#SOL18: Assessment


What do we value?  Product? Process? Reflection?

It began with a conversation on Voxer.

How do we know?

My #OLW, Curious, led me on an interesting quest.

So how does this work in real life?

The first group began.  All brass. They blew a few sounds through their mouthpieces.  They were newcomers. Section by section. Each small group played. Then the entire brass group played two songs.

Same process for the woodwinds.  A few sounds. Section by section sound off.  Then the entire woodwind group played two songs.




The Premiere of THE 5th Grade Beginning Band (copied from the program) then played two songs.  Their first practice together – the brass and the woodwinds. Their first practice EVER. During a performance.  In front of a gym packed with family and friends. 

How would you assess this 5th grade group in their first public appearance?


The number of students that participated? 

How the three groups sounded?


How they have grown in the six weeks since 5th grade band began?

What comparisons would you make between assessing this instrumental group and other “assessments of 5th grade learners?”

I watched instrumental musicians last night representing grades 5-12 in the Central DeWitt school district.  This was my second consecutive year to attend the fall Parade of Bands. It’s a 90 minute extravaganza led by two directors that showcases the performance levels of students in October each year. This year that was a total of 325 band students in grades 5-12:  215 students in grades 5-8 (She is simply amazing!) and 115 students in high school.




A combination?

Screenshot 2017-03-26 at 8.34.52 AM

What if . . .

What if all students had to take an identical screener in the fall, winter and spring?

What if the results of the screener was then used to determine which instrument students should play?

What if the students had to pass a “basic knowledge test” before they could choose an instrument?

Would there be 325 students in band if a general “proficiency test” was required of all students?

Again, how is success measured?

Is it measured by the “1 Superior” rating at state marching contest?

Is it measured by the new band uniforms provided by a community drive?

Is it measured by the audience that packed the gym?

Is it measured by the funds raised during the dinner before the Parade of Bands?

Is it measured by the applause of the audience?

Is it measured by the number of students who continue to participate in band year after year?

Is it measured by the distance that audience members travel to attend the concert? (195 miles one way for me)

Is it measured by the “JOY” of the students who continue to participate?

Product?  Process? Reflection? 

Is there any ONE measure that captures the essence of success?

The original conversation began with writing.  Is this a conversation that needs to be a part of every content area in every school building?  

What do we value?

What do we support?

How do we know?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                     

        slice of life 2016

Full Disclosure: I’ve followed this band director for decades – to concerts and competitions, to the Alamo Bowl, and to the Orange Bowl so I’m a wee bit biased.  Band opened the doors for me to travel in the US and abroad. I attended this concert with his grandmother, mother, wife and daughter. I’ve known him and his work ethic for 40 years, and YET I also know that FUN and a passion for music is also a part of his agenda.  He’s my nephew!

18 responses

  1. An array of important questions abut gauging success, all stemming from your great OLW, “Curious,” which nearly always begins with “what if…” I personally appreciate your connection to the band director – my son is a church music director. Loud, hearty applause from me that fun and passion are your nephew’s priorities in leading the band. Vitally important!

    1. Fran,
      Life is more than school days. Are we preparing folks for the rest of their lives? 🙂

  2. You’re posing interesting questions, Fran. How DO we measure success?

    This reminds me of a school board meeting I sat in last night. The development director pointed out — after we were finished talking — that no one talked about STEM projects, high test scores, being bilingual, etc. What did people talk about? Cultivating kind human beings. That’s what mattered to us.

    1. Stacey,
      “Kind human beings” – that’s a great goal. Some will puzzle how to measure it. But we WILL know it when we see it.

      My immediate solution in the political arena. Any campaign ad that does not focus on the candidate paying for it (or on their behalf) and their positive plans and actions will be pulled from air time. Not allowed to be shown or heard. Any ads that mention the opponent are automatically fined $1,000,000 each time they are aired. And of course ads are limited to 60 days before the election . . .

  3. I love how you took one question and turned out this post. I’ve been thinking about it too. How do we measure success? I don’t have answers, only questions, but I think it’s a question that we all must ask ourselves. Who gets to measure our success? That’s another one!

    1. Michelle,
      I think we need to change the narrative in “Who gets to measure our success?” Not as excusiology when we don’t meet state or federal goals or to lower our expectations but to focus on what our life goals are for our students!

  4. At what point does assessment begin to stifle creativity? Does our conversation about our schools reflect that which we really value? That’s the take-away your post gave me this morning. Thinking about my school/ district, I think we are on the right track.

    1. And I love that you gave me more questions! YES!

  5. Phew- success looks so different depending on who/when/how you ask, eh? I love how you connect so many ideas here.

  6. I don’t think we can measure success in one way- there are as many definitions as there are people. Success depends on the person and the goal. We must always measures with varied methods, across time and modalities. Love all of your questions.

    1. Clare,
      So many folks seem to be in search of the “perfect” assessment. Or else a certain number becomes the arbitrary marker for success!
      It is so complicated! 🙂

  7. Bravery as criteria for success: love it!

    1. Karen,
      We have to embrace “risk” as a characteristic for any performance work! 🙂

  8. Just goes to show that there is no one-size-fits-all assessment tool, so why do we rate student success and ability based on a single test? There are so many factors that play into success. If I can do something that I was not able to do before, even if not perfect by someone else’s standards, does that constitute a success? In my book it does.

    1. Oh, man! My point exactly!
      How can ONE single number from one single test on one single day ever be considered for a “success rating”? Reminds me of the Animal School where all animals were rated on their ability to climb a tree and the poor fish failed!

      And I agree. Growth in learning anything new is measured just by being able to do it! Growth!

  9. A thought provoking post. I don’t understand how we got so far away from the basic “if this, then that” assessment. I took a quiz alongside my students yesterday and together we missed a few points because of our different interpretations of the text. Were we wrong or just different? Who decides?

    1. Margaret,
      Such truth! If reading is “meaning making” why are we all expected to have the exact same answer? That’s been a puzzlement of mine since the beginning of time and standardized testing with the power or might that has been assigned to it – ooh, la, la! So NOT appropriate! It’s all about our different understandings and how we came to that point. Never wrong! ❤

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