…when at the same time we are trying to make concerted efforts at “personalized learning?”
I get that taxpayers want to know that the public schools they help to fund are being successful. I also understand that there are some desirable common proficiencies that should be associated with that success. As a parent, though, I understand how parents want to protect their children’s well-being; for years as a teacher and administrator I’ve seen some cases in which the high stakes which standardized testing creates have been absorbed by students in ways that are certainly counterproductive to their ability to perform on these tests, to say nothing about whether the assessment style is authentic or appropriate for all students. The punitive consequences of opt-out (see the link above) below the 5% is a random cutline that has nothing to do with students’ real proficiency or lack thereof. It is not only punitive to the students but also to the school, leading to a school grading that impacts that school in many ways – ultimately circling back to the students and families by contributing to an unsatisfactory image every school I’ve ever known constantly seeks to improve. Yes, assessment is key. But the real issue is the authenticity of the tests to meaning, or lack of it, for the students. There must be multiple ways students can show proficiency where the assessment has as much authentic meaning to the students as the instruction should. Then the story of a school’s student proficiency can be told in a much richer context, rather than abstracted numbers relating to either the standardized high stakes test performances or the opt-outs. The Colorado Department of Education and districts are already looking at multiple options for students to demonstrate proficiencies for graduation, and some of these plans reflect some great, if small, steps in education that have been long in coming. It is essential that we develop that assessment thinking and pair it with personalized learning strategies across the board. Let students demonstrate what they know in assessments that mean something to them – assessments which they help devise according to rubric frameworks so they are personally authentic – and still serve to validate proficiency on their way to graduation.