Are we wasting student’s learning time, enthusiasm, and interest with multiple tests that bore them and often cause anxiety and discouragement?

As citizens we want to ensure effective public education for all. To determine if it is effective at the national, state, district, school, classroom, and student levels– we test.

Our students are tested in their classwork in daily and periodic tests, in district tests, in state mandated tests. Student learning time is devoted to testing in order to give us information we need to achieve effectiveness and equity. Delivering multiple varieties of assessment often interferes with quality curriculum and instruction by taking time and also by redirecting instruction to “cover” the test. In spite extraordinary expense of student and teacher time, test results often do not give teachers, students, or families usable information to improve learning.
Grade for our current assessment practices = D

Positive Assessment

CAST (the Center for Applied Special Technology) the developers of Universal Design for Learning framework use Assessment not from a “deficit perspective” but as an integral part of the learning experience. We have been and still are in such an urgent time, when students have lost opportunities. We must make use of the time to closely examine what each. student knows. Teachers are expert at thins.

CAST Big Takeaways on Assessment Now

Coherent Balanced Assessment

In 2001, an important report “Knowing What Students Know” was published, calling for a coherent, balanced system of assessments that meet the specific needs for learners, families, teachers, schools, districts, states and our nation. We have not succeeded in following the guidelines for coherence between tests. Since 2001 much has been developed in technology, gaming, cognitive psychology, understanding of the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s careers and lives. Yet, for the most part, we still have not integrated the 2001 basics.

Executive Summary, 17 pages.
Full Report, 383 pages.

CAST Series on Assessment: Assess for Learning —
CAST is a multifaceted organization with a singular ambition: Bust the barriers to learning that millions of people experience every day. Barriers are in the environment, not in the student. We need to shift the definition of Assessment from a negative reflection on what has not been accomplished to an integral part of learing.

What are “Balanced Assessment Systems and why do we need standardized annual assessments in addition to formative assessment and classroom assessments?

From the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment (aka Center for Assessment)

The Center for Assessment, a non profit in Dover, NH, focuses on support
ing educators understanding the variety and importance of balanced assessment. The Center has been working since 1998 on supporting coherent systems of assessment.

Click here to access Assessment Learning Modules that describe types and usages of various kinds of assessment.

Educators and families across the country are observing and predicting learning loss in academics and social emotional learning losses as well. But what is our best course– is it to spend some of the prized limited school days on testing?

During the pandemic, voices have been raised by educators, administrators, and families asking to postpone testing given the added pressure it can put on already stressed students and schools. Nov 2020 Edweek article “States Push to Ditch or Downplay Standardized Tests During Virus Surge 2020” reflects those concerns.

Others feel that the pandemic raises the import of testing, so that we can ascertain educational needs. However the federal ESSA mandated standardized tests are not deemed to be accurate about “learning loss”.

Authentic Assessment

It may be time to design learning objectives that map to real work and to design authentic assessments (tasks) that enable students to show what they know. There is great interest in “Authentic Assessment” also known as “Performance Assessment”, especially with the rise of PBL (Project Based Learning.) Instead of taking time away from learning to test students, curriculum can be designed to spur activities- projects, writing, research, experimentation, service- which generate results. The outcomes or learning products (the bridge designed in a marsh, the play written and acted about history, etc.) are evaluated against the learning objectives or targets. The US ED has stated it will consider applications to use Authentic Assessment in place of standardized summative tests. The state of New Hampshire applied and was granted the right to proceed with the PACE assessment they had been using for five years.

Performance Assessment of Competency Education – NH Assessment Model

New Hampshire’s PACE is a first-in-the-nation accountability strategy that offers a reduced level of standardized testing together with locally developed common performance assessments.
Click here for a chart of the NH assessments used by subject at various grade levels.

Flyer summarizing the qualities of formative and summative assessment.