How to Use Alternative Assessments in the Classroom
Teachers can identify their power standards and assess student mastery in a way that’s both fun and effective
Did you know that a 5th grade teacher is expected to guide students to mastery of 200 standards each year? Given a typical school year of 180 days, that’s 1.1 standards a day! Of course, standards don’t exactly work like that. You can certainly teach more than one standard a day, but that doesn’t give you time to explore them, unpack them, and revisit them, which is where learning and mastery actually happen. That’s a lot of content to cover, and not much time to do it in.
But this is only the beginning. Not all standards can be treated equally. Some have limited application and require lower levels of critical thinking; others are foundational to future learning and broadly applicable. So, how do we even begin to tackle this mess? How can teachers determine their power standards and assess student mastery in a way that’s both fun and effective?
One way to begin is by utilizing a scoring system to single out the standards that align to the chief priorities in your classroom. Consider implementing the following categories and grading them on a scale of 1–5:
- Building Block: How much future learning is dependent on this standard?
- Cross-Curricular Utility: How applicable is this standard across content areas?
- Higher Level Thinking: What depth of thinking does this standard require? Consider using our Standards Scoring Sheet to help you prioritize those power standards.
Once you’ve identified the standards you feel are most important for your students’ long-term success, it’s time to explore new ways of assessing these skills. A plain-ole paper-and-pencil test tends to get dry and dull pretty quickly, so take this opportunity to experiment with new assessment strategies and determine which ones work best for your students.
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