“Clamoring! My students were clamoring for their Tessera results. Immediately after they took the assessment they asked how soon they could get their results, and they bugged me frequently about when they would become available.”
So says Eve Rifkin, the Director of College Access at a high school serving a demographically representative student population in downtown Tucson, Arizona. She teaches a required and universal college and career readiness class to seniors every year, and this year is excited to be using Tessera as an important part of her program.
Why? Rifkin explains that students tell her that they were seeking the affirmation that positive results might provide them, affirmation of strengths they believe they have and will be pleased to see confirmed. But more than that, they are eager for feedback and greater self-awareness of who they are as persons, as opposed to how high they achieve in mathematics and reading. “This is such a contrast to what they are used to; this is about who they are as humans.”
During the Tessera test administration a few weeks back (and in the near future, Tessera results will be available far more rapidly), students were engaged from beginning to end, and showed little sign of fatigue or boredom. Afterwards students were buzzing; one told Rifkin “I’ve never taken a test before that asked me so many interesting questions about myself.”
Upon receipt of the Tessera data, Rifkin reviewed them carefully, and found that many of the ratings students were receiving made sense, aligning pretty closely with her estimation of her students’ skills. Quickly, to meet her students’ demand, she has distributed individual student results in emails with attached PDF files, and her next step is to take the time to deeply debrief those results.
“I really want to make sure they understand what the data mean, and help them to carefully reflect in such a way that they are not quickly writing off results that may seem surprising to them. I want them to delve a little, wonder a little, consider that they may not be as skilled or unskilled in certain areas as they or someone else thought they were. Students will reflect upon their results in writing, answering questions like which aspects of your report confirm what you already understood about yourself and which surprise you, revealing things about your personal skills that you weren’t aware of already?”
Eve Rifkin meets with a student in her office.
Rifkin has a fine line to walk, asking students to evaluate whether the assessment seems accurate without doing so in a way that allows students to simply write off any results with which they disagree. “It is so important to them that they carefully consider and grapple with what seems surprising to them because that can be the most revealing information in the entire report.” As an example, she cites a student who has been very confident, even arrogant, about some of his personal attributes such as grit and perseverance, and yet, to Rifkin’s eyes, he has been struggling to stay on track toward graduation. She expects that for this student, the report might be a wake-up call for him to realize he has some important work to do to strengthen his skill set to better set himself up for success after high school.
After supporting their careful study of their data, Rifkin will work with students to prepare a thorough and thoughtful response to their data as a capstone assessment for the fall semester, and for an oral report students will provide to their advisor and parents in January. As she explains, for these seniors, developing these skills to a greater level of mastery can be the make or break distinctions between success in college and dropping out, and accordingly, “this may be the most important thing we do in this class to prepare them for not just high school graduation but college completion.”