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Is the Assessment Tail Wagging the Dog?

An article in today’s Washington Post entitled ScDogtailhool standardized testing is under growing attack, leaders pledge changes points to the rising discontent around the country with standardized testing. Here’s a telling quote:

“Testing is an important part of education, and of life,” said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of Great City Schools, which represents 67 urban school systems. “But it’s time that we step back and see if the tail is wagging the dog.”

The article also illuminates something important about where the testing craze began that sometimes gets lost in the rhetoric. These assessments – flawed though they are – pointed out disparities in our educational system that previously had been largely anecdotal.

Another quote from the article, this time from John White, Louisiana’s superintendent of education:

“We should always be conscious we still have a country and a society that is rife with injustices. We must commit to an annual measurement of our delivery of an education so we can lay bare the honest truth as to whether we’re succeeding in educating every child.”

Whether or not you agree that this is the best way to measure our progress, it has become increasingly clear that something different needs to be done. NCTE and IRA came up with a better way to think about assessment way back in 1994 (updated in 2009). Perhaps it’s time to revisit the Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing.

The issues around alternative forms of and approaches to assessment are complicated, but so is learning.  Check out these other resources from NCLE on the topic:

Differentiated Assessment and Grading: Fair Isn’t Always Equal

Getting Started with Questions about Using Evidence to Guide Teaching and Learning