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Frequently Asked Questions about IB Assessment
What is a rubric? How do teachers use it to assess student work? How does that assessment translate into a grade?
Rubrics are grids that define in advance “what good looks like.” They describe various levels of achievement for specific assessment tasks against individual performance criteria or learning objectives. Rubrics help to make assessment precise. Teachers use rubrics to help students understand what’s expected, how they can do well, and how they can develop the skill of assessing their own work. In the Middle Years Program, each subject has its own criteria, each of which has its own possible levels of achievement. Teachers examine students’ achievement over time to arrive at an overall level that describes performance against each criterion.
There are so many strange numbers, why is that? What do they mean? Why don’t tests, projects, and other assessment tasks get letter grades? What is an “achievement level” anyway?
Each MYP subject has been developed by skilled and experienced educators who carefully consider the unique categories of knowledge, understanding, skills, and attitudes students need to be successful in their study of specific disciplines. These subject area requirements are divided into between 3 and 6 learning objectives / assessment criteria, each of which has been “weighted” in terms of its overall importance by the assigned maximum levels of achievement. A “level of achievement” is another way of describing what students understand and are able to do which is assigned a numerical symbol (mark) based on how well students demonstrate mastery of the various components of an assessment task.
Rather than looking for and grading students’ combined achievement on each task, we look at a variety of tasks to establish over time patterns and growth in performance against each MYP objective.
Is it fair to determine grades with so few assignments?
In general, teachers make assessments of learning at points in which they reasonably expect that students have mastered targeted standards/objectives, benchmarks, and indicators. These assessments usually fall at the end of identified units of instruction. Teachers choose as many tasks as necessary for students to demonstrate their accomplishments. Throughout the unit, students have many opportunities to practice new skills and consolidate new understandings through formative assessments, like class work and homework, quizzes, and informal checks. However, in general, we aim for fewer, weighted tasks that offer students opportunities to apply knowledge in complex, real-world situations. Not only is this approach more realistic and more challenging, it helps to focus instruction and build students’ self-confidence and skill as learners.
It all seems so subjective. Wouldn’t a number between 1 and 100 be more precise and reliable?
All educational assessment is subjective and depends on reliable, informed judgments made by subjective human beings. Traditional systems often hide that subjectivity behind numbers that imply objective precision. However, behind even the most standardized selected-response assessments (widely tested assessments containing only questions that have a single right answer which students select from a range of choices), teachers or testing companies have made hundreds of subjective decisions about content, language, and scoring. MYP assessment aims to acknowledge the subjectivity of assessment and deal with it in a public forum with principles and practices that are subject to discussion and review by parents, students, administrators, and collaborative teams of teachers.
Are other schools taking this approach?
Every authorized IB World School is responsible for developing school wide assessment policies that align with the assessment philosophy of the IB and respect local practices. Many public schools struggle to make the necessary changes in teaching practices that challenge many long-held assumptions in the United States about how teachers determine grades.
Why does homework count for such a small portion of the grade? Why would any kid do homework if that’s the case?
We teach students that everything “counts”. Teachers record information about the completion and accuracy of many assignments. We are helping students understand that the natural consequence for failing to complete assigned work is lower achievement on assessments of learning (summative assessments). We are holding students personally and administratively responsible for completing their work. We are committed to assigning homework that provides students essential opportunities to practice, take risks, and make mistakes while they learn.
Why is it that even my child’s teacher seems confused?
These changes challenge many traditional, ineffective, and unhealthy assessment practices. They are unfamiliar, they require learning new systems, and they force us to rethink the many highly idiosyncratic practices (some better and some worse) that individual teachers have devised over the years. Sometimes, they challenge cherished individual practices, and sometimes they confront core beliefs we hold about teaching and learning. Change is always difficult, and teachers arrive at the task with varying degrees of experience and understanding. We are learning together and helping each other refine our understanding.
What’s wrong with the way we’ve always done it before? Everyone already understands points and percentages.
Educators widely agree that our assessment system is broken, no longer serving its purpose in a highly diverse, fast-moving, post-industrial global society. Our research found an emerging consensus on what works and what’s best for students. Just because a system is widely understood does not make it good; just because it’s easier to leave that system in place doesn’t mean it is right to do so. The faculty and staff work every day to build a better and more peaceful world through education, and we believe that together we can use more effective assessment, grading, and reporting practices to meet the needs of our community, our parents, our teachers, and the students who will inherit the world.
© 2013 Louise R. Johnson Middle School of