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| Volume 67 | Number 3
Table of Contents
Susan M. Brookhart
Professional assessment organizations almost universally endorse the use of multiple measures for making education decisions. In practice, however, the concept of multiple measures is defined and applied in many different ways, depending on how we answer two questions—What counts as a "measure"? and How are the multiple measures combined? Brookhart describes the different approaches to multiple measures that result from the answers to these two questions. In the end, she asserts, the guiding principle for decisions about what measures to use and how to combine them should be the purpose these measures are intended to accomplish.
Stephen Chappuis, Jan Chappuis and Rick Stiggins
Instructional decisions based on quality assessments and a balanced assessment system most effectively promote student learning. To inform sound decisions, assessments need to satisfy five key standards of quality: clear purpose, clear learning targets, sound assessment design, effective communication of results, and student involvement in the assessment process. Assessment-literate educators must also consider balance; they need to understand what assessments are appropriate, both formatively and summatively, at three different levels of assessment: the classroom level, the periodic interim/benchmark level, and the annual standardized testing level. By building balanced systems with assessment literate users, we are far more likely to attend to issues of quality and serve the best interests of students.
Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey
Like the ancient sailor in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" who lamented, "water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink," many teachers feel awash in a sea of assessment data that they don't know how to use. Part of the solution, Fisher and Frey claim, is for educators to understand the three components of any effective feedback system: (1) Feed up (clarify the learning goal to motivate students before teaching begins), (2) Feed back (provide individualized responses to student work), and (3) Feed forward (analyze assessment data frequently and using what you learn to modify instruction). Equally important is creating a system of aligned assessment measures that together gauge student progress toward common, agreed upon goals. Fisher and Frey discuss practices that lead to such alignment, providing examples from classrooms in which they have observed.
As a classroom teacher, Kari Smith realized that traditional objective tests don't always assess what students actually know. But tests are so deeply embedded in the education system that it would be difficult to do away with them entirely. Smith decided to make tests into learning tools. In this article, Smith describes three strategies for helping students learn from tests. First, students can create their own tests, which the teacher uses to build the test that the entire class will take. Students also take tests in small groups, with each student responsible for turning in his or her own test paper. A third option is having students work together to create an answer key for a test they have already taken and then using that key to score their tests. Smith suggests that these strategies will help make tests into more accurate measures of student learning and will enhance student learning.
Bracey looks at three well-known assessments—the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the Program of International Student Assessment, and the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study—and concludes that their "instruction-insensitive" design makes them inappropriate as measures of education quality in schools, districts, states, or nations. Politicians and the media, he asserts, are wrong to use these tests' results to criticize the performance of U.S. schools or to predict the economic health of various countries.
Educators need to educate themselves about the benefits and risks of value-added assessment models, especially the most popular model currently "prescribed"—the Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS) developed by William L. Sanders. The model has three main limitations: (1) its reliance on standardized tests, which raises issues related to data accuracy, class size, teacher effects, and nonrandom student assignment to classes; (2) lack of evidence of validity; and (3) lack of transparency. Amrein-Beardsley suggests removing the Education Value-Added Assessment model from the market until external reviewers can verify the model's assumptions about what standardized tests can reveal, validate the inferences drawn about students and teachers, begin necessary internal and external research studies, answer commonsense questions, and inform consumers about the system's benefits and risks.
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William H. Schmidt and Leland S. Cogan
In multiple analyses of data collected in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the authors have found that "access to instructional content is always more strongly related to differences in student performance than are the student background factors often cited to explain such differences." They demonstrate that United States does not provide equal access to curriculum content, but has created a uniform system of assessments. They advocate creating challenging, clear content standards to guide instruction and creating curriculum-sensitive assessments that are specific to these standards.
New technology-enabled assessments offer the potential to understand more than just whether a student answered a test question right or wrong. Using multiple forms of media that enable both visual and graphical representations, these assessments present complex, multistep problems for students to solve and collect detailed information about an individual student's approach to problem solving. This information can help educators understand how students arrive at their answers, what those pathways reveal about students' grasp of underlying concepts, and how they can alter their instruction to help move students forward. Most important, new research projects have produced assessments that reflect what cognitive research tells us about how people learn. NAEP's Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments project and the National Science Foundation's Caliper project offer assessments that include simulations, situated learning, and complex problem solving. To make the most of technology-enabled assessments, we need to develop fewer, clearer, and higher standards and develop a five-to-seven-year plan to support the research and development of the next generation of assessments.
Reynolds describes the formal peer critique process students engage in for all major projects in her classes. Each student presents his or her project to the entire class and receives detailed suggestions and criticism from peers. Such critiques prepare students for the kind of frank exchange of feedback on the quality of work they will need to engage in as working adults. They also make students more engaged, enhance a collegial atmosphere, provide an authentic audience for student work, and broaden the range of opinions students receive beyond those of the teacher. Reynolds shares suggestions for making peer critiques work well: guiding students in critiquing sensitively, creating an atmosphere of trust, modeling acceptance of criticism, and training students to take the lead in the process.
The author, a writing teacher for 10 years, describes how she has developed a method to provide responsive writing assessment for her students. She explains why she believes that grades, rubrics, and other methods of quantifying student writing are useless at best and harmful at worst. Instead, she responds to students' written drafts by narrating how she responds to the writing as a reader and attempting to get inside the writer's mind and imagine his or her intent. This approach opens a dialogue that focuses student writers' attention on their own writing process and enables them to take ownership of their learning.
Mary Ellen Freeley and Richard Hanzelka
In 2005, the New Hampshire legislature passed the Follow the Child initiative, an initiative that required the state's schools to move away from the Carnegie unit and toward a greater focus on student engagement and competency-based assessment. In this article, Freeley and Hanzelka describe the approaches that several schools have taken in response to this initiative. Some schools are offering extended learning opportunities, which award students credit toward graduation through learning that takes place outside the traditional classroom—independent study, private instruction, internships, community service, work study, and so on. One school allows students to do charitable projects instead of final exams. Such strategies move the emphasis of education away from seat time and toward more personalized learning.
Angie Deuel, Tamara Holmlund Nelson, David Slavit and Anne Kennedy
Teachers frequently collaborate in learning communities to look collectively at student work with an eye to improving instruction. But collaboration in teacher groups can be challenging, as the authors discovered through observing more than a dozen learning communities of math and science teachers who analyzed student work together. To make collaboration effective,, groups should focus on what that work reveals about improving instruction rather than an on "proving" that students learned what teachers hoped they would. The problem with a "proving" approach is that teachers focus on whether or not a student "got it" rather than on what incorrect answers reveal about student thinking. Deuel and her colleagues describe how two learning communities took an "improving" approach. These groups considered what "getting" a key concept would mean and took time to reflect on what students' incorrect—and even correct—answers on formative assessments reflected about what students took away from lessons. Teachers used these reflections to modify instruction.
When the author began analyzing his grading practices several years ago, he was embarrassed by what he found. Although he claimed he wanted his students to think more critically and engage in the world more fully, his grading practices communicated that student compliance was more important than student learning. Winger and his colleagues adopted a more standards-based approach that distinguished nonacademic factors from academic. However, they soon realized that the learning they were assessing focused on memorization, not the higher-level thinking that all students need to master. They further adjusted their grading practices to give knowledge, understanding, skills, and personal responsibility weights that better reflected their importance and ensured that all students were held responsible for developing high-level thinking skills.
Donald B. Gratz
Although today's performance pay plans take many forms, the most commonly proposed version—in which teachers are rewarded on the basis of their students' standardized test scores—flows from flawed logic and several troublesome assumptions: that teachers lack motivation and supposedly need financial awards to give students what they need; that U.S. schools are failing compared with school systems in other parts of the world; and that measuring academic achievement—through the use of standardized testing—is all that counts. Denver, Colorado's Pay for Performance pilot resulted in a new approach to looking at performance. The new plan replaces the traditional approach to compensation with its combined focus on student academic growth; teacher knowledge and skill; professional evaluation; and market incentives, which refer to bonuses awarded to teachers working in difficult-to-serve schools or in difficult-to-staff positions. The discussion of performance pay should lead states and districts to a new consideration of the true goals of education.
Robert J. Marzano
William M. Ferriter
Tracy A. Huebner
Formative assessment should not be seen as an add-on, a product, a trendy reform, or a monolithic strategy. It should be an approach embedded in all phases of instruction. Greenstein shares creative practices for integrating formative assessment into the classroom at the beginning of an instructional unit, during instruction, and even after direct instruction.
Mary Jo Grdina
When it comes to improving assessment practices schoolwide, principals must lead the way. A sustained focus on assessment coming from school leadership encourages new teachers just entering the hectic real world of teaching to continue to use the wide range of assessments they learned about in their teacher education programs. Such an initiative also reminds veteran teachers that the aim of assessment is to educate and improve, not merely to audit student performance. School leaders can take three steps to improve their teachers' assessment practices: Offer personalized coaching in assessment best practice, question teachers about the kinds of assessments they're using, and get teachers to focus on assessment balance.
Copyright © 2012 by ASCD
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