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View Full Version : How do you measure your students' academic progress?



Paula
11-02-2012, 05:21 PM
We all know that standardized testing is a terrible way for our children to demonstrate what they've learned. Given our ability to use any method of measuring our children's academic growth, what are some ways that you all measure your children's progress?

Do you dole out tests? Do you assign a project? A fun quiz? Do you just engage them in discussion to hear what they've learned?

I'm curious because we've been homeschooling now for almost a trimester, and I feel that I should "test" somehow, even if that just means a few days of review and discussion. But there has to be a more creative way!

wendygrace
11-02-2012, 05:26 PM
I only measure progress in math and reading and that's minimal. With Math I use the end of unit reviews for ds and keep an eye on how they are doing on Khan. I also, about once a year, check with mindspring and see where they fall. With reading I just check to see what level of book they are reading/enjoying. I search the book to see what lexile it is and what "age recommendation" it is as well as use mindspring again about once a year.

farrarwilliams
11-02-2012, 05:26 PM
Portfolio assessment. I've been a strong believer in it for years.

Paula
11-02-2012, 05:36 PM
Wendygrace-- What is mindspring? I've never heard of it.

Farrar-- How do you do your portfolios? And how often?

Paula
11-02-2012, 05:40 PM
Farrar- Nevermind! I dug through your blog and found your portfolio-related posts. :)

Stella M
11-02-2012, 06:40 PM
Idk. I live with them ?

Honestly, I never understand how to answer this question.

If I live with them, and work with them, I see the progress they make over time. I assume the pace of progress they make is good for them. Sometimes it's rapid, sometimes it's slower, sometimes I observe them get stuck.

If they get stuck, I try to work out why and help come up with a solution.

For me it's like watching their physical growth. I observe they are growing - getting taller, stronger, maturing. Same with their academic skills. Or their emotional skills.

Stella M
11-02-2012, 06:41 PM
Oh, yes, discussion is definitely a tool we use a lot. Discussion and observation. Hey, I came up with an answer!

wendygrace
11-02-2012, 07:04 PM
Wendygrace-- What is mindspring? I've never heard of it.

It's an online tutoring program but they have free assessments for math, reading and reading comprehension. All they tell me is whether they are meeting grade level standards or not but I use it just to make sure I'm reasonable close to having them "keep up". As long as they are at least "at grade level" then I'm good. I don't sweat the small stuff though. http://www.mindsprinting.com/

dbmamaz
11-02-2012, 10:12 PM
i'm kinda w Stella. As the things they are doing become easier, I see they are ready for more. Its so much easier over time, you see them finishing a curriculum and ready for another, you see them writing better and more quickly, you see them getting concepts they've been struggling with.

I think the reason for testing and assesments in school is so the school knows how ALL the kids are doing, but you know how your kid is doing. If they dont understand the math, you keep working on that concept until they do, you dont have to wait for a test to tell you they didnt learn it. If they are picking it up faster, you skip through it faster.

Unless you dont think you are noticing how they are doing . . .or you have to tell someone else . . . jmo. but i wonder if I should go read Farrar's portfolio section. i am really lazy and dont do more than I feel is important to us, and I cant figure out why I would find it important. I want to know I have exposed them to science and history, and that they can write and do math, and that they feel prepared for what they want from life.

Avalon
11-02-2012, 11:24 PM
I like to keep writing samples. Even the kids can clearly see that what they wrote yesterday was much better than what they wrote last year.

I'm not a huge fan of most school work. All those worksheets, lapbooks, crafts, coloured maps, etc... just end up in the recycle bin a few months later anyway. The things I actually care about are more subtle: like the types of books they are choosing, their comments about the characters or plot in a book, the insights they have when we talk about things (whether it's outer space or government policy).

I am also greatly encouraged by signs of independence and maturity: being able to work more independently, knowing that they need to do laundry before they run out of underwear, choosing to look something up on the internet on their own, being able to plan a whole birthday party or weekend camping trip themselves, deciding to re-enact a story they read, etc...

There is no test for these things, but if I observe carefully, I notice them doing things that they couldn't or wouldn't have done a few months or years ago.

Jeni
11-02-2012, 11:52 PM
Our curriculum comes with assessments and tests and our state requires a yearly test. I don't worry about it as much as I used to. I figure as long as they are understanding the material and using it as they progress, then they are learning. The tests and things that come with our curriculum are a big help in allowing me to relax. If she's not understanding, it's going to show up on the quiz. If she gets it, then we'll see that too.

Paula
11-03-2012, 10:08 AM
Thank you all for your replies.

It is definitely easy to see his progress first-hand, but we'e speeding through so many new concepts, in math particularly, that I wonder if he remembers stuff from five weeks ago, for example.

I'm thinking of reserving next week for review and more independent work. Guided, he can probably get through any lesson, but I'd like to see him independently face some past concepts to see if he's connecting the dots.

Do any of you have review times?

Ellenaj
11-03-2012, 11:49 AM
At the end of the day during family time I usually do a recap questioning session with each of my kids about what they learned that day and if they can demonstrate something or recite something from each subject. If they have complete answers I know we can continue or move on the next day. If they are little fumbled or don't know what to say that I know we may need to review the next day a bit more.

I give oral tests for History. These are usually done at the end of a long 1 month unit-and they are really good with these.

Simple one page tests when we finish a math unit-if they get 1 or 2 questions wrong we move on to the next unit. If they miss more than that we go over each question together and find out why and see if we need more practice. Usually by test time though I can gauge how well they will do on the test and we really haven't had any major issues.

And I do review questions with each kid after (and during) they read a book-that way I know they actually read and understood their book.

Other subjects they can usually tell me more about what they are learning than I can tell them. They are engaged in finding information and doing the projects. I know they are learning and moving forward because I can see it in the way they approach the world and used what they learned in it. Science, writing, vocab and whatever our unit study is at the time(usually something to do with animals).

I get the "How do you know where your kid is at" question all the time from friends and family and even strangers. I usually tell them that I can just tell- I am around them 24/7 and know how they are and when they are moving forward! I SEE it! I think a lot of homeschool families probably do.

farrarwilliams
11-03-2012, 05:03 PM
For things like math, spelling, writing, etc. I find that review isn't really needed. If they didn't get it well enough, then it shows pretty clearly as you try to build on the skills. A child who seems to get subtraction from 10 and under but doesn't have a firm grasp will get stuck on subtraction from 20 and under. So then you review.

For content areas, I don't bother mostly. Things touch on each other, especially in science. We did just start history this year by doing an overview of world history to 1750 because we had taken a year off of doing world history to do US, so it seemed in order. It's been since K that we covered ancient Egypt, for example. But generally, nah. I don't expect them to retain a huge amount anyway. Science and history in the early grades is just familiarizing and playing around with things and building a little background context.

ejsmom
11-03-2012, 05:25 PM
I agree with and appreciate Avalon's well explained response. That being said, I live in PA where I have to legally turn in to our school district a portfolio of samples showing progress in a full array of subjects. In addition my son has to take standardized tests (my choice of several) in grades 3, 5, and 8. So I check in on what the "Core Standards" are once in awhile to make sure we aren't missing anything, but he learns at HIS pace. I do purchase some subjects and there are "tests" if I want to print them out. I usually don't, but if he really loves the subject matter, sometimes I do and let him take it and he loves to then show everyone what he learned and how well he knows it, and I have something to stick in that dang portfolio!

I do give him a math "test" once a month, only we call it a " Show You Know", because I am using it to show him and whoever else I have to report to that he is making progress.

Paula
11-03-2012, 08:28 PM
I do give him a math "test" once a month, only we call it a " Show You Know", because I am using it to show him and whoever else I have to report to that he is making progress.

I love what you're saying here, and I think a "Show You Know" session is what I was looking for. At this stage, we do so much cooperative work that I would like just give him some math problems, which are familiar (like a sheet of addition and subtraction) and let him do it completely independently without any of my help or interference. Like you said, a "Show You Know," and we won't make a big deal out of grades or how well he did so long as I can see how he's doing.

Thank you!

Avalon
11-03-2012, 09:10 PM
I am so grateful that I don't have any real record-keeping requirements. I would have a really hard time with it. The only thing I'm required to do is meet with a teacher-facilitator every year and "demonstrate progress." A reading list, a writing sample, and a higher level of math book every year usually covers it.

Frankly, I find it confusing to "show progress" in subjects like science or history. I find the kids retain tidbits that were interesting and forget the rest, so what does progress actually mean? I could demonstrate that work was done or books were read, but I can't prove that they actually retained anything for the long term.


I agree with and appreciate Avalon's well explained response. That being said, I live in PA where I have to legally turn in to our school district a portfolio of samples showing progress in a full array of subjects. In addition my son has to take standardized tests (my choice of several) in grades 3, 5, and 8. So I check in on what the "Core Standards" are once in awhile to make sure we aren't missing anything, but he learns at HIS pace. I do purchase some subjects and there are "tests" if I want to print them out. I usually don't, but if he really loves the subject matter, sometimes I do and let him take it and he loves to then show everyone what he learned and how well he knows it, and I have something to stick in that dang portfolio!

I do give him a math "test" once a month, only we call it a " Show You Know", because I am using it to show him and whoever else I have to report to that he is making progress.

farrarwilliams
11-03-2012, 10:08 PM
You can show progress with some aspects of social studies and science - map skills, for example, and scientific reasoning. But I agree that it's mostly an absurd requirement. We're supposed to keep a "portfolio of materials" that the Board of Education can request to see and review up to three times a year. But no one even knows what that means and no one has ever, to my knowledge, been asked to show theirs, so the whole thing is absurd.

Before I had kids, when I first started in education, I used to think assessment was basically a dirty word. It's so associated with standardized tests and tests in general. But I've come around to the idea that assessment is a really good thing - it's just better to have lots and lots of assessments, most of them informal, going on all the time than trying to determine where a kid is through one big final exam or standardized test.

Crabby Lioness
11-04-2012, 11:20 AM
There's two standards against which you can measure. One is against the child's previous progress, the other is compared to other children their age. Both can be achieved by observation. Dh is a schoolteacher, and we have other children and young people over on occasion.

We do use tests, and will soon start using more, but that's more about college prep than anything else.

rueyn
11-06-2012, 07:56 AM
I'm with Stella, too - when we're going over material, I just kind of know whether or not it's getting absorbed. That blank look and the monosyllabic, "Yeah, uh huh"s? Means we need to slow down and try again.

But when there's engagement and discussion and interest, I can guarantee I'll hear about the subject a few days later in another context and conversation.

For math, I create a weekly "Math Mix" that has one problem each of all the major ideas we've been working on. For example, one question for regrouping, one for larger multiplication, one for division, et cetera. I sit with him while he works, but give as little help as possible. That helps me see what concepts he's got and the ones he's still shaky on.

MrsLOLcat
11-06-2012, 10:51 AM
I've printed off random free standardized tests for the boy once in a while; he thinks they're great fun mostly because they're multiple-choice. Other than that, I listen to them lecture their father. They really enjoy telling him what they learned... and when it comes to history and geography, they usually know at least as much as he does, if not more. He often plays dumb with science so they'll tell him more. It's cute.

ItoLina
11-06-2012, 03:29 PM
I go through a charter school umbrella that gives us a bunch of money to buy curriculum and supplies. The price I pay for that is that I am accountable to them. It is not so bad though. I have to set goals for each core subject for each quarter, and I have to turn in a portfolio to the "teacher" each quarters with samples of work from each subject showing that we are meeting or at least making progress toward meeting those goals. I am actually finding this quite useful for keeping me focused and feeling confident that we are making progress.