Piloting Uncharted Territory

I started teaching English 2 while I was a student teacher and have continued all five years of my career. It’s my favorite course to teach – in part because I have the opportunity to expose my students to challenging texts both about current events and more traditional literary texts from around the world. Their writing begins to blossom as they form high-level thoughts and crave help with figuring out how to translate specific ideas from their head to paper in just the right way.

I pride myself on creatively incorporating high standards, student interests and important current events into my lessons, while not only preparing my students for future academic checkpoints but also for their futures. I use daily checks as well as formative and summative assessments through performance based or more traditional multiple-choice assessments. All of these “assessments” paint a picture for me and my students about how they are progressing through their English course.

My school, STEAM Academy in Kentucky, uses a mastery-based approach to determine when a student is ready to progress to the next level of a course. Once a student has mastered the standards in English 2, she is ready to take her state end of course exam and move on to English 3 or even a dual-credit English course.

Kentucky will soon begin piloting a new, teacher-created, end of course exam next semester for English 2. My students who will have mastered the standards this first semester will not experience the new pilot end of course exam or take the previous assessment – creating a gap in the amount of information I will receive about their progress.

Over the past five years, one of the things I have used to reflect on my practice are the English 2 end of course exam scores as they help me analyze my students’ progress. While it is only one snapshot of their learning, it helps me become a better teacher and validates the students’ hard work in a challenging course.  There’s a void for this semester; my in-class and district assessments will give me a lot information, but I still long for data to compare my students to peers across the state.

I am excited to pilot the new assessment and see what kind of data it will provide for me and the students. Until then I’ll be singing along to Counting Crows: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone…”


About the Author

Kari Patrick teaches high school English at STEAM Academy in Lexington, Kentucky. She also serves as Senior Advisor of Teacher Outreach for the Collaborative for Student Success.