I have long been an advocate of assessment in catechesis. At the same time, I have always made it clear that assessment in catechesis is to be used as a tool to address needs (both individual and corporate) and to address deficiencies in the catechetical program. I don’t advocate using assessments to assign report card grades to kids in religious education and certainly not to determine if they are to “pass or fail” or to qualify for a sacrament.
As I mentioned last week, I conducted a final assessment of my 6th graders and was pleased with the results except for 3 students who did miserably. Last night, I offered these students redemption – another chance (Hey, the parish is named Most Holy Redeemer!!!) and they responded quite well (at least 2 of the 3…one was absent).
First, as soon as these 2 arrived, I took them without fanfare to the room across the hall, showed them their assessment results, and told them that I was sure they were not happy with their scores, neither was I, and neither would their parents be. I explained that they were getting another chance to show what they know. With my aide supervising them, they first had a 20-minute prep period to locate, in their Finding God textbook, the answers to all of the test questions using this copy of the assessment with page numbers indicated.
Meanwhile, I went back across the hall and worked with the remaining students to create farewell posters for our DRE, Arlene, who is retiring. The posters expressed thanks for teaching us about the sacraments, the Mass, morality, and prayer, and the kids cut out pictures from their Finding God textbooks to illustrate the posters…the posters turned out very nicely.
Meanwhile, I periodically checked on the 2 young men working on their assignment. When they were finished with the 30 minute prep period, I collected their books and sheets, provided them a clean copy of the assessment, and gave them 30 more minutes to complete it as I went back across the hall. I am happy to report that both responded quite well: one went from a 49% to a 98% and the other from a 36% to an 89%! In fairness to those who took the assessment only once, I then lowered their assessment score one grade so they ended up with a B+ and a C+ respectively (that letter grade is not used anywhere else…it is simply a way to report their progress on the assessment in a manner that is familiar to them). I explain to all the kids that anyone who earns a C or higher on the assessment is showing that they are progressing in a satisfactory manner in their faith formation as far as knowledge of the faith is concerned.
I explained briefly to the 2 boys that retaking the assessment in this manner was not punishment but a chance for them to redeem themselves because our goal is make sure that every child comes away knowing that they have deepened their knowledge of their faith and grown closer to God. They both responded very positively and rejoined the rest of the class for the closing prayer in good spirits.
Thoughts and comments about how you might handle such situations differently?
P.S. The DRE is arranging for the one fella who was absent to have an opportunity to re-take the assessment in the same fashion under his parents’ supervision since we have no more class time available for that.