A Checkpoint Discussion (Brutal Truth Version)

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The following is an exchange I had with a district curriculum director concerning 3-week checkpoints (common assessments).

DIRECTOR This is a question I’m getting fairly often now, “Why don’t the checkpoints get progressively longer as the time for the EOC exam nears? 
I restate and remind our teachers about the purpose of checkpoints.  But the questions keep coming up. What else can I add to my response?

SC Teachers are worried about how their students will perform on the long, rigorous, high stakes test.  A legitimate concern.  Share with them that World Class marathon runners train thru a regiment of short sprints and mid-length runs. They do not constantly run marathons.

We mimic this with the following assessment series: 

Weeks 3 and 6 – short checkpoints Week 9 – a mid-length midterm Weeks 12 and 15 – short checkpoints Week 18 – a longer final

Finally, we are checking to see if students have mastered what we taught and did we re-teach our identified deep holes. We are not checking to see if students can navigate thru 40 problems in four hours.

DIRECTOR The same teachers that complain about the test being the center of everything, then complain that the test isn’t the center of everything. Do they realize how schizophrenic that makes them look?

SC Unfortunately, no.  But this is not unique to your district.  It is the manifestation of teacher stress, fear, and superstitious behaviors. And it’s better than your teachers not caring.

DIRECTOR Just to clarify, are you saying that the 9-week checkpoint should be cumulative?

SC Yes. But not stupid length cumulative. 15 questions, max.  Also, if the district looks at assessment data, it should only look at the data from the 9, 18, 27 and 36-week tests.  All the other checkpoints are for campus use.  And the tests for weeks 18 and 36 (which are in lieu of a traditional final exam) can be 20 to 30 questions.

DIRECTOR Got it!

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