NHPR chronicled the challenging process that four school districts are undertaking to roll out the highly anticipated PACE project. Teachers have been meeting with each other and the NH-based Center for Assessment to develop the assessment questions and to calibrate them, a process that ensures uniform grading among classrooms and districts. While the assessments aren’t “standardized,” in the usual meaning of the term, they do need to be comparable across districts to be valid measures of student learning, making the calibration process crucial in order for the PACE project to work. Teachers are figuring it all out:
“Grading is really personal, just like teaching is very personal, and sometimes you don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings,” says Crystal Lavoie, a 9th grade teacher at Sanborn. But she says it doesn’t take long before teachers start to converge on the same scores.
[Assessment expert Scott] Marion says teachers are working from a shared rubric, or scoring guide, but those are just words. “The problem with just scoring guides is you can interpret the words one way, I could interpret it another way. So we create anchor papers. And we come to agreement on that. So then when we come to new papers I say what does it look like compared to these papers. Is it a borderline three? Is it a prototypical three? Is it a high three?
He says, after training, typically 85 percent of teachers give essays the same score, and 95 percent are within one point of one another. They are calibrated.
“This is not for the faint of heart. It’s more work, we think it’s the right work,” says Marion, “Districts have to be ready, but there’s no stopwatch running on this.”