In education today learning is far too often measured by a score on a standardized test. It does not look at the many aspects that go into learning – just the final score. This has always bothered me because I am not a good test taker. I could have a 3.89 GPA and be at the top of my class, but if you looked at any of my standardized test scores ( ACT, Praxis testing, etc) my score would not give you this impression. Therefore, I believe the following aspects should be considered to measure learning.
1. Measure Growth – Although it is more “work” each child should have some sort of portfolio that measures growth. Shows where they started and shows where the ended up. It also would give background information that would be crucial to learning such as a death in the family, and extended illness causing them to miss a good amount of school, or even being homeless (this happened to one of my students this year and greatly affected her motivation to learn) It needs authentic evidence! For example, not everyone of my kindergarten students came in knowing the alphabet. Some came in only knowing 2 or 3 letters and some came in ready to put together letter to make words. Therefore it is not fair for either of my students to be judged on their amount of learning from one standardized score. That standardized score will never show the growth my students who did not know but 2 or 3 letters made by the end of the school year – who can now read fluently. Further, it would never show the growth my students who were ready for reading made by the end of the year – who were reading and writing on a first grade level. EVERY child is different. I can not stress this enough. So if we know that every child is different – why do we test every child the SAME way?
2.Learning and Growth should be performance task based. It should not be based on how good you can memorize things or how great of a guesser you are. It should show authentic evidence of understanding. Knowledge should be applied to show relevance and depth of understanding. Far too often we cover things just enough to skim over the surface of the topic, but we fail to give any depth! Thus – in order to truly know something about a topic there should be a depth of knowledge and understanding. This is why I believe we need to use assessment strategies such as performance based assessment. With this we also need more formative assessment to check and see how students are doing along the way.
UNICEF has created a project called the Monitoring Learning Achievement Project. This project has been adopted by several countries including China, Nigeria, and Sir Lanka. This project is aimed to end achievement found in numerical ranks or scores. Instead, it focuses more on actual learning achievement through the use of oral and written examinations. Countries using the Monitoring Learning Achievement Project assess their school-aged children regularly. When assessed children must demonstrate knowledge and understanding through performance based task. Although these task change for age groups the following is an example of a task for 11 -12 year olds: reading a passage and showing comprehension of what was read, writing a letter to communicate a brief message, solve arithmetic problems mentally, and finally – demonstrate life skills (Bellamy,1999). Life skills has become a big part of their assessment practices. They found that some countries such as China was excelling in assessments in Reading and Numeracy, but when were lagging far behind in life skills. Thus – they were given the challenge to step up their problem solving and critical thinking teaching strategies.
Bellamy, C. (1999). The state of the world’s children. New York, NY: United Nations Children’s Fund.
I think Tennessee is working on improving assessment strategies. Instead of continuing with TCAP – State Standardized Testing – at the end of each year they are breaking it down into quarter. Students will test at the end of each quarter now instead of once in April. Although this is still standardized testing it is more benifical. Instead of so much emphasis being on one test at the end of the year that measures everything you learned all year long students will now be tested as they learn! I am happy to see this being done.