Assessing Students in the Age of COVID

COVID-19 presented many challenges as we continued to educate in our “new normal” of hybrid learning. The topic of how best to assess our students was something we frequently discussed. Pandemic or no pandemic, assessing our students has always been important in helping them succeed. But what success looks like for each student changed because of COVID-19.

Before I talk about how we are assessing our students, it’s important to understand the difference between testing and assessment. Testing is an event or a product. Whether it is a weekly spelling test, a midterm, or a state standardized test, it tells us how well a student knows the material on which they are being tested. It does not, however, consider everything else that may be going on in the learning process.Assessment on the other hand is an ongoing process. It happens every day in the classroom, or at home, and gives an indication of a student’s effort and engagement level and how well they are learning the course material. Teachers use assessment to help them improve instruction for the group or individual student.

While it is important to us that kids are hitting the core standards, we asked our educators throughout the pandemic to pay close attention to their students’ social-emotional needs. This is something we always prioritize atBrown School. While our students were still taking tests, we put more emphasis on the evidence that showed they are learning and staying engaged. Our teachers provided feedback and encouragement to students while observing levels of participation in class time and on day-to-day assignments or in chatrooms. Communication between the teacher and student was imperative for our teachers to collect feedback and see where they may need to adjust for a certain student.

Equally as important to the assessment process was our partnership with parents. Administrators and educators only see what is in front of them during class time. They may not see the constraints or stressors a child experiences at home. Maybe a child was ill, or didn’t have access to the equipment or Wi-fi needed to take part in a class. Or maybe the student typically received help through an IEP and no longer had access to that support. Therefore, communication between parents and teachers was essential to paint an accurate picture of a child’s progress academically. Testing will always matter. But for us, success during the pandemic was seen by a student’s ability to work independently, reaching out to the teacher for help, participating during class time, and engaging with the lesson and others.

The Brown School mission has always been to mindfully educate all students to pursue their individual potential in a nurturing, collaborative environment. We are lucky enough to have an existing foundation of communication between the school, the students, and the parents that allows for us to individually assess each child based on their specific situation. When we all work together as a team, we are able to thrive as a team.

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