Reclaiming the Term Assessment

PrintIn a recent #NCTEchat on assessment, a theme that came up time and time again was the need to “reclaim the term assessment” and distance this powerful instructional tool from its troubled association with high stakes tests.

“Literacy assessment is starkly different than literacy testing. One informs my practice; the other interrupts it.” – @KevinEnglish

“We should keep carving out space for assessment to be something completely different from the usual ‘norms’ ‘metrics’.” – @dradambanks

You can see NCTE’s attempt at this in our position statement on formative assessment.

Formative assessment is the lived, daily embodiment of a teacher’s desire to refine practice based on a keener understanding of current levels of student performance, undergirded by the teacher’s knowledge of possible paths of student development within the discipline and of pedagogies that support such development.

What’s particularly encouraging is to read entries submitted for our Assessment Story Project that show whole schools are working to redefine assessment as well. The following piece is from Kelly, a high school teacher in a “low-performing” suburban high school.

“As a collaborative team of educators, we are exploring assessment, especially formative assessment. . . . We would prefer to reduce standardized and high stakes [assessment] in favor of portfolio assessment. Less emphasis on deadlines and those penalties has brought a new level of resiliency to our struggling students.

I don’t think our school is underperforming in the truest definition but we are in a unique position— with over half of our students on free and reduced lunch in a large district striving to be exemplary. Our kids are incredible but the high stakes testing tells them otherwise. We are seeing that change. Our formative assessments, focused on skills rather than teacher-created requirements, have changed instruction in our building. We are re-examining traditional philosophies such as “they should already know this” or “this will prepare them for college.” We have started asking ourselves for proof.”

Check out these other reflections on assessment:

Are you working to reclaim assessment in your classroom? Share your stories!

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