Keep your eyes on the prize. That's the idea behind classroom-based assessment. If you don't have a goal, how do you know if your student is achieving what she should be achieving? Good teachers determine reasonable goals and track progress frequently over the school year on basic skills such as reading fluency, with brief authentic measures. That's it! Data collection need not be a dreaded extra responsibility. Starting with baby steps and integrating into the teacher's and students' routine, ongoing data collection is totally doable, and a tool too useful to be without.
Comparing performance to grade level norms gives a comparative picture of the student's skill level, but watching the incremental growth a student makes in reference to where he or she started is the most important thing. If growth isn't occurring as planned, a teacher knows when to alter the instruction or take some action. This is not rocket science. It is, however, imperative for individualized instruction.
Christine Downs, MEd, is a senior instructor in the Graduate School of Education, department of Special Education. She completed her master's degree in special education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and her bachelors in art therapy at Trenton State College, in New Jersey. Ms. Downs serves as cohort leader for students in the full-time special educator program. She teaches an introduction to special education and an assessment course, and supervises teacher candidates in the field. Her passions in education include reading instruction and positive methods of behavior management. She completed a two-year Courage to Teach program based on the work of Parker Palmer, and from that work is empowered to advocate for avoiding teacher burnout. Ms. Downs is also a working artist, and actively exhibits her glass artwork and tiles.
Christine Downs, MEd
Graduate School of Education
Portland State University
PO Box 751
615 SW Harrison
Portland, OR 97207-0751