Starting this year, Samo English teachers will implement in-class, year-end essays to evaluate the progress of all students from their first in-class baseline essay.
“This is something new in our department we’re trying this year,” English teacher Chon Lee said. “Every year, we’ve had a beginning of the year assessment, so this is going to be our genuine end of the year assessment. It [will] show us what skills students have hopefully gained throughout the year.”
At the beginning of every year, all students are given a timed, in-class “baseline” essay to allow teachers to formulate lesson plans based on the students areas of need. Teachers hope that this new “bookend” essay will confirm the effectiveness of various teaching strategies.
“We felt like the baseline essay always gave us a pretty good idea of where to go, but then there was nothing to say that we had actually gone where we needed to go, nothing to show that we had actually accomplished as a department what we needed, especially for writing,” stand-in English department chair Maria Stevens said.
This new bookend essay was inspired in part by Principal Laurel Fretz, who has stressed the importance of data collection this year.
“Our new Principal Ms. Fretz emphasized several things this year for teachers, mainly based on curriculum and improving student progress,” Stevens said.
“One of the things was creating curriculum informed from data about our teaching and what the numbers say. With this new push on data, we were inspired to ask for another essay, one that would be a ‘bookend’ to the ‘baseline.’”
Teachers hope that the data collected will help them in developing their teaching strategies in coming years.
“We might be able to tweak a couple things for our final, but because it’s in May, it doesn’t give us too much time to re-teach,” Lee said. “However, we can use the feedback we get in the following year.”
According to Stevens, this bookend essay will be similar in format to the baseline taken by students at the beginning of the year.
“We’re doing [the essay] in May and it’ll be just like the baseline,” Stevens said. “You’ll have the day to do it, and a lot of teachers already have materials where they can actually start preparing you for it.”
However, the prompt will not be based on a book like the baseline essay.
“I can’t exactly commit to what kind of prompt it will be yet, but it won’t be based on a book,” Stevens said.
Ultimately, the purpose of the essay is to assist the English department in ensuring that all students leaving Samo are completely college ready.
“[The essay] will be fashioned after an 11th grade exam [students] have to take for Cal States because one of our biggest priorities for the English department is to make sure our kids are college ready,” Stevens said.