Education reform continues to make headlines as US student achievement is compared to the achievement of other countries. An overall increasing focus on standardized assessments has been at the forefront of many of these reform discussions. Teachers and school districts often get caught in the middle of these types of discussions From what I’ve observed, what seems to agitate some educators is the notion that one high-stakes standardized assessment can validate/invalidate the success of a school year. Even though educators have been critical of this notion, federal, state, and local school boards continue to look at standardized assessments as the go-to for quality control/accountability purposes. I truly feel as though these boards have good intentions, but I would like to encourage them to look at alternative ways to measure school achievement.
I don’t know a teacher that doesn’t believe in accountability. Teachers inherently feel a sense of accountability for their students. The way that accountability is being measured and the consequences that occur if growth isn’t met is what’s causing concern. Critics emphasis that only focusing on standardized test scores encourage teaching to the test, massive amounts of test prep and unfortunately cheating. I’m not downgrading the value of standardized assessments as I believe a limited amount are beneficial in providing valuable feedback that can inform instructional decisions. Appropriately utilizing student assessment results may prove beneficial for a teacher or school, but using that data outside of its context to manipulate accusations can cause problems.
Proactive Steps …
By now most educators have realized that student achievement data is starting to make up an increasing portion (20% + ) of one’s evaluation. In some cases one VAM assessment could be used to measure student growth and impact employment decisions. Instead of using one standardized assessment to determining teacher effectiveness, administrators should enable teachers to show student learning through a variety of means. This is a difficult task to tackle as administrators are also being assessed on standardized assessment results. While one assessment shows a singular brush stroke of learning, the picture becomes much clearer when multiple data points are used. Even NWEA, the makers of the MAP assessment encourage school leaders to use multiple data points (not just MAP) to measure student growth. Regardless, some districts are already using singular assessments for evaluation/employment purposes. I’m advocating that principal’s take a closer look at multiple student achievement data points instead of relying on one growth indicator.
Formative assessments, student projects, presentations, and pbl activities can show learning at varying levels. This collection of student data can not only help inform instructional decisions, but show evidence of student learning. Digital portfolios are making a splash in education and I’m hoping that more districts start using them in conjunction with standardized assessments to provide evidence of student learning. Showcasing student learning through a variety of formative assessment tools gives more meaning to the learning that’s happening. If communicated appropriately, state and local schoolboards will take notice and become more interested in multiple data points to determine effectivenessss, rather than a singular one.
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