Testing. For some, it is the ultimate measure of public education, the rubric by which we determine if our nation, state, district, school, teacher, and student is making the grade.
For others, it is the embodiment of evil. Bubble sheets. High-stakes tests. Stressed students. Maligned teachers.
The fact of the matter is that testing is largely misunderstood, even by those who can most benefit from it. Frustrations over assessment efforts under NCLB has led a groundswell of folks to condemn assessment in general. But in doing so, we are throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. We are forgetting all of the good that comes from assessment and how it can empower educators when they are given the right data and the power to do something with it.
Hopefully, we will soon see this dialogue start to change. This week, the Northwest Evaluation Association released a new online tool to engage teachers and encourage a meaningful, fact-based discussion of assessment, its uses, and its impact. Meet Assessment Literacy.
Why is this new site so important? Let’s face facts. Despite all of the talk about testing, many lack a real understanding of the topic. Some are quick to condemn “assessment” without acknowledging the differences between summative assessment (those state tests we all love) and formative or interim assessments. We bristle at student test scores being used as part of the teacher evaluation process, but gloss over how meaningful assessment data can be used to improve the teaching and learning process in the classroom.
Anti-testing forces may want to be believe that assessment will go away, that continued discussion of the “high-stakes” variety and recent testing mis-steps by companies like Pearson will do away with testing, but let’s be frank for a second. Assessment has long been a part of our public education tapestry, and it isn’t going anywhere. It also can have a valuable and powerful impact on how teachers teach, how students learn, and how all are better for it. Rather than fighting a “testing or no testing” fight, we should be focusing our efforts on the quality of assessments and their proper applications.
Assessment Literacy starts making progress toward that point. Developed by and focused on classroom educators, the site provides a fact-based look at assessment and its application. From discussions on how tests are made, narratives on how major national policy issues address assessment, and a wealth of resources for educators on the topic, the site really strives to get every educator “assessment literate.”
We are in much need of a thoughtful, engaging discussion on assessment and its future in the American classroom. And we need educators front and center in that discussion. Assessment Literacy starts that dialogue.
(Full disclosure: Eduflack has worked with a number of organizations focused on assessment and testing, including NWEA.)