Recently, I saw a conversation on Facebook between parents about tutoring. Someone had asked if anyone could suggest an affordable tutor. Several people commented and tagged others in the conversation (me being one of them). One person commented and said, "The Big Box Tutoring Company (name has been changed) has given us the best results. We tried a teacher from the school, as well as another lady who professionally tutored from her home. Neither really panned out. But the more "real" environment and planned curriculum as well as the testing to see exactly where the holes were have been worth the money."
There is a lot to be learned from this parent commenting. She was hoping for clearly laid out curriculum for her child and assessment being given at regular intervals so that she could "see" the growth in her child. My question to you is, are you making a plan for your students? Are you assessing? As you read above, this is what parents are hoping for. Visible results.
As a parent and tutor however, sometimes I feel at odds with myself because I know that assessment must be done. Most of my experiences at school with my children end up involving some sort of assessment. They take tests a lot in elementary school. I've watched my children stress about reading all their sight words in less than a minute. They would read so fast there was hardly a breath between words. My children are competent readers and yet these assessments have them wound up. It drives me crazy because a fluent reader takes breaths between words!
This week, I would like to talk assessment with you! How do you find the right balance so that you can show growth in a student, please the parent, but keep the child from shutting down because they have to do yet again another assessment?
Here is my personal philosophy about assessment. I typically only assess my younger students because it is harder to tell where they stand and what pieces they are missing. We do a more formal assessment in our first few meetings because I refuse to have them spend an entire hour assessing. I think chunking the assessment into manageable pieces helps me get a clearer understanding because they are not overwhelmed with the shear size of the test.
For the remainder of the student's time with me, I do informal testing like running records. There also is a lot that can be observed during a game with a child because you are sitting right next to them to watch what steps they take to solve a problem.
As for my older students who are in middle and high school, I do not assess them unless they are here for test prep help. Older kids are painfully aware of their weaknesses and it's usually easy to see what their struggling with as we work on homework or prepare for a test at school. Parents gauge how their older child is doing by grades on quizzes and tests.
The honest truth is, a lot of my students are poor test takers. When I tell them that we are going to assess, they wither a little and the stress cycle begins. I've had a couple that just give up and won't even try. With all this being said, I do think assessments should be part of every tutors repertoire, but used in wisdom.
How do you find the right balance for your assessment practices?
Follow along this week! I'll be sharing resources for math and reading assessments. Do you have some sites that you use? Please share them with us in the comments below.