- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Stenhouse Publishers; 1 edition (January 1, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1571104240
- ISBN-13: 978-1571104243
- Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 53 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fair Isn't Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom 1st Edition
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About the Author
Rick Wormeli is a National Board Certified Teacher and a columnist for Middle Ground magazine. The winner of Disney's American Teacher Award for English in 1996, Rick is an internationally known speaker on middle-level education, innovation, and teacher professionalism.
Rick offers a wealth of experience having worked as a middle grades teacher, human growth and development teacher, and staff development educator. He is also an educational consultant to National Public Radio, USA Today, and the Smithsonian Institute.
Rick has presented at the White House, has appeared on Good Morning America, and has worked with school districts all across the country.
Top customer reviews
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So here's the deal: I'm going to be a 5th year middle school science teacher this coming school year, and I've been reflecting a lot on my students' abysmal grades in our low-income, high poverty school. After some initial research, I decided to purchase this book as a guide for myself as I switch over to Standards-Based Grading practices next year... and let's suffice it to say that I got SO much more than I bargained for! Rick Wormeli has completely opened my eyes to the real truth of what it means to assess and grade children in school, offering a plethora of real-world, common-sense, "Why didn't I think of that?!" reasons that put to shame all of the commonly-held beliefs that I hear my veteran colleagues constantly espousing at lunch and in staff meetings. After reading this book, I feel so much more knowledgeable about and better prepared to not only completely overhaul my assessment and grading practices to reflect true SBG, but also to reaffirm my beliefs in what "fair" looks like for each individual student in my differentiated classroom.
For those who are interested, there is also a series of excellent 5-10 minute videos on YouTube featuring Rick Wormeli discussing some of the "hot-button" questions regarding SBG, which I believe serve as an excellent complement to the material in this book.
By Rick Wormeli
Portland: Stenhouse Publishers, 2006, 217 PP. $25
In Fair Isn’t Always Equal: Assessing & Grading in the Differentiated Classroom, Rick Wormeli critically examines what constitutes as fair practice in academics today. For Wormeli, what is fair is not always equal and a “one-size-fits-all” instruction will not promote full mastery of knowledge for most. Wormelli captivates readers with his rational and clear vision of the ideal academic classroom that is designed to make education accessible to all. Backed up by research and analysis, he argues that educators must provide each student with the necessary tools that make learning accessible in order to maximize student learning. Through differentiated instruction, educators can appeal to diverse learners and make instruction individualized. Wormelli’s book expands professional knowledge of differentiation as he defines differentiation instruction and recommends assessments, grading policies and applications that are useful in current differentiated classrooms.
Wormelli begins by defining differentiated instruction as instruction that provides students with the appropriate tools in order for them to receive information. Wormelli makes the distinction that accessible, differentiated practice does not equal easy and is not a “dumbing down.” Once Wormelli provides a brief overview of the purpose and value of differentiated instruction, he begins to shape his argument with a central idea; teachers must first have a clear purpose for their lesson in order to be successful when using differentiated instruction. Without a clear purpose, educators are unable to assess student mastery of a subject. Through classroom activities such as Socratic seminars, tests/quizzes and writing assignments, students can demonstrate their proficiency of a topic “beyond merely echoing it.” The continual process of assessing mastery can help educators learn what their students know and what they are capable of doing. Lastly, differentiated instruction will benefit and liberate both student and educator. Students will learn the information required of them, which will carry through to their next level of education. In addition, the educator’s job will feel effortless, since students will be more willing to engage with their learning.
The next few chapters focus on the role of assessments in a differentiated classroom. Like other professionals in the field today, Wormelli believes that in order to promote full mastery of a subject, educators must start with an end in mind and provide students with clear goals and expectations. Once educators have an end in mind, they should create pre-assessments, and informal and formal assessments based on their aim. The goal of using assessments is for educators to frequently evaluate students’ understanding and capabilities, rather than evaluating their knowledge at the very end of the unit. Additionally, more assessments provide a more valid description of students’ mastery. In these chapters, Wormelli breaks down how to plan successful differentiation into twelve basic steps. His twelve basic steps for planning a successfully differentiated lesson include:
1. Identify the essential and enduring knowledge (understandings, questions, benchmarks, objectives, skills, standards).
2. Identify your students with unique needs, and what they’ll need in order to achieve.
3. Design your formative and summative assessments. Literally write them out, if possible.
4. Design and delivery your pre-assessments based on the summative assessments and essential and enduring knowledge discussed earlier.
5. Adjust assessments or essential understandings and objectives based on your further thinking while designing the assessments.
6. Design the learning experiences for students based on the information gathered from pre-assessments.
7. Run a mental tape of each step in the lesson sequence to make sure things make sense for your diverse group of students and that the lesson will run smoothly. While doing this, check the lesson(s) against criteria for successful differentiated instruction and revise as necessary.
8. Review your plan with a colleague. Lesson design is very subjective, and as a result, we miss opportunities others can see through their objective perspective.
9. Obtain and/or create materials needed for the lesson. Be completely provisioned.
10. Conduct the lesson.
11. Evaluate the lesson’s success with students. What evidence do you have that the lesson was successful? What worked and what didn’t, and why?
12. Record advice for yourself on changes for when you do this lesson in future years. Also include notes in your plan book for any aspects you’ll have to change in tomorrow’s lesson in light of what happened during today’s lesson.
In addition to providing a planning sequence, he justifies the usefulness of using tiering assessments by first explaining their value and then providing various examples of tiering tasks. This section of the book I found extremely helpful because Wormelli provides the reader with a clear outline of how to plan a differentiated lesson and a variety of strategies for tiering tasks that can be used within the lesson. His Tic-Tac-Toe board is a strategy educators can incorporate into their differentiated classroom because it provides the student with a choice in their learning. This tiered assignment guarantees individualized instruction because educators can modify the assignment to fit the needs and readiness of each student.
Among the many issues examined in this work, Wormelli confronts controversial issues related to grading. Wormelli argues that there is too much emphasis on grading and that educators must align their definitions of grading. Formal grades are not an accurate indication of a students’ mastery of a topic because most educators average in “nonacademic factors, such as behavior, attendance, and effort,” all of which Wormelli suggests avoiding in differentiated instruction. Since testing and grading are components of the educational system that cannot be evaded, Wormelli provides insight on how to effectively use testing and grading in a differentiated classroom. From struggling learners to gifted learners, Wormelli demonstrates the value of using rubrics and point scales. In addition, Wormelli notes a few grading approaches to avoid, such as grading while students are practicing their mastery on a topic since grades do not provide constructive feedback to students. Furthermore, he includes example formats for gradebook and responsive and continual report cards that should be applied to differentiated classroom practices in order for students to be aware of the full extent of their achievements and mastery.
Since it is the goal for all educators to elevate students, it is essential to learn how to provide students with the appropriate tools in order for them to learn and grow. A change in the way educators view differentiated instruction begins with school culture. Wormelli closes his book by suggesting thirty-six tips for supporting colleagues through professional development, such as faculty meetings and instructional roundtables. For educators that want to learn more about differentiated practices and implementations, Wormelli’s analysis and research is carefully constructed in order to inform professionals on how to maximize instruction.