Newspaper Archive of
Hells Canyon Journal
Halfway, Oregon
March 22, 2000     Hells Canyon Journal
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March 22, 2000

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Page 5 Hells Canyon Journal March 22, 2000 Math, Writing Assessment Scoring a Labor of Love by Cindy Thayer of the llalla CiTyon Journal Just a few weeks after the tests were sealed up and sent to Salem, students' scores from the state math problem- solving assessment arrived at schools last Wednesday. The results of the writing assess- ments for grades 3, 5, 8, and 10 were sent to schools two weeks earlier. Relatively fast feedback is an important component of the assessments, which tell the students if they are meet- ing the state-established benchmarks. The students receive scores from 1 to 6 on each of six separate aspects of their writing and five di- mensions in math problem solving. This information identifies each students' strengths and weaknesses, telling them exactly where they need to focus their ef- forts to improve their perfor- mance. That prompt feedback is made possible in part by the efficient system set up by the state Department of Educa- tion; however, the dedication of the teachers and adminis- trators across the state who score the students' work is truly the heart of the system. Students are given three class periods to complete their writing assessment. This amount of time allows the test process to mirror the ac- tual writing process, from pre- writing and brainstorming, through rough drafts, to a final polished piece. In the math assessment, speed is not a relevant factor. Students are being tested on whether or not they can solve a problem, not how fast they can do it. For that reason, they are given as much time as they need in one day to work on their chosen prob- lem, as long as they are mak- ing progress. As soon as the tests are completed, schools send them to Salem. After verifying that all the packets have been re- ceived from each school, Sa- lem then distributes them to the scoring sites spread across the state. "We don't know the kids we're scoring--that makes it fair," said Pasco Arritola, site coordinator for the Union] Baker Educational Service District. Scoring begins within a week of the students' finish- ing their work, and is com- pleted with preliminary scores provided to the schools two weeks later. Teachers and administrators spend two weekends, from Friday night through Sunday afternoon, being trained, qualifying, and scoring student papers. Even though it requires sacrifices and makes for some very long work weeks, most of the scorers return each year. The training and scor- ing help them improve their classroom instruction and be more effective teachers. But beyond that, they know how important these scores are to the students and are commit- ted to providing the most ac- curate and consistent evalu- ation possible. Each ~tudent's paper is scored independently by two different raters. The first set of scores is covered before the second rater receives the pa- per, so they are not influenced by the first rater's assess- ment. After two raters have scored the paper, a site direc- tor removes the tape and com- pares the scores for each trait. If they are "adjacent," the student's scores are totaled and reported. If any of the scores are off by more than one, both sets of scores are covered and the paper goes to a third rater for resolution and the third score is then used in calculating the student's total. The scoring guides are as specific as possible to help raters be consistent, but dis- agreement in scores is to be expected. However, Arritola and his site directors work hard on the training process and have earned the distinc- tion of being one of the best scoring sites in the state. Fi- nal rater discrepancy reports for the math assessment showed 96 percent scorer agreement overall; writing rated 99 percent agreement- a possible first in the state. Standardized tests have long been regarded as a nec- essary evil. Some type of as- sessment tool is needed to gauge student progress, but the result often seems to be instruction that is focused on "teaching to the test" and not necessarily covering the com- plete curriculum. While multiple-choice tests are a part of the state assess- ment program, they are only one part of a balanced ap- proach to measuring student achievement. Students also compile a portfolio of work samples and complete the writing and math problem- solving assessments. The writing prompts and math problems from which the stu- dents choose are carefully de- 1999-2000 Mathematics Problem Solving Official Scoring Guide Conceptual Processes & Verification Communication Accuracy Understanding Strategies Interpreting the concepts of the task and translating them into mathematics. WHAT.'P Choosing strategies that can work, and then carrying out the strategies chosen. HOW? Evidence of a second look at the concepts/ strategies/ calculations to defend a solution. DEFEND! Using pictures, symbols, and/or vocabulary to convey the path to the identified solution. THE PATH The answer given- mathematically justifiable and supported by work? 1999-20OO Writing Scoring (~uide Summary Ideas/Content Focus on identifiable main ideas, supporting details Organization Sequencing, transitions, fit and placement of details Voice 3ommitment to topic, awareness of audience, sense of "wdting to be read" Word Choice Variety, precision, and accuracy of vocabulary Sentence Fluency Flow and rhythm of writing, varied sentence patterns, control over sentence structure Conventions Punctuation, spelling, capitalization, paragraph breaks, grammar, and usage signed to fairly and accurately evaluate their ability to per- form grade-appropriate work. Mike Gregory, a La Grande teacher and the fifth grade math assessment scoring di- rector at the Union]Baker ESD site, feels that such per- formance-based tests are a more accurate measurement of student progress than stan- dardized multiple-choice tests. "Students have to demon- strate the ability to solve a problem, and that they pos- sess the skills needed to do so. The problem-solving for- mat is a pretty valid test be- cause of that," Gregory said. The emphasis on teaching problem-solving skills for the math assessment has had an impact on student perfor- mance in other areas as well. "I've seen an overall improve- ment in the problem-solving process in science and writ- ing. Students have to think I _ .Basin _M~n~es Every Day I I Stadlum~eating .Large Screens I 1809 first Sb'eet. Baker City 541-523-2522 THE WONDER BOYS Starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Mnguire, Frances McDormand, Robert Downey, Jr. 6:05 8:30 Dally [] *ERIN BROCKOVICH Staffing Julia Roberts 6:00 8:40 Daily (3:10) Fri.ISat.ISun. [] MISSION TO MARS Staffing Tim Robins and Gary Sinise ;10 8:35 Daily 3:20) Fri./Sat./Sun. NOW DAY Staffing Chevy Chase, Pam Grief, Mark Webber, Zena Gray (3:30) Fri./Sat./Sun. ONLY IvJ"dJ * = No Tightwad Tuesday Bargain Matinee Times in ( } and communicate their thought process, and they need that," said Leslie Gra- ham, the eighth grade math assessment scoring director. Administrators are also involved in scoring, and find it an eye-opening experience. Arritola completed the quali- fying procedure and scored math assessments this year. He feels participating in the scoring process is invaluable for keeping in touch bothwith student performance levels and ways the scoring guide can be improved to reduce problems raters may face in fairly scoring the papers. Doug Potter, La Grande Middle School Principal, scored both the writing and math assessments-a four- weekend commitment. His final comment exemplifies the dedication of all involved: "I'm exhausted...but I'll be back next year." 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