Thursday, July 16, 2009

Topic: "Good" Assessment

10-second review: Defines “good” assessment.

Title: “Assessment; The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” JC Scott. Language Arts (May 2009), 394-395. The elementary school publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: “My sense is that during this era of test mania, more and more teachers are taking a stand largely in favor of formative assessments that help them understand 1) what their students know, and (2) how to intervene in order to advance student learning.” p. 394.

Comment: One role of the teacher is to help. The second role of the teacher is to judge.

Unfortunately for the idealist, the public and parents want to know how their children compare to other children’s achievement. I don’t question the author’s definition of “good” assessment, although Assessing students’ strengths and weaknesses for the purpose of intervening to help is little used by the majority of teachers in my experience as an English supervisor for twenty years. “Formative” assessment needs to become a part of every teacher’s repertoire.

But the other responsibility of teaching, in addition to the “guide by the side,” is judgment. The teacher must make judgments of student progress and convey that information to the parents, who have the right to know, and to the public concerning group performance. And the latter is the role of high-stakes testing. Its side-effects of too much testing and substituting test preparation for teaching are other issues.

I conclude that both formative assessment in order to help students learn and high-stakes testing are both helpful for students, parents and education’s critics. RayS.

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