Reclaiming assessment

I’ve been following the growing discussion of assessment among teachers in the virtual world. Starting with a fascinating #edchat thread on Twitter a few weeks ago. That led to a thoughtful post by Greg Thompson. In his blog, Thompson revisits the importance of formative assessments in ensuring that students leave a topic, subject, or class with a thorough and applicable understanding.

I love this quote from his article, “Assessment is not a necessary evil, it is rightfully necessary…”

Also, part of that exchange was a post from Steven Aderson.

Most recently, my TLN colleague, Anthony Cody shares this insightful report from Dr. J Myron Atkin of Stanford on how formative assessment has been “hijacked” by the testing companies and through the smoke and mirrors of marketing, twisted away from its proven usefulness in real classrooms with real students.

Constantly, analyzing what my students are learning, where they are needing additional support, where they need more challenge, what teaching adjustments I need to make are the core professional decisions that determine the ebb and flow of my teaching life. Make no mistake, these are professional judgments. Formative assessment is not giving a series of mini-standardized tests to see how close we are to being ready for the BIG test. But sadly, this is what it has been reduced to in too many classrooms and schools. Even the best standardized data requires the expertise of the classroom teacher to be of any real use in helping children, and frankly, most of the standardized data currently available is of fairly low quality and little practical use to students or their teachers.

By contrast, a steady flow of meaningful information throughout the semester or school year on each student’s learning along with timely and appropriate teacher feedback provides not only irreplaceable support for individual student growth, but richer data for use by the larger school community (teams, faculty, districts) to use in accurately assessing curriculum and instruction.

How can teachers reclaim assessment as the critical tool and learning experience that it should be for our students?

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