Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Aren't There Alternatives to Standardized Tests?

There's still time to register to see CitySquare's free screening of 'Race to Nowhere'.


One of the most common reactions to pointing out the problems with our education system's over dependence on standardized testing is 'How do you hold students and teachers accountable? How do you measure student performance, without testing?'

These questions, expressed in various forms, show how entrenched we have become in the status quo and are in themselves evidence of the problem over reliance on the tests promote.

First, no one says 'do away with all testing'. Second, the idea is measuring student achievement and teacher accountability, neither of which can be determined with a test alone.

The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE), provides on it's website a white paper which provides an guidelines for assessing student performance that includes all stakeholders, including students and teachers. Standardized tests are not eliminated, but other assessment measuring practices are called for which help to truly indicate whether or not students are learning. The emphasis is placed on superior curriculum development, rather than making the test the summum bonum end game, which leads to the 'drill and kill' class time that some teachers feel or are in some cases actually forced to employ.

Called 'Performance Counts: Assessment Systems that Support High Quality Learning', the paper written by Linda Darling-Hammond on behalf of the Council of Chief State School Officers, calls for school assessments that...


  • address the depth and breadth of standards as well as all areas of the curriculum, not just those that are easy to measure
  •  consider and include all students as an integral part of the design process,
  • anticipating their particular needs and encouraging all students to demonstrate what they know and can do
  •  honor the research indicating that students learn best when given challenging content and provided with assistance, guidance, and feedback on a regular basis
  • employ a variety of appropriate measures, instruments, and processes at the classroom, school, and district levels, as well as the state level. These include multiple forms of assessment and incorporate formative as well as summative measures
  • engage teachers in scoring student work based on shared targets

The report calls for a system in which..
  • All students have a clear idea of how learning progresses and what theycan do to improve. Next generation learners are encouraged to demonstrate their learning as a continuous process.
  • Parents understand the expectations for their children’s learning as well as the information they receive from school, district, and state assessments.They can work with educators to support their children’s growth and progress.
  • Teachers are skilled at developing and using a range of assessments based on standards, learners’ needs, and their professional judgment. Scoring student work based on shared learning targets is common classroom practice for teachers. Teachers are well educated and supported in these new expectations.
  • Supportive educators, including school principals, administrative staff, and leaders at the school and district levels, understand the standards and assessment elements and create conditions for successful learning.
  • Student achievement information generated at all levels of the assessment system becomes part of the longitudinal state data system and contributes to a rich profile of accomplishment for every student.
Read the rest of the report here...

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