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PBA: Please Be Abandoned

Students are seen here working on their PBA assignment the day before writing the main assessment. (Photo by Muna Seagle)

By Muna Seagle - Eagle Staff Writer

When a student thinks of history class they think of learning about documents, people from the past, and major events. Additionally, students expect assignments such as worksheets, notes, and assessments.

History class is one of the only subjects where a student’s work has already been done for them, in a way. They spend weeks studying primary sources, learning about presidents and activists, and memorizing battles ranging from the Revolutionary War up until World War II.

With all of this curriculum to cover, students already dread their many assessments, but now, the Virginia Department of Education is requiring several more spread throughout the course called PBAs.

Project-based assessments (PBAs) are typically essays based on provided sources relating to the unit. They are given periodically to the students and students have a certain number of days to finish them. However, PBAs are not new to the school. The English department has been doing these for a while, but only for practice. They are more fitting for an English class than a history class.

PBAs are not an accurate way to assess students. Every student expresses their knowledge in different ways and this is an unfair way to assess students who lack strong writing skills.

“I think the PBAs need some work because there are some gaps in what they’re assessing and there is room for improvement in the sources that they have chosen and the places that they get those sources,” history teacher Michele Jones explained.

Students also express doubts about the benefit of PBAs.

“I think there are no benefits to the PBA. I think it’s just more stress on us, the students,” sophomore Jesse Scott commented. "Downfalls, for example, the sources we're using, they’re not very credible necessarily. Mainly the sources we’re using. They’re not very good, not reliable at all.”

Other students have begun to see the potential these assessments have to offer, but the pros still don’t outweigh the cons.

“I think it’s good to write regularly, but I do think that we need to have more structure and I think we need to be taught things we don’t know instead of just having to write and perform because we never get a like, 'oh, instead you need to do this.' It’s just sort of writing,” sophomore Sasha Tinnell added.

I don’t see much of a positive outcome from these PBAs. There are plenty of other ways to assess students in a more accurate and fair way. There are also other ways to build students' writing abilities.

The sources that were given to me during the PBA contradicted everything I’d ever been taught about using sources. I never thought the state would provide Wikipedia as a source for a writing assignment, but that’s what I had to work with. I have never seen such unreliable, weak, and simply bad sources.

Not only have the PBAs added stress to students' already-full workload, but they also haven’t even been graded. For sophomores in World History 2, PBAs have been finished for weeks and students are still anticipating the day the grades come in, making some doubt their performance.

For now, the only thing that is certain is that we will keep taking PBAs. We don’t know how we will do, how reliable the sources and information will be, or if they are even benefiting us at all.

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