Several teachers from my District met at the Eagle Mountain Elementary School to spend three hours grading the recently administered Target Tests, practice exams intended to assess students’ readiness to take the Arkansas End of Level Literacy Exam.
The activity was definitely worthwhile. Having the chance to collaborate with colleagues is always meaningful, and as always I came away with several ideas and realizations:
Our high school English department needs to schedule more meetings to allow us to collaborate with each other. We are all busy, struggling to keep pace with our day-to-day requirements. However, finding time away from the classroom to spend with colleagues is a necessity and can help us all bond, forge a common vision, share ideas–learn from each other.
Grading student writing together helps ensure we’re all setting high expectations and that we’re all being consistent.
While grading together is valuable, I’m not certain grading Target Tests is the best use of our time. Since we’ve forgone textbooks and are developing thematic units, I’d love to see us meet frequently to develop our thematic units. What if we worked together to select texts tied to a theme, write multiple-choice questions and open response prompts for the text, generate writing prompts for the thematic unit? In essence, we’d be infusing our curriculum with “target tests.” We could then meet periodically to grade some of these tests. We would then benefit not only from the collaborative grading but also from the creating of the tests, and our curriculum would be even richer. The “target tests” then would become a part of our curriculum rather than something else we do.