The modification of the primary school curriculum, now commentable and due to come into force in two years, revives the debate on student assessment. That is, if the time has come to abolish traditional grading and replace it with verbal assessment. However, even for schools that have taken this step, it is clear that change would not be easy. Some parents and teachers object to the cancellation of grades.
At Meaningful School in Karlín, Prague, they believe that every child is different and needs a different method of assessment. Therefore, they assess not only with traditional grades, but also verbally, for example. “On the one hand, there are children who are collapsing who will decide on any bad grades. And on the other hand, there are children who, if they don’t have bad grades, will not do anything” , explains director Jan Korda, why the school combines different assessment methods.
Verbal assessment, which was also on the report card, was first tested at the Meaningful School during the first wave of the wave in 2020, when children took online lessons for most of the second semester.
“Verbal evaluation was definitely a better solution than grades in a given situation,” thinks Jonas of eighth grade. He adds, however, that it was not personalized enough, according to him, most of the students received almost the same evaluation. “We felt that the message was for hundreds of students at school, not directly for him,” he explains.
Even Jonáš’s classmate, Kryšpín, does not consider verbal assessment to be ideal. According to him, teachers tend to focus in this mode of assessment on what students do not do well and what they do poorly. “They can tell me even in class,” Kryšpín notes. According to him, a long-term evaluation is not necessary, it would only take a few sentences.
According to Hedvika, who also goes to eighth grade, verbal assessment should not replace grades, but should complement them. “I would like it to be written on the mark, for example, that even though I failed the tests, I tried in class and prepared at home,” suggests Hedvika.
Parents must agree with the verbal assessment
According to Jan Korda, director of the school, the notes are particularly popular with parents because they give them quick and easy information. “When a child gets a one, two, or even a three, it’s instant information and the parent doesn’t know what’s behind it,” Korda says. Also, according to him, some parents don’t want verbal assessment, which is why grade one teachers also have to grade some children. Schools cannot verbally assess children if their parents do not agree.
Furthermore, Korda points out that even if a school decides to assess verbally, it must convert the verbal assessment into grades, for example, due to entrance exams to multi-year high schools and high schools. “The high school our student applied to wanted a classification card for entrance exams because it’s in a law and they wanted to comply with it,” says Korda, one of the problems associated with the non-traditional form devaluation. However, according to him, the error is not in the high schools, but especially on the part of the State. “Laws and standards that don’t allow classification other than classification are wrong,” he says.
The Ministry of Education wishes to support the use of assessment, which provides information on the progress of the child against predetermined objectives. “We are preparing a change in the legislation so that the criteria and the classification certificates are equivalent”, explains Jan Jitterský, deputy director of the department of basic education. The station will include models of such a certificate in the decree on education documents and primarily to provide schools with a methodology for giving verbal feedback. He promises to use these assessments more frequently, both on the report card and throughout the school year.
However, according to Korda, it is not possible to introduce verbal assessment in all schools. “Only the state could afford it. And it should train all the teachers first,” he says, pointing out that teachers use the kind of assessment that they consider meaningful and manageable. Therefore, any new valuation method must be explained to them in detail.
Teachers don’t grade in Waldorf schools
Verbal assessment places higher demands on teachers. For example, in Waldorf schools, where there is hardly any grading, the teacher writes one to two paragraphs of text for each subject on the report card, which takes more time than grading. However, according to Tomáš Kuba of Waldorf School Dobromysl and the Association of Waldorf Schools in the Czech Republic, it makes sense, as grades can demotivate children. “We assume every child wants to learn and we can kill it in them,” he says.
The Waldorf school only grades eighth and ninth grade because it is required by the state for entrance exams. “Even so, we give a verbal assessment and then convert it into points,” says Kuba. Eighth and ninth graders will thus receive a report card with a verbal evaluation and an extract from the report card with a transcript of marks.
According to Cuba, the transition from grades to verbal assessment is not easy for children and the older they are, the longer it takes them. The most common problem is that they don’t understand the verbal assessment because they can’t read it properly. For example, a Waldorf school report card typically has two to three sheets, which are outlined on both sides by about two-thirds.
However, parents who were used to grades themselves have a bigger problem than children with the transition to verbal assessment. “A parent who just wants to look at the assessment and know right away complains, of course, that it’s hard for him. But for parents who care about children, verbal assessment is good,” Kuba says. .
Teachers and parents are not ready
As part of the revision of the framework educational curriculum, the Ministry of Education is mainly trying to introduce formative assessment, that is, feedback that would inform students about their progress during the course. of the school year and whether they succeed in achieving the predetermined objectives. One form of feedback is simply verbal evaluation.
“Ordering a formative assessment is an important step that teachers and often even parents need not be prepared for,” stresses Jan Jiterský from the Ministry of Education. According to him, it is therefore necessary to create materials that will help schools with the implementation.
Eva Píšová, teacher and member of the Association of Methodologists of Foreign Languages, also agrees with the introduction of better feedback. According to her, students need to receive feedback from teachers, which is not included in the assessment. Otherwise, students feel like they are only learning for the grades.
However, according to Píšová, the teacher also needs feedback to know how the students have understood the material and therefore he also assigns tests that he does not mark. “The first question is always, ‘Is it about the brands?'” he says. When there is none, according to Píšová, students relax, they lose stress and don’t even need to copy their classmates.
However, Píšová is not in favor of the final verbal evaluation of the ballot. “Notes work better for me, and I think they have similar value in our environment to multi-page teacher-style exercises,” he explains.
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