Student Essay Reflection #1

My new school has an school-wide interim assessment process for all classes where students are assessed on the same skills three times a year to track growth and inform instruction.  Unlike most “data-driven” initiatives, teachers at my school collaborate together to design the assessments and determine levels of performance.  The “data” we get from these assessments then is actually valuable in identifying areas where students need support.  The Social Studies assessments focus on creating arguments using evidence from documents.  My first essay in my government & economics course asked to students to agree or disagree with the statement, “Identities are created by marketing.”  The documents I used are here.  My reflection follows, with some of the data below it.

Based on the students’ essays on marketing and identity, there is a range of development on different skills.  The majority of students write in a way that shows they are college ready, and most of those who do not are close.  However, students are showing they are not ready to make valid arguments.  Most students know to make arguments, but their generalized claims need to be supported by concrete and specific evidence.  They also need to recognize that making a good argument involves recognizing shades of gray and opposing opinions.

The largest area of growth for my class is in sourcing information.  Nearly all students presented all or most information carelessly as facts, rather than showing that the information represented perspectives, or worse, came from advertisements.  Additionally, students need to learn to group evidence from multiple sources to support their claims, rather than letting the sources dictate the organization of their arguments.

Both needs are already being addressed in my class.  We are now practicing sourcing together with every single piece of information that is set forth, be it reading or video.  As this concept seems to be entirely new to students, I expect quick improvement.  In order to help students learn to group relevant evidence together, I am having them write individual paragraphs where they need to use multiple sources to answer a question.  These sources offer differing views, so it also helps students get in the habit of recognizing the multiple complexities or sides of issues we discuss.  Just for one example, students this week saw a video showing how direct democracy is being used to make decisions as Occupy Wall Street, but also read an op-ed decrying the state of California’s ballot initiative process.

As we move into looking at politics, students will have even more practice with looking at issues from various sides.  The class will rarely focus on what is the right policy stance, but rather, how a policy should be “sold” to different constituencies.  Students will participate in a couple of simulations from the Buck Institute where they take on the role of politicians trying to appease various groups on both sides of the aisle.

Notes: Standard areas are in all CAPS, followed by the indicators of that standard.  4=Excelling, 3=Succeeding, 2=Developing, 1=Beginning

ARGUMENT Controlling Idea Supporting Evidence Multiplicity USING EVIDENCE Connections Quoting SOURCING CONTENT Outside Info Validity WRITING Organization Intro/Conclusion Thesis
Average 2.01 2.26 2.27 1.60 1.69 1.67 2.03 1.27 1.99 2.21 1.99 2.47 2.50 2.46 2.54
Standard Deviation 0.71 0.72 0.85 0.77 0.67 0.63 0.68 0.51 0.75 0.81 0.73 0.77 0.76 0.81 0.74
Count: 4 1 2 3 1 1 0 1 0 3 3 2 5 5 5 5
Count: 3 15 23 28 9 5 6 14 2 10 23 12 30 31 31 33
Count: 2 38 36 24 21 35 35 41 15 40 30 39 28 28 25 27
Count: 1 16 9 15 39 29 29 14 53 17 14 17 7 6 9 5

2 thoughts on “Student Essay Reflection #1

  1. I’m implementing a form of standards-based grading this year (although I’m still working on what a useful standard really looks like), and I’m seeing similar numbers. Knowing that these numbers will be converted into a letter grades, though, I’m having trouble maintaining the integrity of the standard at times. I can see where some common/shared grading would be helpful in that regard. I should do some of this kind of reflection myself.


  2. “Additionally, students need to learn to group evidence from multiple sources to support their claims, rather than letting the sources dictate the organization of their arguments.” I need to work on that the most. I always feel like I know what I want to say, but I struggle with wording it the way it is in my mind.


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