29 Nov Slice of Life: How Do You Interpret That Number?
It’s a bummer it is going to rain this weekend.
Oh, I thought it was going to be nice.
No, I checked this morning and it is going to rain.
That’s weird – I checked too and it said it is going to be nice.
My friend and I have had this exchange – substitute snow, sleet, wind – an endless number of times over the years. We just figured we each looked at different apps or listened to different stations to explain the discrepancies in our forecast predictions. On this day, however, we each had our phones with us.
When we showed each other the evidence for our prediction, we were surprised to discover we were both looking at the same exact forecast.
How do you see that as rain?
How do you see that as nice?
Well, I only predict rain if it says an 80% 100% chance.
Oh, I predict rain if says a 50 or 60% chance.
For years, we thought we had different sources of information only to find out that it was our interpretation of the data that was different. It is not that I was looking at the bright side or that my friend was a pessimist – we simply analyze and interpret the numbers differently. We have different cut-offs for our analysis.
We find this happens in schools all the time. There are many assessments, that while valid and reliable, require the interpretation and judgement of the teacher. We have to rank a student’s comprehension based on an oral conversation or score a student’s writing. These types of assessments do provide rubrics and exemplars, but each teacher still has to make a judgement for each student. Do we all look for the same qualities in a comprehension conversation? Do we expect more at different times of the year? How do we ensure that we all have the same vision in mind for a 3? How do we standardize these open ended assessments?
The world of assessment tells us we need inter-rater reliability to ensure consistency. The answer is finding time to co-administer and co-score assessments with colleagues. Many schools dedicate professional development time to learning how to administer a new assessment. There are often a few sessions or after school workshops to model how to administer and score the new assessment. Too often the professional learning stops there and it is not enough. Each year teachers need time to review, reflect and discuss the assessments they are using in the district. Grade level teams should have time to assess, score and analyze assessments together. We find the “why” behind the score is often more important than the score itself. We need to have conversations about the quality of student responses and the craft of student writing. These conversations lead us to determining instructional goals and practices to meet the needs of the students we are assessing.
It is important that one teacher’s sunny day is the same as another teacher’s sunny day. When we share our perspectives with each other we not only ensure consistency in our evaluation, we learn from each other and develop our expertise as teachers of reading and writing. These conversations ensure we are assessing to understand our students and to use the information to help them grow as readers and writers.