SBG: Less Than or Equal To Four

I’m trying to see what I know about SBG, a 3, and a 4.

Suppose I’m teaching the Pythagorean Theorem to eighth graders. [8.G.B.6.]

After unpacking the standard and identifying the learning targets and thinking skills, I design an assessment that can demonstrate to me, and to my students themselves, that this standard has been met. Let’s say I have decided to use a performance assessment.

Student P does very well. P has produced a play with hand puppets. Awesome job. Excellent understanding. Nailed the performance assessment rubric. Standard met. P scores a 3.

Student Q also does a great job, also has employed hand puppets. Q has used a 3D printer to produce the puppet costumes. Look closely and you can see that the costumes’ surface designs incorporate Fibonacci numbers. Q asks why his score is a 3 and not a 4. I explain that Q’s efforts have done nothing to explore in some deep, creative way, the concept of the Pythagorean Theorem. Q has spent a lot of time making wonderful icing. Q has met the standard, which is excellent and sufficient, but that’s all. Furthermore, I say that I have heard that Q’s Arab Spring project has been in need of substantial revision, and I ask Q if the decision to spend time making clever costumes that in no way addresses the learning target was, in hindsight, a good one (now working those metacognitive skills).

But wait. Students R and S (who both have scored a 3 for this standard) come to me and tell me that they want to write, or are writing, an entertaining stage play that will explain, or at  least show, the Pythagorean Theorem to the 6th graders in the building. By the time the curtain goes up during a special assembly, R and S have been advised by both the drama coach and me. Also, students T, U, and V have joined the project. They have written original music (flute, bass, and bongos might be nice) for the performance, which lasts 20 minutes. The sixth graders howl with delight, some of them are drafted into the play as performers, and they all leave the show with vivid notions about a powerful mathematical idea. Students R and S have each earned a 4 for this standard. The musicians might also have earned 3’s or 4’s for a music composition standard.

This is way more than icing. This is reaching deep into a concept, figuring out how it works, taking it apart, putting it back together for a specific audience, and then communicating with that audience. [I don’t see this as exceeding the standard so much as exploring the standard in greater depth.] Schools should acknowledge that this kind of creative energy is valued in the world, that societies depend for their vitality on there being people who want to make fires like this, that creativity brightens the world. A 4 is just one kind of acknowledgment, but it’s also the kind that colleges can see easily during a quick scan of a student’s record. When schools openly and physically celebrate this kind of creativity, that is, not merely as a number in a data field, other students may be inspired to reach high and go deep towards their own creative adventures. How great would it be if every graduating HS student had a 4 somewhere in their data field?

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