Francine Floden is a third-year biology teacher at Kennedy High School.  Because she has been convinced by several of her colleagues that traditional paper and pencil examinations fail to capture the richness of the scientific experience.

Francine Floden is a third-year biology teacher at Kennedy High School.  Because she has been convinced by several of her colleagues that traditional paper and pencil examinations fail to capture the richness of the scientific experience.  Francine has decided to base most of her student's grades on a semester log performance test.  As Francine contemplates her new assessment plan she decides 90 percent of the student's grades will stem from the quality of their responses to the performance test's task; 10 percent of the grades will be linked to classroom participation and to a few short true-false quizzes administered throughout the semester.

The task embodied in Francin's performance test requires each student to design and conduct a 2-month experiment to study the growth of three identical plants under different conditions and then prepare a formal scientific report describing the experiment. Although most Francine students carry out their experiments at home several students use the shelves at the rear of the classroom for their experimental plants.  A number of students vary the amount of light or the kind of light received by the different plants, but most students modify the nutrients given to their plants. After a few weeks of the 2-month experimental period, all of Francine's students seem to be satisfactory underway with their experiment.

Several of the more experienced teachers in the school however have expressed their reservations to Francine about what they regard as overbooking on a single assessment experience.  The teachers suggest to Francine that she will be unable to draw defensible inferences about her student's true mastery of biological skills and knowledge on the basis of a single performance test. They urged her to reduce dramatically the grading weight for the performance test so that instead additional grade contributing exams can also be given to the students.  Other colleagues, however, believe Franine's performance test approach is precisely what is needed in courses such as biology.  They recommend that she say the course and alter not one whit of her assessment strategy.  Francine was obliged to look up the technical meaning of whit.  If you were Francine, what would your decision be?

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