Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Cumulative Final Exam

Please excuse the use of quotations, and please treat all quotations as if I'm using my hands to give the quotations signal.

Scenario A: Teacher speeds through all course material and is "done teaching" for the year by May.  They spend the remaining 1.5 months "reviewing" for the final.

Scenario B: Teacher spends time on each concept, working at the student pace to ensure everybody has a good understanding of each concept, differentiating when appropriate.  By the time June rolls around, there are 2 whole chapters (when did learning take place in chapters) that were not "covered". 

Since they both teach the same course, each teacher's students will be taking the same final exam.  After all, what better way to achieve a standardized curriculum than to make the final exam the same for everybody.  What will these final exam scores look like?

The teacher from Scenario A looks like a superstar.  An expert teacher whose students excel on the final exam.  A true veteran.  The teacher from Scenario B looks like a bumbling fool, a novice who can't even "cover their entire curriculum".  This is the teacher that others look at and say "They move too slow." (not sarcasm quotes)

The students from Scenario A look like the best and brightest, and are rewarded by high scores on a final exam that counts for 20% of their final grade.  Yes, 20%!!!  90 minutes of a school year equates to 20% of a student's grade.  The students of Scenario B are punished for having a teacher who cares about everybody learning, and a teacher that is following a district model of formative assessment and differentiated instruction.  They will not have high scores on their final exam, the same final exam that Scenario A's students beasted.

How does it make sense to give the same final exam, knowing that every teacher employs a different teaching style?  Why can't we have some freedom to develop our own final evaluation of what a student knows?  Something that is not necessarily a multiple choice exam.  Here's what I'd do: My End of Year Projects