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Friday, August 12, 2016

There is Value in Assessment

I was at a meeting recently where most of the people were decrying the impact of standardized assessments.

I certainly agree that we don't want to spend most of our collective school dollars on standardized assessments, and that we don't want to minimize a child to a test score. Also, we can't fairly rate a teacher on these scores since most students are taught by many, many teachers and also, the scores are affected by many, many factors from in school and out of school.

What I like about standardized assessments is that they give us some trends and information to use, in part, to use to analyze and improve our programs. This morning I reviewed a large number of scores. There were no surprises in the way that students scored, yet there were some interesting trends--trends that arose from this year's scores and previous years' scores. These trends make me want to look a little more closely at some structures that exist and possible ways to to collectively serve students better.

I continue to be a fan of streamlined standardized tests that are cost efficient and provide some valuable information about the overall teaching/learning program. As I've noted many times, there were some notable improvements once we started testing. First, the tests gave parents a clear look at what we were teaching. Many parents used the tests to guide their academic encouragement and focus which meant more academic support and interest for students--more cheerleaders and coaches. Also prior to the tests, if you were a child who didn't learn to read, you were often passed along. Now that the tests have arrived, students who don't read typically get a lot more support and reading levels in the school system where I teach have improved substantially thanks to the excellent interventions the ELA Director, reading specialists and so many teachers have implemented. The tests also give us a common vehicle for planning, analysis, and improvement.

Though, as many say, the tests should not be the main ingredient of teaching and learning, but instead one part of the overall effort. We have to honor students' passions, abilities, and learning that outpace and trump tests, the kinds of skills and abilities that Vinter, Google Boston's leader, emphasized yesterday: communication, creativity, and collaboration.

Holistic programs that respond to students' needs and interests, develop strong academic foundations, and lead students forward in creative, collaborative ways should be our aim.