This year at Durango High School, a new series of tests have been implemented into the curriculum: literacy assessments.
“I think that it’s good that they are making sure we can write in all the different subjects, but I feel like the way that the literary tests are formatted and graded isn’t effective because, based on what we’re learning, they don’t actually relate,” said Sr. Alison Hall.
There has been some controversy about the tests and their effectiveness from students perspectives, but there is a much broader and more impactful reasoning behind the tests than the eye of a pupil can see.
“The goal of the tests is that every teacher in the building understands that no matter what the discipline, no matter what the dynamics of the classroom, as a teacher, students need to be able to read, write, listen, speak, and think in every class,” said Robert Logan, a Teacher on Special Assignment at DHS, and the man to talk to about the literacy assessments.
The long term function of the data collected from the literacy assessments is abundant, but at this moment, the initiative is to practice executing the collection of data so that the strategy can be used in the future to the greatest benefit for both students and teachers.
“The intent initially and where we are currently, is to practice, not only doing something that has meaning to not only the teacher and the student, but can also gather data to begin to interpret data. This is as much about the teachers learning how to assess, gather, interpret and apply data back into the classroom for instruction,” said Logan.
In order to collect the most accurate data, teachers have been instructed to not make a “special occasion” for the assessments, but instead use skills already demonstrated in the curriculum as assessments. For example, the history department uses a format for their assessments that they use to analyze primary documents. The analytical strategy is completed in class and the results are compiled and interpreted as data, without disturbing or breaking the routine of the class in any unique or disruptive way.
Logan said, “Our freshmen class coming in are going to see more and more standard based grading, as far as, how the students manifest their understanding, as opposed to [the senior class], who, to some extent, are based off of attendance or productivity or the work students do in class. So, there’s a transition going on within the district and within the building to move to that norm.”
Literacy assessments are not designed to be a hassle; but instead, designed to be used as a tool in the present and future so that teachers may be better equipped to teach students and to use the data collected from the assessments to adapt to different strategies so that students are better equipped to learn.
“The benefit on the students side is to be consistently evaluated in any class that they are learning in, as well as comprehending the ideas and the importance of literacy. Practicing literacy repeatedly is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when they are housed within the curriculum a teacher is already running within the class. Done right, a student should not even know any difference,” said Logan.
As DHS evolves to house students whose graduation requirements are shifting to a more proficiency based scale, the literacy assessments are better equipping teachers to teach material that is relevant to the curriculum so that students may have a greater chances of passing.