The middle school teachers at my school have been talking a bit about evaluation. Part of this discussion is coming about because our current 8th grade teacher is helping his students apply to various private high schools in the area, but it is an ongoing topic that we come back to every now and then.
Our school is like many others, in that for younger students, their evaluation comes in the form of a narrative evaluation that is released at the end of the school year. This, along with parent-teacher conferences, is the primary avenue for feedback to parents. It works well because teachers and parents work so intimately together throughout the year, that the need for more frequent formal evaluation is not necessary.
When students enter middle school, though, we find that they appreciate regular feedback. Evaluation shifts from being directed towards the parents, to being directed towards the students.
Our school has a practice of providing block evaluations to middle school students and parents at the end of each main lesson block (every 3-4 weeks, typically.) This evaluation includes a checkmark rubric system, as well as a brief narrative evaluation. This format makes keeping up with the pace of evaluation fairly manageable — even with a class of 24 students.
At the beginning of the year I decided that I really wanted to see my students’ attention to their work improve, so I decided that in addition to the block evaluation, I would evaluate individual main lesson pages, to inspire them to excel. I am so pleased with the results. I give students a score of 1-5 — 5 is best and anything below a 3 needs to be redone (we work on loose paper that we bind into books at the end of the block, so redoing a page is easy.)
Another benefit of this system is that it forced me to set due dates for main lesson pages, collect them and hold kids accountable for pages not turned in. The result is that we all move along at a pretty quick pace together, completing work on time.
Some of my colleagues have questioned this practice, wondering if it is getting a little too close to a formalized grading system. There was a time when I wouldn’t have agreed with doing something like this, but I’m astonished by how well it is working in my classroom. We certainly have our moments when students disagree with their score, or when I have a hard time giving a score that is objective and not just based on my own artistic preferences, but in general I’m pretty happy with the system.