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Archive for the ‘assessment’

Making a Case for Authentic Assessment

This video clip from New York City’s Urban Academy highlights some very important things to think about in our current education climate of stress, fear, blame, and unhealthy accountability. Although this setting is an urban one, there is no reason to withhold more meaningful and engaging forms of learning from any context just because students (and families) are more compliant, complacent, or clueless. That should be regarded as educational malpractice. I think the ideas shared at the 4:53 time marker and beyond are critically important toward the goal of helping students find meaning and relevance in work (and love) of learning. To quote:

What happens in the culture of performance based work is that young people begin to see their own signatures. They see themselves as the authors of their own works. They don’t see themselves as filling in other people’s blanks, right? That’s not what they do. They know how to collaborate, they know how to use experts, and they know how to give birth to ideas, and then find the resources to develop those ideas. To introduce into that system, a test, administered once, with unbelievably high stakes, that will feel like in intellectual x-ray, and will forever tattoo the minds of young people, feels like a miseducation and a kind of social sadism that backs young people into leaving schools.

You can watch the whole clip here:


Doctors, Patients, Teachers, Assessment, Technology

The ABC News headline reads, “Teens Prefer Computers to Doctors“. This headline is somewhat deceptive, though. More accurately, teems may be more likely to share sensitive, high-risk and confidential information via a handheld computing system called the Health eTouch than they would in a face-to-face discussion with their doctor.

One quotation that struck me from an article titled, “Waiting room gadget may prove to be a life-saver” reads,

“Our research has found that recent advances in information technology, such as the Health eTouch system, and the immediate reporting of computerized screening results may help overcome barriers to behavioral screening.”

It made me think about the complete opposite in education – the delayed reporting that comes from standardized assessments. I was talking with a teacher the other day and we were discussing the end-of-year paperwork that needs to get done on each child. Her perspective was that it was such a waste of time because nobody really looks at it, making the process even more trivial. It is a vicious circle, because the new teachers who get anecdotal and formal assessment data on their new students know that teachers like themselves just go through the motions of filling out these district-mandated forms and checklists. We also discussed the delayed assessment data results that come from standardized testing. By the time the data arrives, it is so close to the end of the year that teachers don’t really give it attention as they will be passing their students on to other teachers (this is assuming that the teachers can make sense of the data that they are provided with). It gets filed for the next teacher to sort out.

What if standardized assessment data reporting was immediate? Would that change things (assuming that the data was actually useful, valid, and reliable), or is something still missing from the equation like a doctor’s mind – one that understands the data and combs it looking for important information and correlations. Do most teachers really take the data seriously? Do most teachers really know what to do with the data once they receive it. I remember our faculty sitting in on one – yes one “in-service”…groan… where we were told what the data we had just received means. I never had a course in undergrad or Master’s program that helped me understand the data and take action based upon the data. Only during my doctoral program did serious attention to this ever emerge.

So, we have the problem of delayed data receipt, lack of understanding of what the data means, lack of understanding of what action to take based on the data, lack of credibility and respect for the data itself, and disenfranchisement with the whole formal data gathering, reporting, recording, and action process.

Imagine if your teacher was your doctor? What then?

Would a handheld data gathering device really help any more than a handheld computing device put into the hands of a novice or traditional teacher really bring learning innovation and power into the classroom?

As Obama would say, we need change. “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Are we just waiting for change, or are we, as Hillary Clinton said, just repackaging things others have tried … “not change you can believe in, it’s change you can Xerox.”

We need educational assessment reform in this country as badly as we need healthcare reform.

Evaluating Teacher Performance

A recent report by the Education Sector and the FDR Group “surveyed 1,010 K–12 public school teachers about their views on the teaching profession, teachers unions, and a host of reforms aimed at improving teacher quality.”

Here is one finding that I think merits serious thought:

Only 26 percent of teachers say that their most recent formal evaluation was useful and effective in helping them to improve their teaching. Seventy-nine percent support strengthening the formal evaluation of probationary teachers. And nearly a third of teachers (32 percent) say that tenured teachers should be evaluated on an annual basis.

I can remember some of my “formal” evaluations. They were typically done by an overburdened administrator who had the monumental task of evaluating every teacher in the building at eval.jpgleast twice a year in addition to all of their other responsibilities. Often, those evaluation visits where rescheduled due to unexpected events that arose. And, all of those evaluations where scheduled ahead of time. The result – teachers (myself included) would plan a smashing “song and dance” lesson that included those key elements that we all knew the principal liked and was looking for. Once the evaluation was over, it was back to business as usual. In the evaluation de-briefing (which also had to be scheduled with every teacher), unless there was anything glaringly abhorrent, most constructive criticisms were insignificant at best.

So, it is no surprise to see the low statistic of only 26 percent of teachers reporting that they found their most recent formal evaluation useful and effective. Along the same lines, 32 percent of tenured teachers feel that they should be evaluated on an annual basis. That makes total sense if almost the same percentage feel that those evaluations are not all that beneficial.

So, what to do? Are K-12 administrators perhaps not the best candidates to do faculty evaluations? Are they too busy to really give useful constructive criticism? Is their own teaching craft stale and their own idea pool dry? Can we expect building administrators to really be excellent teachers as well? Perhaps you consider yourself lucky to have an administrator who is still an active practitioner and who is keeping up with teaching innovation. But, my guess is that if you did a PowerPoint, projected a web page, sang a cool song, or did a nifty craft, you would get kudos – assuming your students were well-behaved (notice I didn’t use the term “meaningfully engaged”).

Who said education reform was simple? Are new models of teacher growth and evaluation needed?

Standing Up for Kids, Teachers, and Education

A few weeks back teacher, Carl Chew, made the headlines for receiving a 2 week without pay suspension for refusing to give the WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) standardized test in his Washington State classroom. Here is a reposting of his response explaining his actions. It is a MUST READ!! I am going to continue to process his detailed, response. It is not a political response. It is not a research-based or scholarly response. It is a response grounded in reality, in the personal, social, emotional, and physical learning environment.