In response to the 8/15/2013 post, “Lesa Cain on Common Assessments,” a reader asks:


I’m not having success with common assessments that aren’t counted as a grade in a high school. Building relationships hasn’t been an effective motivator at our school with this piece and I think they kids are rapidly pulling away and guessing to just turn it in. Thoughts?

SC Response Thoughts? Yes, a lot of them.

First, we have never said that common assessments shouldn’t be counted as grades.  What we teach is that during initial implementation Common Assessments should not be counted as TEST GRADES.  No matter how often and loud we say this, no one seems to hear it.  So why not count them as test grades?  Because when a structured common assessment program is first implemented, the poor performance on the test is primarily due to pacing and instructional delivery issues. These are adult issues inflicted on students, why punish them twice?  The good news is that the adult issue will improve (unless the PLC lacks the will to improve, and at that point is it really a PLC).

In the interim, the common assessments can be counted as participation grades, daily grades, or quiz grades.

Second, what you want from your students is honest effort.  With honest effort you can begin to trust the data (no matter how ugly it looks at first). So how do you get honest effort without test grades? That depends on the teacher. Here are some of the things I did as a teacher and principal:

  • Teacher / Student conversations
  • Goal setting
  • Competition
  • Celebration
  • Earned privileges
  • Self-assessment
  • Unapologetic passion for the only subject that matters, (insert your content here)

Just know that when it comes to student motivation, one size does not fit all.  And that includes grades.

Finally, sometimes it just takes time.  The common assessment process is not, “We give a test, and things immediately improve.” 

The common assessment process is, “We give a check point and we identify areas to work on.” 

Based on your question, student motivation is an area for study, reflection and action research on your campus. This is neither good nor bad, it just… is.

Good luck and send me some updates.

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