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Yvonne Alden was pleased with her transition to teaching in a middle school setting. She had spent the previous seven years at an elementary school, and it was time for a change. Two of her teaching partners had made the jump a year before and had pleaded with her to join them. The eighth graders she now taught were so much different than her third grade students, and she was surprised by how much fun she was having. She was currently in the midst of a unit on the Holocaust that she had planned with her language arts/social studies team. She enjoyed the teaching aspect of the unit but was struggling with how to assess student learning.

Assessment was the biggest obstacle she had encountered as a result of her building transition. She was a natural when it came to planning and delivering instruction as well as interacting with kids. Testing was a completely different topic. She realized the middle school importance of preparing tests, giving tests, grading tests, reviewing tests. It went on and on. The focus at the elementary level had been on instruction and less formal evaluation tools, such as teacher observation, checklists, hands-on projects. Middle school hinged on a whole new view.

The first quarter, she had given a comprehension test over a novel that was so easy; the entire class had earned a perfect score. She was lightly, but quickly, reprimanded and corrected by the rest of her team. Middle School was a whole new world, a world in which not all kids received an A and a little gold star. Embracing this new philosophy was difficult for Yvonne, especially when it came to her students with special needs. She had one little girl in her class, Becca, who had been identified as having Asperger's Syndrome. It was difficult to know how to assess all of the students and also assess Becca fairly as well. Anxiety over doing a better job with the test this time around was at the forefront of her mind. Her students were beginning to read Gentlehands by M.E. Kerr and she knew she was expected to develop a good test.


  1. What are the differences between middle school and elementary school learning environments?
  2. What are the differences between middle school and elementary school teaching environments?
  3. Interview a middle school teacher who is a member of a cross-curricular teaching team, like Yvonne, and write an explanation of this teaching module.
  4. What do you think Yvonne means by "Middle School was a whole new world, a world in which not all kids received an A and a little gold star". Do you think this is a fair statement? How would you describe the differences in assessment at the two levels?

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