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Where’s the “We” in Assessment?

We live in an era in which whole schools receive grades based on how well their students perform on tests. And we expect whole systems to work to fix the academic failures these tests illuminate. But a couple of discussions NCTE facilitated in recent days illuminate the fact that we may not even be assessing what matters most.
lit up lightbulbIn this webinar a group of NCTE educators discusses student work from this year’s National Day on Writing and what questions it raises about assessment. The big one: How are we assessing communities to determine how well they’re fostering the conditions necessary for literacy learning to occur?

In this online discussion with designers of the new AP Exam for Computer Science, readers were very interested in the fact that the exam requires students to do a collaborative project, but very concerned that assessing students on the outcomes of a project where peers might take over couldn’t possibly be fair.

gmitchell writes: “I wonder whether collaboration could be assessed here as a skill in and of itself—are you a good collaborator, meaning someone who is able to both contribute ideas/work, accept the ideas/work of others, and negotiate a fair decision when you disagree?”

The commentators responded that this is precisely what they try to assess in that portion of the exam, but it’s hard to do objectively. Hard, but still worth trying.

Imagine what might happen if we started engaging the communities that surround schools in the discussions about how we assess literacy learning. Imagine how we would teach an AP course if we were evaluating growth in students’ ability to work together in addition to their content knowledge?