy I give to students and the Excel gradebook I developed for record-keeping. If we are truly teaching to the standards (and/or teaching to the test), then there are ways we can better track that in the classroom. This has been the biggest journey of my career.

I'll be posting more and more of my personal resources as time goes on, including a great tool for investigative design. Click on over to ye olde blog at What It's Like on the Inside and see for yourself in the coming days and weeks.

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