How students perform on state tests is a controversial issue and the debate isn't going to cool off anytime soon. Standardized tests are used to judge a teacher's effectiveness, a student's comprehension, and whether a school receives a passing or failing grade.
In a new report, The Gordon Commission on the Future of Assessment in Education, outlines a ten-year plan that could alter how assessment is done. As Education Week reports, the commission's plan “goes beyond identifying student achievement for accountability purposes and toward improving classroom instruction and giving greater insight into how children learn.”
The report notes, “the use of test results for the sole purpose of school accountability has overshadowed, at times, the more valuable uses of assessments.”
The plan comes from the 30-member commission formed in 2011 with the country’s top educators and thought leaders. Its main goals include studying assessment policy, analyzing the needs for educational measurement in the 21st century and creating recommendations to assist these needs.
It strongly recommends that “state and federal policymakers commit to a long-term effort to develop assessments that place greater emphasis on providing timely and valuable information to students and teachers.”
This information comes at a time when states are adopting President Barack Obama’s “As” agenda and the Common Core State Standards.
With that in mind, the commission offered three key recommendations:
The president and Congress need to build on various models to encourage experimentation with different approaches to assessment and accountability. States should create a permanent Council on Educational Assessments modeled on the Education Commission of the States. The U.S. Department of Education, the Department of Defense and other federal agencies should partner with philanthropic community, for-profit groups, teacher organizations and universities to develop a ten-year research effort to “strengthen the capacity of U.S. assessment.”
The study notes that assessments have long been used to “expose academic weaknesses” in students in any given school year. The one-trick pony assessment no longer works. Instead, states, the federal government and schools need to look at assessments differently.
These same groups must also embrace the 21st century—regardless of how difficult.
“The globalization of the economy, advancements in technology, the development of the Internet, and the explosion of social media and other communication platforms have changed the nature of what it means to be well-educated and competent in the 21st century,” the study states.
Because of technology, students are learning differently. That should be taken into consideration when assessing. Digital technologies have given students a way to gather information easily, make choices and create networks. The Gordon Commission says that students must learn—and be assessed—accordingly to the 21st century advancements. Students will need to know how to “evaluate the validity and relevance of disparate pieces of information and draw conclusions from them.”
Assessments should also give educators clues as to why students think the way they do.
But for all the fortune telling, the commission realizes that the assessments needed in this brave new education world do not yet exist. At some point, they could include simulations, digital games, and group challenges.
“I am really interested in ways that technology can dramatically change both what we assess and how we assess it and also our ability to make assessment more productive for teachers and others to use,” said Jim Pellegrino, co-chair of the commission and art director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
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Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist whose work frequently appears in The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor. She is the author of two books. @SuziParker | TakePart.com