How Do Kids See Their Own Achievement? Just Ask Them

In a project sponsored by the national organization Fairtest, Massachusetts researcher Anne Wheelock collected and analyzed information on how students regarded their own learning and achievement in a number of contexts, including state standardized tests. Although most students entered ninth grade with the intention of graduating and going on to post-secondary education, she learned, even students who passed their courses and and contributed to their schools and communities began to question their academic identity when faced with failing test scores. Other educators interested in augmenting their picture of students and their learning, she said, might build on questions like these:

  • Do you plan to graduate/have you graduated from high school: ___________When? ________
  • At this point, do you have any plans for what you will be doing after high school? (Talk about more than one if relevant, with details.)
  • When you think about life after high school, would you say you will feel:
    Prepared? If so, in what way?
    Unprepared? If so, in what way?
    What you are looking forward to?
  • People are smart in a lot of different ways. Outside of school, what things are you good at and do you like to do in your own time?
  • Is there something you do well that your teachers don’t know about?
  • Did you always go to school in this district?
  • Where did you start school for the first time?
  • Where did you go before your current school?
  • How many schools did you go to before this?
  • If you ever went to school in another country or city or state, how does your current school compare?
  • What is the best learning experience you’ve ever had in school (anywhere)?
  • Best teacher (say why):
  • Something you are happy you learned:
  • Best book you read recently:
  • Best year you have had in school:
  • Best subject you have had in school:
  • Do you participate in any extra or after-school activities in school? Clubs? Sports? Other?
  • Circling all that apply, what kind of student would you say you are?
Great lazy Creative
pretty good Bored Teachers like more
Hard-working Better than some Bad
Not so bad worse than some I get by
Serious Interested School’s not for me
  • What is the average grade you get on your report card? Best-ever grade? Best semester average?
  • Have your grades improved since ninth grade?
  • How often do you go to the library in your school?
  • How often do you use calculators in math class?
  • What kind of work do you do on computers?
  • Before taking the state test, did anyone offer you and
  • other students extra help? (If yes, details?)
  • Have you ever had to repeat a grade? (If yes, what grade? What was that like?)
  • Have you ever been in bilingual or ESL classes?
  • Have you ever been part of a resource room?
  • Have there ever been any things you wanted to do in school but didn’t get to do or weren’t allowed to do?
  • Have you ever thought about dropping out of school? If so, why? What stopped you?