Tag Archives: assessment

Learning Policy Institute

I (Clare) continue to be concerned about our often “over assessment “of students. Last year at AERA I was at a presentation where the presenter talked about one elementary school teacher with whom he was working who had to conduct 30 standardized tests in one year! Yes 30 (that is not a typo). What does this number of assessments do to children? The teacher? The curriculum? The climate in the classroom. I just received the announcement below which I hope will bring some “common sense” to assessment.


How Can Schools Measure True College and Career Readiness? Learning Policy Institute Receives Award to Support More Authentic Assessments for California Students

The Learning Policy Institute (LPI) was named today as one of 12 organizations nationwide th-2to receive a grant award from the Assessment for Learning Project (ALP) to fundamentally rethink the roles that assessment should play to advance student learning and to improve our K-12 education system. LPI is supporting the California Performance Assessment Collaborative (CPAC), a newly launched pilot project that enables schools, districts, and networks in California to share, research, and document current efforts to graduate students using competency-based approaches. Instead of assessments based only on testing, these will assess applied learning focused on deep understanding of content and demonstration of 21st century skills in order to inform other schools as well as state policymakers.

CPAC’s work has deep implications for teaching and learning in participating schools and for the work of both practitioners and policymakers who are rethinking assessments with the passage of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA requires states to implement assessments that measure “higher-order thinking skills and understanding” and explicitly invites the use of “portfolios, projects, or extended-performance tasks” as part of state and local assessment systems.

Born from the vision of a group of committed educators, policymakers, and researchers in response to the current policy environment, CPAC serves as an “innovation site” within the state where educators from various contexts are now working together within a professional learning community dedicated to the advancement of authentic, meaningful assessments for California children.

CPAC is composed of the Learning Policy Institute working with schools from the CORE network, including the Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco Unified School Districts; Envision Schools; High Tech High; Internationals Network for Public Schools; Linked Learning Alliance; and New Tech Network; plus East Palo Alto Academy (Sequoia Union High School District); Hillsdale High School (San Mateo Unified School District); John Muir High School (Pasadena Unified School District); and Oceana High School (Jefferson Union High School District). In addition to ALP, support for this collaborative program comes from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Notes Linda Darling-Hammond, CEO and President of the Learning Policy Institute, “This work will inform both those seeking to develop more meaningful assessments in their schools and those seeking to develop policies that can support the deeper learning opportunities today’s students need to succeed in today’s and tomorrow’s world. Ultimately, the goal is to enable students to pursue – and colleges and employers to be able to receive – more productive measures of students’ genuine accomplishments and readiness for postsecondary college, career, and civic life. “

“For too long, assessment has been something that is ‘done to’ kids instead of with them,” said Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director of the Center for Innovation in Education, one of the organizations partnering with the Assessment for Learning Project (ALP). “These 12 grantees have promising plans to use assessment to build student agency, support a broader definition of student success, and envision new systems of assessment and accountability.”

Out of 148 proposals, ALP selected its 12 grantees based on the “boldness of their ideas, the quality of their learning plan and general orientation toward learning, potential for scale and routes to ‘systemness,’ and their potential contribution to the learning agenda.” Next Generation Learning Challenges is the the co-partner of this initiative, with funding provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The Learning Policy Institute and CPAC proudly join the Center for Collaborative Education, Colorado Education, Del Lago Academy, Fairfax County Public Schools, Hawai’i Department of Education, Henry County Schools, Large Countywide and Suburban District Consortium, New Hampshire Learning Initiative, Summit Public Schools, Two Rivers Public Charter School, and WestEd as recipients of the initial round of ALP grants. For more information on the project and the 12 grant recipients, visit http://www.assessmentforlearningproject.org.


About the Learning Policy Institute
The Learning Policy Institute conducts and communicates independent high-quality research to improve education. Working with policymakers, researchers, educators, community groups, and others, we seek to advance evidence-based policies that support empowering and equitable learning for each and every child. For more information, visit http://www.learningpolicyinstitute.org.
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Testing and Assessment in Norway

I (Clare) read this article on testing. We have had many posts about assessment on this blog and thought this one might be more “food for thought.”

International Education News

In order to learn about what’s happened with testing and assessment in Norway in recent years, we had a conversation with Sverre Tveit. Tveit is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Education at the University of Oslo. He will join the University of Agder in southern Norway as University Lecturer in August. In addition to his comparative research related to assessment policy, Tveit has also worked on education and assessment issues at the municipal level (the equivalent of the district level in the US) and was a board member of the Norwegian School Student Union (which organized protests against the initial implementation of the national tests in 2005). He talked with us about how the national tests seem to have been integrated into the Norwegian education system but also pointed to the ways in which local and national politics reflect continuing debates over issues and tensions of testing, assessment…

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The Irony with Inquiry: Preparing pre-service teachers for the real world of classrooms

I (Yiola) am terribly excited about this week. This week my dear friend Julia, who is now a seasoned administrator in a local school board, will be visiting my pre-service classroom to share her insights on assessment, evaluation and reporting in the elementary schools.  I invited Julia to my class because I want students to hear from an administrator  the expectations and specifications for assessing and reporting on student learning. I look forward to presenting with Julia – going back and forth between what we talk about in class about best practice and what the day to day expectations are in schools for teachers. The process of assessment, of course, goes hand in hand, with instruction and pedagogy. And so, Julia and I got to talking…

It seems that so much of “real life” practice is still about the paper/pencil test or the worksheet. It also seems that while the ideas of inquiry pedagogy are “out there” and there are impressions of its practice, that when it comes to assessing students’ learning, there is the inclination to revert back to traditional methods.

I call this post “The Irony with Inquiry” because I spend much of my time framing my courses through an inquiry lens and using concrete examples of inquiry pedagogy from my own research (because it IS our there) and yet so much of what student-teachers see and experience in their placements is not connected to inquiry.   How then can we expect teachers to move their learning and practice forward?  We know from Hattie’s meta-analysis of thousands of studies of student achievement that the number one factor is the teacher.  It seems to me then that teacher knowledge and teacher development is just so important. And yet, this irony that manifests itself in theory vs. practice is out there.

Julia explains the reality when she described the following: we see new teachers stepping in and they are filled with wonderful ideas and good pedagogy and they want to do so many things all at once. The new teachers hit the ground, not running but, sprinting… there is limited time to think and so they ask their teaching partners or colleagues how to proceed. They are sometimes handed tests and worksheets to help them get through the first months of teaching. These worksheets become familiar and it is hard to develop new practices. 

Clare and Clive and our team of researchers have documented similar examples of the pressures and time crunches of early years teachers.

I tell student teachers to not try to do everything well at once but to focus on one domain at a time. Sometimes I wonder if even this is too hard to accomplish.

I am looking forward to this class, to the candid discussions that may arise, and to coming to some understanding of how we can better reconcile the ironies new teachers face.

High Levels of Stress, Low Levels of Autonomy

The Washington Post recently reported on a survey conducted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) of approximately 30,000 teachers. Survey results reported teachers felt high levels of stress and low levels of autonomy. The rise of government initiatives such as the Common Core Standards were identified as a source of stress for teachers. The article reported: “Teachers said they feel particularly anxious about having to carry out a steady stream of new initiatives — such as implementing curricula and testing related to the Common Core State Standards — without being given adequate training, according to the survey. “


The AFT website reports some key findings from the survey:

  • Only 1 in 5 educators feel respected by government officials or the media.
  • Only 14% strongly agree with the statement that they trust their administrator or supervisor.
  • More than 75 % say they do not have enough staff to get the work done.
  • 78% percent say they are often physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day.
  • 87% percent say the demands of their job are at least sometimes interfering with their family life.
  • Among the greatest workplace stressors were the adoption of new initiatives without proper training or professional development, mandated curriculum and standardized tests.

Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, noted stress could be a result of teachers wearing multiple hats in the classroom:

“We ask teachers to be a combination of Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr….We ask them to be Mom and Dad and impart tough love but also be a shoulder to lean on. And when they don’t do these things, we blame them for not being saviors of the world. What is the effect? The effect has been teachers are in­cred­ibly stressed out.”

Read more about this issue at: http://www.aft.org/news/survey-shows-need-national-focus-workplace-stress#sthash.mryeqegY.dpuf

The Edu-babble of Report Cards: Lost in Translation

Like many teachers, I (Clare) found writing report cards a very onerous task. I wanted to be Letter Ffair, encouraging, and accurate. The latest challenge for teachers (beyond time) is the pressure to be use “asset language.” HUH! There was a great article in the Toronto Star today about the “edu-babble” of report cards. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/02/26/consistently-writing-report-cards-with-random-logic.html

Catherine Porter describes the lost in translation situation:
If your kid was terribly scattered in class, would you want to know?
Or would you rather think he was “using planning skills with limited effectiveness.”
That’s how Ontario’s Ministry of Education suggests teachers write their report cards for kids getting D’s. They aren’t struggling, floundering, falling behind. They are “demonstrating limited understanding of content.”
I call this edu-speak. The ministry calls it a “positive tone.”

Porter has previously written about the impenetrable language of report cards. Her previous column on the indecipherable language of report cards led to an outpouring of highly emotional emails from teachers who are “required” to use the language of the Ontario Ministry of Education. She describes one scenario:

One Toronto public primary school teacher described his first “straightforward” report card comments returning to his desk from the principal’s office. “I was told to be more empathetic to how parents feel about their own children, to re-phrase my wordings to be increasingly diplomatic,” he wrote in an email.
So instead of telling parents their kid was disorganized and his desk was messy, the teacher now writes: “Johnny consistently places his materials inside his desk in a random order. He is highly encouraged to adopt a more streamlined organizational style, so that during in-class work periods he is able to locate his documents with greater ease.”

Gold StarPorter includes some examples from the comment bank teachers are required to use. I am an educator and I had NO idea what these mean. No wonder parents are confused and teachers are frustrated! A gold star to any reader who can figure out what these comments mean.

Five examples from Ontario report cards

  • “We will give further opportunities for Ruth to engage with a variety of children and to be honest about her activities.”
  • “With efforts from home and school, Shane will be encouraged to pay attention to his attendance and punctuality.”
  • “Conrad follows instructions with frequent assistance and supervision.”
  • “Farah is able to communicate ideas and informally orally in French using a variety of grade appropriate language strategies suited to the purpose and audience.”
  • “Jacqueline is encouraged to continue to demonstrate understanding and patience towards her classmates and to nurture a cooperative working environment with her team by demonstrating openness towards every student that may be part of her team.”

Creating an Audit Trail

During one of my final practicum visits, I (Cathy) was excited to see one of my student teachers had created an audit trail.   When I mentioned this to her, she replied, “I thought  it was just a bulletin board.” But it was far more than ‘just a bulletin board’.   The student work Melissa had beautifully displayed represented an entire science unit of learning from pre-diagnosis to final summaries.

Audit trails were popularized by Dr. Vivian Vasquez, in her ground breaking critical literacy work with 3-5 year olds.  Vasquez says,                                                                                                             An audit trail or learning wall, as my three to five year old students called it, is a public display of artifacts gathered together by a teacher and their students that represents their thinking about different issues and topics.  This strategy is useful for creating spaces for students to re-visit, reread, analyze, and re-imagine various topics or issues. It is also a powerful tool for connecting past projects or areas of study to newer projects or areas of study. Further, it can be used as a tool for building curriculum as it visibly lays out the journey of the group’s thinking and learning over a period of time.


more walldiagnostic molecules

The Power of Collaboration

Social networking has shown us the power of collaboration. Through applications like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram we learn with and from one another at a speed like never before. Sir Ken Robinson reminds us of the need to foster collaboration:

Most original thinking comes through collaboration and through the stimulation of other people’s ideas. Nobody lives in a vacuum. Even people who live on their own—like the solitary poets or solo inventors in their garages—draw from the cultures they’re a part of, from the influence of other people’s minds and achievements….This is one of the great skills we have to promote and teach—collaborating and benefiting from diversity rather than promoting homogeneity.

Unfortunately, with the rise of standardized testing in many countries, collaboration is not being valued. Robinson explains:

We have a big problem at the moment—education is becoming so dominated by this culture of standardized testing, by a particular view of intelligence and a narrow curriculum and education system, that we’re flattening and stifling some of the basic skills and processes that creative achievement depends on.

Although comedic in nature  the cartoon below raises some important questions around assessment. Do high-stakes tests help prepare our students for the world in which they will work.  Why don’t we value collaborative learning/assessments in schools?


Using Video Games for Assessments

There has been a movement towards using gaming for educational purposes. Incorporating gaming into lessons for the purposes of engagement has been the most popular use thus far. However, now a case is being made for using games for assessments. Kamenetz (2014) writes an interesting blog explaining the benefits of this non-traditional type of assessment.

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 4.26.06 PM

An excerpt from the article:

Imagine you’re playing a computer game that asks you to design a poster for the school fair. You’re fiddling with fonts, changing background colors and deciding what activity to feature: Will a basketball toss appeal to more people than a pie bake-off?

Then, animal characters — maybe a panda or an ostrich — offer feedback on your design. You can choose whether to hear a compliment or a complaint: “The words are overlapping too much,” or, “I like that you put in the dates.”

You can use their critiques as guides to help you revise your poster. Finally, you get to see how many tickets your poster sold.

This little Web-based game isn’t just a game. It’s a test, too.

The article also touches on Schwartz’s theory of assessment which focuses on choice. Schwartz argues that “the ultimate goal of education is to create independent thinkers who make good decisions. And so we need assessments that test how students think, not what they happen to know at a given moment.” I wonder how this form of assessment may change a student’s relationship with test-taking. I’m curious to follow this trend and find out.

Read entire blog here:


The Tyranny of Testing, Part I

I (Clare) found this article extremely interesting. The systematic analysis of the testing culture is well done.

Stately McDaniel Manor

credit: learningtrust.org credit: learningtrust.org

At the end of May, 2013, I began what would turn into a four part series on the problem of mandatory, high stakes testing in education. Much has changed since that series. I’ll provide links for the original series at the end of this article, but the series that begins with this article is substantially updated. As is always the case, I don’t know where the series–and the interests of readers–will take me. I simply hope I can provide some useful and thought-provoking ideas.

The school year is drawing to a close.  It’s always a bittersweet time.  It is good to bring the year to a close, to finish all that we’ve worked on for a year and to take some small satisfaction in all we’ve learned.  But it’s a sad time as well, for all too soon, each of my classes, made up of all of…

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Assessing Multimodal Projects

You may remember, in a former post on Mar. 21, 2014, I (Cathy) shared some of my pre-service students’ multimodal projects.  The dilemma facing me after these wonderful creations were submitted, was how to assess them.  As these were only part of a larger assignment, I already had a rubric in place for whole project, but after seeing the brilliance of the multimodal aspect, I felt these alone warranted more thought and introspection on my part.  Having a background in the arts, I was used to assessing creative process and final product, but this was different.  Although artistic and expressive, this wasn’t “art”.  Hence, I looked up a number of sources on assessing multimodal work and discovered a few different opinions.

Kalantzis, Cope & Harvey (2003) argued that a multimodal assessment needs to measure the creative process and the collaborative skills demonstrated.   Jacobs(2013) suggested it wasn’t about the final product, but “watching and noticing what students are doing and then using that information to guide the students toward new skills and knowledge”.  In the end I sought out the opinion of Gunther Kress, the founder of the Multimodalities Theory.  Kress (2003) explained that representation and communication were an affective/cognitive semiotic process and this must be taken into account in the assessment. He suggested that I, as the teacher [educator] should not ask “How does this project match what I wanted or expected?”, but instead should ask, “How does this project give me insight into the interests and motivations of my learner?”  I found this question quite insightful. In the end, I used Kress’ question to guide my feedback, which will hopefully guide the students toward new insights and knowledge.  The required ‘grade’ was based on a combination of the learners’ expressed interests from within the context of the whole project (which was on diversity), the creative process and the collaborative nature of the work.

Through this process I discovered that assessing in the new age of multimodality demands mindfulness, insight and the ability to make many connections.  To be effective, it also requires that the teacher educator, or teacher, know his/her students well.  This type of assessment takes time, but it is much more meaningful. I have to admit, as much as the students loved doing these multimodal projects, I loved assessing them in this “new” way.  We all got more out of the process.  Below is a link to one more student project expressed as POW TOON digital creation.  How would you assess it?